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  • Reese Mautone

Old Habits Die Hard As Mercedes Unveil "Eye Catching" 2022 Challenger With Significant Developments

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

Mercedes' W13 stood out on Day One of testing in Bahrain yesterday due to its drastic aerodynamical advances since its introduction in Barcelona last month.

Like any other start to a Formula 1 season, 2022 is certainly not lacking in its customary drama. The 2021 Constructor's Champions were rumoured to be landing in Bahrain with new modifications, very different from the W13 which appeared at the Barcelona test in late February, and yesterday, the speculation was confirmed.

Mercedes revealed their 2022 challenger, proving to rattle some members of the paddock with the absence of side-pods, notably being the first and only team to do so.

On an F1 car, side-pods direct cool air inside the car to create cooling for the engine. In place of the W13's initial frontal bulges (housing significantly sized radiator inlets) on display in Barcelona are narrow side-pod inlets. While the chassis appears to be shaped differently, any changes to the inside layout of the radiators remain unknown.

Top: W13 at Day One of testing in Bahrain - #44 | Bottom: W13 testing in Barcelona - #63

Another development in the W13 sees the extremely wide outer floor of the car being updated, widening the entry point of airflow and providing an improved cooling route and greater downforce effect. Waved outer edges lining the floor of the car have also been interchanged with a design featuring a straight edge and a singular curve creating ideal vortices, energising the Venturi flow (key to downforce and generating ground-effect).

The German team's mirrors have also come into the conversation as both Ferrari and Red Bull question the design of the surrounding aspects, claiming they do not coincide with regulations, with Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto likening them to a "space ship" in terms of their excessiveness.

Speaking on the realised effect of these developments, Mercedes' newest recruit George Russell made clear that there was still a need for reviewing and monitoring over the coming test days.

"I don't think it's advantage anyone at the moment," Russell stated. "As Max said earlier they have a few things coming, and at the moment Ferrari look globally the strongest in every low fuel run, consecutive laps, they look very, very solid."

"If you look at their sidepods, they're quite drastically different to what we have at Mercedes, and what Max has at Red Bull. Time will tell next weekend, it truly is unknown.”

Alike in his humble stance, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff made few comments about their progress.

“I think we are really proud of what we have achieved in terms of concept, but now we need to make it go fast. I think it’s a development direction that we like, and it’s about tuning the car and so we are experimenting a lot, as we’ve done during the day, and approaching it with curiosity.” Wolff said.

Many in the paddock aren't convinced that the W13's adjustments aren't as meets the eye as they seem, questioning whether Mercedes have developed according to 2022's new regulations.

When asked about the developments from a governing body's point of view, Formula 1 Managing Director, Ross Brawn shared the FIA’s current and potentially flexible stance on the matter.

"I think there's no doubt that the Mercedes concept we didn't anticipate. It's a very extreme interpretation of the regulation"

"Our initial impressions are that there's nothing here that we would be overly concerned about in terms of those objectives in the regulations." Brawn said, "The regulators of the sport know what's going on - I think they're ok with it so far, but a team may come in and raise an objection that the FIA hadn't considered, and then you have a problem.”

Yet, reassurance like Brawn's didn't prevent shots being fired from the garage of the 8-time consecutive Constructor's Championship winners closest rivals, Red Bull, a team certainly not shy of raising a protest over such issues.

Namely, Christian Horner, Team Principal at Red Bull, has been regrettably vocal on the matter, later having to work to retract his statements on their rival's newest developments.

Taking to Germany's Auto Motor Und Sport, Horner was vocal about "Mercedes [having] gone a step too far" with their Bahrain upgrades.

"That does not correspond to the spirit of the regulations."

"For us, these wings are illegal.” Clearly and simply spoken by the Red Bull boss.

Working to back-track his claims against Mercedes, Red Bull described the quotes as "incorrect", later shifting their wording to state the discussion was not “official". Following that, in an interview with Sky Sports, Horner continued the saga, saying: "I was slightly surprised to be reading comments that I was supposed to have been making."

Though it appears to be a new year, tensions between Mercedes and Red Bull have ceased to diffuse over the season break.

For now, at least, Mercedes seem primarily focused on the continuation of the W13's Development.

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director at Mercedes made clear that there is still a ways to go in eliminating imperfections in their 2022 challenger.

"There is certainly more to find in getting the balance right between slow and high-speed corners, and there's also a bit too much tyre overheating." He said.

Tension off-track is working to build determination on-track, none so raring to put in the work than George Russell, who is keen to let his driving do the talking.

"It's not about how it looks, it's about how fast it goes." the Englishman assured.

Bahrain Timing Sheet - Day One:

1. Pierre Gasly, Alpha Tauri - 1:33.902

2. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari - 1:34.359

3. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari - 1:34.531

4. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin - 1:34.736

5. Alex Albon, Williams - 1:35.070

6. Lando Norris, McLaren - 1:35.356

7. Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo - 1:35.495

8. Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin - 1:35.706

9. George Russell, Mercedes - 1:35.941

10. Sergio Perez, Red Bull - 1:35.977

11. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes - 1:36.365

12. Fernando Alonso, Alpine - 1:36.745

13. Esteban Ocon, Alpine - 1:36.768

14. Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo - 1:37.164

15. Pietro Fittipaldi, Haas - 1:37.422


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