Adrian Newey explains why Red Bull rejected Mercedes’ ‘zero sidepod’ design

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Red Bull’s Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey says Red Bull at one point had to consider Mercedes’ ‘zero sidepod’ design philosophy, but “the gut feel was, let’s stick with what we’re doing”.

Back at the beginning of 2022, when Formula 1 implemented its new regulations that focused on ground effect cars, Mercedes came out with a unique design philosophy of their car – the so-called ‘zero sidepod’ concept.

The design philosophy ultimately did not prove to be successful, but Mercedes decided to stick with it in 2023. However, after the first race on the 2023 season in Bahrain, the team announced they will move in a different design direction.

Red Bull on the other hand has dominated under the new regulations, and now the team’s Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey reveals his team at one point in 2022 considered Mercedes’ design philosophy.

“Obviously, with last year’s car we took an aerodynamic direction with the sidepod and design and the concept of the car, which was almost polar opposite to what Mercedes did,” Newey told F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast.

“Mercedes showed flashes of competitive last year, they won in Brazil. Then you’re faced with a choice of well, do we start to research Mercedes in case you’ve missed something or do we stick with what we’re doing?

“And gut feel was, let’s stick with what we’re doing.”

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The Briton then revealed how he came up with his interpretation of the new regulations.

“It was sitting down with the rule book then trying to understand what architecture in terms of where do you put the front wheels, where do you put the rear wheels relative to the fixed bits of the series of chassis, engine and gearbox.

“The underlying architecture, you have to decide. In my case, I concentrated on the architecture and then the front and rear suspension because they’re the kind of key bits that you want to try and get right if you possibly can.

“If you get the bodywork wrong, within reason, you can change it during a season. But if you get the underlying architecture wrong, at the very least you stuck with it for one season.”

He also revealed Red Bull’s 2022 challenger – the RB18 – was “conceived probably in a much shorter time than most, if not all, our rivals”, due to being engaged in a close title battle with Mercedes in 2021.

“In ’21 we were in a big championship battle with Mercedes and, possibly wrongly, but because for the first time in many years we were in with a shot for a championship, we decided to put quite a lot of effort into developing that car through the year.

“They [Ferrari] weren’t in the championship battle in ’21, so they stopped developing the ’21 car very early on and just concentrated on the design of the ’22 car. Mercedes was somewhere in between that.

“We kept developing far longer than either of those teams. And so theoretically that put us at a disadvantage. But I think what we did manage to do is get the architecture right.

“So when RB18 first came out in Bahrain last year, Ferrari was certainly as quick, if not quicker, in the early season.

“We managed to get the fundamentals right and that gave us a good development platform.

“We had an amount of bouncing, not as bad as the other teams, but we still had some bouncing which we needed to get on top of. And I think we had a reasonable understanding of what we needed to do to do that.

“So come the first upgrade we had in for the Bahrain race, then bouncing was much less of an issue than it was for other teams.

“That meant that we didn’t have to put a lot of our development energy into fixing bouncing, such as Ferrari and Mercedes did,” Newey concluded.

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