Mercedes Technical Director James Allison insists that the failed zero sidepod approach was not the main factor in its Formula 1 struggles, instead pointing to the overall car concept.
At the start of the ground effect regulations in 2022, Mercedes opted to bring a radical design that shrunk the sidepods, but the W13 was hit was major porpoising and mechanical problems.
Mercedes remained committed to the design throughout 2022 under then-Technical Director Mike Elliott and launched the W14 of 2023 with the design still in place despite no other team using the idea.
The approach was publicly abandoned after qualifying in the season-opener in Bahrain, with a more conventional-looking car being introduced in Monaco - although the team were still unable to make wider-ranging changes owing to the cost cap, but was able for the 2024 W15 machine - which is set to be unveiled on February 14th.
Allison, who returned as Technical Director in spring 2023, has explained in detail just why the sidepod design was not the major factor in Mercedes' fall from race-winning form - but why it appears so.
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Sidepods not the factor in Mercedes struggles
"I don't quite see the world the same way as you guys do, looking at a sidepod and deciding that's a concept," Allison explained to Sky Sports F1.
"We took a path with our car, and I would say that's from the tip of the nose to the very back of the tail, which was not a competitive one. The most visually notable aspect of that was our sidepods, but by no means [was that] the definitive factor [over a lack of performance].
"It was not right from front to back and that's the thing we have had to learn and have had to deal with - that's taken us longer than we would have liked.
"But the sidepods are maybe emblematic of a team that took a little too long to figure out which way was up, but by no means, [is it] the distinguishing feature that sealed our fate."
Mercedes has committed to a drastic overhaul of the W15, changing aspects of the car that it was not able to do so in-season with the W14 - with Allison insisting that the idea of a car 'concept' was not what it originally seemed.
"To the mind of a designer or a performance person in F1, concept is actually nothing to do with the car," he explained.
"It's about a process by which you decide what good looks like, and what bad looks like. It's your methodology for sort of sieving out all the many, many things you might put on the car and finding only the ones that you really think are going to add lap time.
"The car itself is just the output of that method.
"So when you talk to us about concept, we're hearing: 'What, you think our wind-tunnel weighting system wasn't right?'
"We've changed that, or our way of meshing in CFD was wrong and we've changed the concept of that.
"That's what concept means to us and the car just pops out at the far side of that when we apply that process and that concept.
"So, of course the last two years have required us to adjust our approach and our methodology, our concept, if you will.
"As a result of that, the hardware that pops out the far side of that will necessarily be different hardware, because it's defined by different decisions and different weightings of what's important and what isn't.
"You get all excited by the end result, but actually our fate is made by the approach."