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Theory: Mercedes is Giving it’s Zero Sidepods Concept One Last Go Before Scrapping it?

Ted Kravitz believes that Mercedes have a Plan B car in case their zero sidepod concept doesn't work out, but how likely is that?...

UPDATE: Mercedes technical chief, Mike Elliott, clarified that they will not be copying Red Bull or Ferrari with the W14.

Mercedes is sticking to their zero-pod design for one last time before falling back to a Plan B concept if things continue to go poorly, according to Ted Kravitz. Given that last year was the first year the team hadn’t won a single race since 2013, it does beg the question if it’s worth it. However, if they were to scrap the zero-pod concept, then essentially, they would have to take two or three steps back, losing all the development time spent on the zero-pods. But that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t still have a Plan B. 

According to Sky Sports F1 pundit, Ted Kravitz, Mercedes has a Red Bull or Ferrari-style concept in their back pocket, which they will introduce mid-season if problems persist with the W14. 

“They’re giving their big idea, which was a failure last year, one more go. But I believe they have a ‘Plan B’ in production,” said Kravitz. “If they need to, they can go to a Plan B – which is the Red Bull or Ferrari-style of doing things – in the middle of the season.”

Now Kravitz has often posited wild theories and many criticise him for sensationalist comments. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is wrong in this case. 

Mercedes is a very successful outfit with some of the best people in the field working there, it would be out of character for the team to not be thinking of every possibility. What we do know is that Mercedes was confident enough in their furthered knowledge of the zero-pod concept to go with it again. 

As team principal, Toto Wolff, said, “Our sidepod design is not something that we believe was fundamentally the reason we didn’t perform.”

But, and there’s a very big but, Wolff did say they are open to making changes to the sidepods early in the season, “We kept staying with the narrow sidepod as it is, but you could well see some development from now on. That could be coming with the upgrades, and the sidepods will change, not very soon, but we are looking at solutions. But it’s not a core fundamental performance part.

“This is the first [car] iteration, and when we’re going through the first few races, that’s going to change a little bit. Like [Technical Director] Mike [Elliott] said in the launch, if you want to change a concept completely, then you’re making not one step back, but probably two or three, and that’s why we stayed where we are.”

What that doesn’t sound like is a complete Plan B concept. It doesn’t sound like what Aston Martin did last year where they had two separate aero-concept cars in case one failed. What it does sound like is that might have slightly larger or modified sidepods. 

So while there are changes on the horizon, the difference is the severity of the expected changes. It doesn’t seem likely that a Plan B concept is present, but there are sidepod changes that can be made and probably will be made as the season progresses, which is very normal for a team to do. 


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