Mercedes re-evaluating Red Bull sidepod design as Wolff calls W14 another ‘diva’

2023 British Grand Prix

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Mercedes will wind down the development work on their current car soon, team principal Toto Wolff has confirmed, as they prepare to focus efforts on their 2024 design.

He said the team was disappointed by the performance of the W14 at Silverstone, a track where Mercedes have previously performed well. He likened the car to their 2017 design, the W08, which the team branded a ‘diva’ due to its fluctuating performances.

The team expected to produce one of its strongest showings of the year at the British Grand Prix, but finished third and fifth in the race. Wolff said this shows the W14 still isn’t performing in line with expectations and a change of design direction for the next car needs to be considered in order to fight Red Bull and Max Verstappen for titles.

“I thought at Silverstone, based on our historic performance, was the best shot but it wasn’t,” Wolff told media including RaceFans. “So maybe there’s another track where we have the best shot, because the characteristics of the car have changed.

George Russell, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2023
W14 is “Diva 2.0”, said Wolff
“I always believe that we can beat Max with a good group of people, best drivers, we just have to give them a car that is more predictable and not the ‘Diva 2.0’. And much more complicated than the first one.”

Mercedes introduced a significant change to the aerodynamic configuration of the W14 at the Monaco Grand Prix, and added a new front wing at Silverstone. However Lewis Hamilton said the latest upgrade proved a “disappointment” and Wolff confirmed the car “remains to be a handful” for its drivers.

“I think overall the car was not where we’ve seen it in Silverstone the last years,” he said. “That was the track that we were really dominant and strong, and the high speed was not good at all compared to our direct competitors and qualifying we were struggling also on traction on the exits.”

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Mercedes will divert efforts to next year’s car “pretty soon”, said Wolff, who isn’t concerned about holding onto their current second place in the constructors championship despite that influencing their future ATR limit.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Silverstone, 2023
McLaren’s upgrade follows Red Bull’s lead
“We have no choice. P2, P3, fundamentally it doesn’t impact me and the team. It’s about coming back and being able to win a world championship in that respect. That’s not going to happen this year so we need to set our eyes onto next year and then see all the races to come to learn, develop and make sure that we can carry that forward into next year.

“But having said that, the regulations are the same so you’re not learning nothing by continuing this car. So it’s a balance that we need to strike right.”

Mercedes’ power unit customer McLaren produced their best result of the season so far at Silverstone having introduced a major upgrade package featuring a similar sidepod layout to that used by Red Bull. The team’s cars finished second and fourth, each ahead of a Mercedes.

Wolff said it had become increasingly clear that teams’ designs were converging on the solution produced by Red Bull, who scored their 11th consecutive gran prix win yesterday.

“The sidepods and the bodywork are just one part of the chassis. Clearly it looks like very interesting solutions that it opens up but most of the performance comes through the floor and diffuser and we haven’t seen how they interpreted the regulations and how they’ve done it.

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“So in my opinion, it’s just the package. We see that the strong cars all look a little bit the same when you look from the side and from top-down. And certainly that has played in our minds already back in the day. But maybe that’s just a little more indication where it goes.”

Mercedes evaluated Red Bull’s sidepod design previously, said Wolff, but decided it was not possible to adapt its current car to a similar layout. He indicated they will consider it again for their 2024 car.

“We had the sidepod concept and the bodywork in the tunnel very early on already to see which avenues it would open up and how much it would add to performance. And the relative loss of the downforce, the way we measure it, was substantial.

“So it’s not something that we wanted to follow up on in the year. We changed our design direction, I think we have a great group of aerodynamics led by James [Allison] and I’m sure that it will be a consideration seeing the step they made.”

Wolff indicated the team will not bring any more major changes to the W14. “Do we believe that we have upgrades in there that are going to fundamentally change the car? I don’t believe so, but we have a few small steps that are to come.”

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2023 British Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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68 comments on “Mercedes re-evaluating Red Bull sidepod design as Wolff calls W14 another ‘diva’”

  1. “My team don’t make mistakes” – Sir Lewis Hamilton, 2022 pre-season testing, Barcelona, Spain

    1. They did not make a mistake they just made a car that was not the fastest. Thats not a mistake. In my book. Turning up with motorcycle for an f1 race would be a mistake. But thats just my opinion.

  2. One would hope that Mercedes didn’t divert any resources away from building a competitive 2024 car when it became clear that their previous development direction was not giving them the performance on track that its creators promised based on bad sim data.

    Then again, this is the same team that didn’t learn enough from the mess that was the W13 to not go down the same foolish route with its successor.

    1. I think to an extent they had to exert some resources into making sure they had on track correlation with the b spec concept this year otherwise they’d just launch the 2024 car and still be off the pace. Can’t argue though that with hindsight, sticking with the zeropod concept was a very poor decision this year.

    2. This seems like they don’t want to copy Red Bull from an ego standpoint. Should have copied them last year and moved on from there. They’d probably be ahead now with all their resources. Being original for the sake of originality is a helluva drug.

      1. I think that is the issue here. We have heard Hamilton dropped a hint saying the Mclaren looks like RedBull now and look where they are, probably indicating that he wanted to go and copy the RB but Toto or Elliot didnt want a RB copy at Mercedes.

      2. Especially when they know the foolishness of not following the leader’s superior design path from when they were said leader and no one besides Racing Point in 2020 even tried. (resulting in 8 consecutive WCCs)

  3. That car should match Lewis then. Or are 2 diva’s more like water and fire together? ;-)

    1. stupid hate from you like always… childish

      1. Coventry Climax
        10th July 2023, 18:53

        You missed the ;-) at the end of her post.
        Maybe you show promise, I don’t know, but usually it’s children that throw a quick tantrum, and currently you’ve yet to pass your first reading classes.

      2. Actually very clever and amusing …
        the opposite of “hate” is “indifference”

        interesting how LM ignores his competitors at the finish these day when he underperforms

      3. Behave mr. Max, you’re not in post-apocalyptic Australia fighting gangs. People still have manners.

      4. Is your only argument to call other people stupid? Not a very good one, you oughta know. You lose again.

    2. Actually not. If the car is a diva, then the diva inside it complains more and more. And that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing. Hamilton has been at the top of his diva game.

      1. Didn’t hear him complaining at all, during the race, yesterday. Are you making things up?

        1. Sikhumbuzo Khumalo
          11th July 2023, 6:37

          This is pure hatred due to racism. That’s why they always up criticising Lewis. They criticise him when he is silent they criticise him when he speaks

          1. racism seriously?

        2. Nobody said it was specifically inthe last race. And it the previous, some serious records were beaten, Toto Wolff’s intervention was pure gold.

        3. Yes its racism lets call a spade a spade. When 1 is over critical unfairly to the 1 driver of colour it does seem only obvious that the root cause is racism.

  4. This car managed to be worse than last year’s by a longshot at this track.
    Last year Hamilton was going for a safe 2nd place without the Safety Car, or maybe even bother Leclerc a bit.

    1. Facts&Stats
      10th July 2023, 15:19

      Last year Hamilton was going for a safe 2nd place without the Safety Car

      And this year it out-qualified and out-raced Ferrari.
      I don’t think the car is any worse than last year (quite the opposite), but others have progressed more and might be more comfortable with the new tyres.

      1. Mercedes didn’t out-qualifiy Ferrari. Ferrari were 4th and 5th. Mercedes were 6th and 7th.
        And they only lost track position because of another bad strategy. Leclerc had Russell under control and went too early for hard tyres. Hamilton was out of the picture until the VSC.

        They were clearly more impressive at this track with the W13. Even if that wasn’t a big deal either.

        1. I think they probably lost out because they didn’t have the pace to progress, so they didn’t question whether their strategy needed to adapt to take a chance, but stuck to what seemed safe. Looked to me like they (again?) couldn’t get the tyres working consistently: first stint perhaps too much degradation, hards possibly not up to temperature window.

        2. Facts&Stats
          10th July 2023, 21:30

          Mercedes didn’t out-qualifiy Ferrari.

          my bad

          Still comfortable with the statement in my 2nd paragraph.

    2. Coventry Climax
      10th July 2023, 18:49

      Safe 2nd place and a solid concussion from porpoising.

  5. Looking at the difference between the two front wings it looks like Mercedes is completely lost in their design characteristics.
    It’s impossible to deflect the air in a completely different way on the same chassis. There are just trying things to solve a puzzle that does not fit

    1. It’s correct the wing has to work in conjunction with the side pods and floor. They have some of that coming in spa so the new complete look is coming. It it is strange to change your inwash/outwash and vortex paths via the wing with the same body work. It does suggest they are just guessing now. That said it’s weird for the team boss to call the concept a failure while major updates are in the pipeline. The people who worked nights and weekends on the new parts will have to take solace in their overtime pay.

      1. notagrumpyfan
        10th July 2023, 15:27

        it’s weird for the team boss to call the concept a failure while major updates are in the pipeline.

        Not so weird, the same boss called the car ‘bad’ last week to appease his driver ignoring the hard work of all the designers, mechanics, etc. ;)

        1. I’m sure all the designers, engineers, mechanics etc realise the car is bad. They’re doing what they can to improve it, and their drivers are still praising their efforts.

          I’m a software developer. If I’m working on a bad piece of software, I take no offence at comments saying it’s bad: I’m well aware of that and doing what I can to improve it. I know it’s nothing personal. I’m fairly certain the Mercedes engineering team will feel the same way.

          1. notagrumpyfan
            10th July 2023, 16:13

            I’m a software developer. If I’m working on a bad piece of software, I take no offence at comments saying it’s bad:

            I’m a manager. If I see a bad piece of work, I will never disparage one group of employees to appease another. The open and honest discussions happen behind closed doors.

          2. I’m sure all the designers, engineers, mechanics etc realise the car is bad.

            It’s so bad that it’s sitting in second in the WCC. And I know what the response will be – “Stroll”. Still, even if third, that’s far from a “bad” car.

            The hyperbole being used when it comes to Mercedes and its unbearable, dire condition…

          3. I’m a manager. If I see a bad piece of work, I will never disparage one group of employees to appease another. The open and honest discussions happen behind closed doors.

            But he isn’t disparaging them. He’s not saying they’ve done a bad job. A bad result is not the same as bad work. Engineers know this, especially when operating in “prototype” space. Failures happen when you are innovating, that’s not bad work from the engineers even if the result is bad.

            In addition, when publicly-visible results are bad, you can’t do a Binotto and keep denying there are any problems. That just makes you look stupid. Admitting that there are serious flaws with the car, publicly, helps to reassure stakeholders (shareholders, team members, drivers and fans) that you are taking it seriously and working to fix things.

            It’s so bad that it’s sitting in second in the WCC… even if third, that’s far from a “bad” car.

            The car has probably been roughly equal third with Ferrari for much of the season, and is looking like it could be being swallowed up by McLaren. For a team used to having the best car, not even having the second best is “bad”, relatively speaking.

  6. if you look at the front and rear of the car you can easily see the issues its having with excessive drag. It really does look like their exhaust configuration (the product of their zero-sidepod concept?) is very bad for the rear wing. Ferrari and Red Bull’s traditional take on the sidepod/exhaust layout seems like a no brainer. Excess drag along the top of the chassis, is spoiling the flow of air under and over the rear wing, the rear wing is not performing as it should, because of this, and thus, they require a larger rear wing to compensate. This really looks obvious, might be wrong.

  7. Not related to this article but I want to ask why you guys stop publishing grandprix data articles. Those were very helpful to understand how a race spanned. Please start slicing that pieces which sweet and bitter at same time.

    If you guys don’t understand what I’m trying to say, here is an example. (

  8. So as expected the most overly restrictive regulations in F1’s are going to force everyone down the same design path and result in more identical looking cars.

    A pseudo spec Indycar+ series.

    1. There’s only ever one best solution, that’s no different from the previous set(s) of rules, but back then RBR, Ferrari & Co simply refused to follow the superior concept pioneered by Mercedes and rather gifted them WDC after WDC for 8 consecutive seasons.

      Now more teams appear willing to go with the flow, presumably having seen the light after getting beaten silly by Racing Point and their pink Merc.

      1. The concept was not the powerhouse but the engine.
        The chassis was okay but not great. The engine on the other hand was way above the competition.

        1. Does that explain the performances of Williams, Force India, McLaren, Enstone, Manor, and Racing Point outside of RP in 2020?

          Does that explain the relative performance compared to that totally-not-cheating Ferrari PU?

          1. The answer to both of those is no it does not.
            Lauda was at pains over his whole driving career, and in his time with Mercedes, to point out that “it is the whole package”
            The customer teams had a poorer chassis in which they fitted the Merc PU, but failed to match the other components of the package. Another component of the package is the set of factory engineers, another is the track side engineers, and then there’s another component that AM have finally added – the nut behind the wheel. McLaren appears to have two.

            The “totally-not-cheating Ferrari PU” had many teams puzzled and scratching heads.

            Merc assumed that Ferrari were running a totally legal PU and pushed engineers to burnout and developed a more powerful (legal) PU, which wasn’t a happy circumstance for anyone except Merc.

            RBR assumed Ferrari were cheating and had engineers figuring out possible cheats that would match the power profile, and then submitted various ideas to the FIA for “clearance” on their legality. What they (RBR) were actually doing was a form of the minesweeper/battleships game. They hit the target just before the USA GP and the Ferrari performance fell off a cliff along with the TD issued by the FIA. The hush-up with the FIA allowed Ferrari to confess other sins, but their performance plumbed new depths.

            I often wonder what Ferrari could have achieved in the last few decades if they’d applied that inventive talent to legal developments. I doubt we’d be talking about Merc or RBR dominance.

      2. Coventry Climax
        10th July 2023, 19:10

        That may be true given a single set of circumstances, but with different tracks, different weather situations, different altitudes etc, as well as with more open and free rules, there’s no single solution.
        Heck, it once used to be that sometimes the most powerful engine would win because of long straights, sometimes the best suspension geometry for rainy/damp and/or short and curvy tracks, sometimes the best aero, sometimes the lightest car, you name it.
        That’s all been trimmed and cut to be the same size stupid square these days, as well as the tracks being much more similar these days, but you still hear drivers say their car suits this or that track better.

      3. A lot of smooth brains in the comments as usual

    2. IndyCar is very exciting racing. Often there are more passes for the lead in a lap or two than an entire F1 race. NASCAR, the dreaded NASCAR, is the same.

      It’s all a soup, anyway. Pretty much all the series are spec’d to within a cubic inch of their lives. In World Superbike, Bautista on his Ducati is beating everyone. The other manufacturers know how to change their bikes to give their riders an even chance, but the racing regulations prevent them. It’s always been that way when innovation threatens the investments of the manufacturers or teams. Gas turbines were banned from Indy when they were shockingly good, ground effects were banned from F1 first time around, even Mercedes simple little steering angle gimmick was banned a couple years ago.

      It’s all so foolish.

  9. Robert Henning
    10th July 2023, 16:20

    Their drivers need to do a better job and stand out. Neither did that in this British Grand Prix. That extra half a tenth in the qualifying could have ensured them a 2-3 instead of a lucky podium and wherever George finished.

    The biggest difference I see between when Mercedes were dominating and now when Red Bull are dominating is the presence of a hunter like Max Verstappen back then. Many races had him create entertainment. Even in races where RB wasn’t there to win, he would outpace multiple cars, get podium after podium, and maximize results. Now Verstappen is in cruise control in the best car, and none of the other drivers seem anything like him which is a shame.

    Every week, there are only complaints and more complaints from drivers who you would expect would perform at a good level.

    Drivers seem too comfortable blaming the car.

    1. It’s easy to be the hunter when you have the clear best of the rest car. Every little issue ahead benefits you and everything better than 3rd is a win.
      Vettel did the same in 2015. The podium was always Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel, with rare variations.

      Alonso was playing this role early in the season when Aston had the 2nd strongest package, now he also faded away.

      The pack is very competitive behind Verstappen. One good update from Mclaren and they pulled ahead of Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin, so it’s much more difficult to have one driver standing out every single race.

  10. So it’s throwing in the towel officially? Aston Martin could heave a sigh of relief, unless Toto is saying this to make his competitors complacent.

  11. Coventry Climax
    10th July 2023, 19:18

    Start development on next year’s car already? I thought they wanted that prohibited?
    But only if and when it is favourable to the Wolff pack, I suppose.

    1. They want to have it prohibited for all teams. But I guess you know the flaw in your argument pretty well, and just want to spread your hate

      1. I think the point is that they didn’t want it prohibited when they were out front, it is only now when they are trying to catch up that they want the rules changed to suit them.

    2. I think that is the time every team is already planning to start to develop the 2024 car.

    3. Start development on next year’s car already? I thought they wanted that prohibited?
      But only if and when it is favourable to the Wolff pack, I suppose.

      Tut, I thought you had a more acute mind.
      Like all the other teams on the grid, Mercedes will do what is legal while it is legal.
      Two examples:

      Merc (and others) had “party mode” – totally legal and only banned because some didn’t have as efficient a setup and politicked to get it banned. It’s actually a sensible way to operate the engine – only push its limits when you absolutely must, and thereby ensure less performance degradation over the expected lifetime.

      Ferrari had a system that interfered with the fuel flow sensor (oh-so-accidentally of course), – not technically illegal in that the rules didn’t state that you couldn’t interfere with the flow sensor signal. OK, on the “grey area” scale that one is more charcoal than off-white.

    4. Coventry Climax
      11th July 2023, 12:40

      OK guys, you’re all so absolutely right. Especially the one about pure hate; I use that spread on my sandwiches every day. Twice.
      Ofcourse the’re allowed to start developing next years car. Heck, for all I care they start developing their car for 2050 already, if they think that’s an advantage.
      The point is, that they claim that being in the lead gives you an advantage over teams that aren’t. Which is cow dung, as the teams more in the back are also perfectly allowed to start on their new cars early on as well.
      All teams are constantly trying to have the rules changed in their favour, nothing new. But at least be open and fair about it please, and don’t make the claim you’re doing all of it for the sports only.
      I don’t agree with it, but what the series is trying to do, is make the development options equal for everyone.
      Wolff signed for it if not plain advocated it, when and while he was on top. Only now that he finds out Mercedes’ ‘inefficiency’ to use the available means to come up with a working car, he’s complaining about the rules not being fair again.
      Again, I don’t actually mind, they all do it, if some more sneaky then others, but let’s call a duck a duck please.
      Don’t be surprised when there’s still some that don’t buy your stories, when most of the time that’s exactly what you’re telling; stories.

  12. Based on team radio, they do have a Diva.. But it is not the car.

    Mercedes are very poorly equiped to deal witha bad car.

    One would think by now they would turn things around, and not for lack of trying.

  13. Some help please, as a non-native english speaker, does ‘diva’ mean ‘not very good’ ?

    1. diva – “a self-important person who is temperamental and difficult to please.”

    2. I have an opinion
      10th July 2023, 23:35

      moi, est-ce que vouz êtes Francais? Diva means the same thing in both languages. The emphasis here is that, while the diva is very good and could be the best, she is difficult with her specific requirements – compliquée.

    3. Diva is what i have an opinion said very good expected the best but need requirements to get those performance.

  14. The reason why RB are so fast lies underneath the car. The floor, specifically the diffuser configuration. The transition into the diffuser from the essentially gentle floor profile is a severe expansion angle and surely challenges the underbody flow to remain attached through to the rear of the diffuser.

    The diffuser, beam wing and main wing act in concert to keep the pressure gradients favourable such that the flow remains attached and optimum downforce is maintained with the DRS closed. The prize, that M-B discovered in their 2021 Brazilian GP car, is to be able to stall the diffuser on the straights, done in that case with collapsing rate rear suspension. The DRS is so effective on the RB this year that it defies any other explanation than that they have arranged the diffuser geometry to be on the edge of flow separation [stall] when the DRS is opened and the main wing no longer generates enough ‘underbody suck’ to keep the flow attached. Drag then drops by more than just the DRS, and the car is faster for passing others.

    If you look at top speed data, the RB isn’t especially fast, but imagine if it’s running more wing because it hasn’t got the drag of the diffuser when the DRS is opened. Downforce with the DRS closed is then much higher than their rivals, as is their corner speed.

    McLaren may have sussed this and theirs is probably a similar system, yet to be perfected, but didn’t Lewis comment on their speed through the ultra fast corners, and with their hards vs his softs? Their Austria upgrade only mentioned new floor as an afterthought, was it really the main objective of the package, the rest were Maguffins?

    1. I have an opinion
      11th July 2023, 5:09

      From seeing Perez’s floor in Monaco to getting it on one car by Austria and on the second a week later — seems very plausible.

    2. Ferrari is already using the single bi wing based on that so they can run DRS with higher topspeeds.
      But the most important thing where Adrian was working on was the suspension ….

  15. Tiaki Porangi
    11th July 2023, 0:38

    Throw it away and begin afresh.
    Seems the legacy of Mike Elliott’s days as Technical Director will take a while to rinse out of the car.

  16. Kris Baxter
    11th July 2023, 2:54

    Does this show how entitled Mercedes are? Why is this (and the last) a Diva? Just because another team or 3 is faster than you, does not make the car a diva, it means the other teams have designed a better car, or tuned their car better for that track, or the drivers are better.
    You don’t see Williams or Haas calling their car a Diva, cos its not a personality flaw, its a design flaw.
    Yet another reason why I dislike Merc, instead of realizing the fault lies with them. LH fans blame RBR/Masi for AD2021, when Merc could have pitted. LH fans blame the car in 2022 and Toto wants everyone to change their cars, even though some designed a good car without little to no porpoising. Merc designed a rubbish car in 2022 that they took a whole year to replace when it was obvious to the rest of the F1 world their design concept was useless from testing in 2022.
    Its nice to see them getting a dose of reality the other teams have had to deal with since 2013.

    1. Does this show how entitled Mercedes are?

      Nope. It shows you’ve misunderstood what was said, and from the bit below “…(and the last)” you’ve not noted which previous version was referred to – i.e. W08 (2017) not W13 (2022)

      Why is this (and the last) a Diva? Just because another team or 3 is faster than you, does not make the car a diva,

      They are saying the W14 car seems to behave in a similar knife-edge setup fashion to the W08. They labelled the W08 a bit of a diva as it produced a brilliant performance, but the setup requirements were a bit of a pain.
      They are now approaching a decent level of performance from the W14, but the setup is on a bit of a knife edge. That’s apparent from the comments from both drivers about setup and changes. Both drivers were at opposite sides of the narrow setup spectrum on Friday, both were equally bad. They settled on something in the middle of that narrow band and things improved.

      Yet another reason why I dislike Merc, instead of realizing the fault lies with them. LH fans blame RBR/Masi for AD2021, when Merc could have pitted.

      RBR would have kept Max out for track position and CH would have been shouting at Massi that the rules are the rules and that you can’t selectively allow only part of the lapped cars to unlap, and that the safety car must stay out for one lap after the unlapping is complete.

      If the rules had been correctly followed, the race would have finished with the safety car pulling into the pits and the lead car accelerating across the line, with no overtakes permitted until after the line.

  17. Christian was right, To never built a team up.

  18. Mercedes are clearly the second best team in the constructors, their issue is consistency. The red bull seems to perform effortlessly on any track or conditions, but Mercedes seem to be at the whims of the unknown much like all the other teams apart from red bull.

    1. Mercedes are clearly the second best team in the constructors, their issue is consistency.

      Hence the “diva” label for the car. How it behaves isn’t a wide band of setup for decent performance.

  19. Nice piece and quite candid from Toto. Hopefully they can get a better grip on the ground and give Red Bull a run for it soon

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