Mercedes brought a heavily modified W14 to Belgium with a new sidepod design.
Although the Brackley-based team has long declared through the words of Team Prinicpal Toto Wolff that attention is now directed towards the concept of the 2024 car, the development of the current challenger has not yet finished.
It should be emphasized that this is not a development with the intention of further increasing the performance of this car - which various signs indicate is now paused - but to gradually understand in which direction to invest in the concept of next season's car.
The development introduced this weekend is striking for its extension: concerning the sidepods, the floor [albeit marginally] and the rear wing.
The sidepods now have a very sinuous lower profile with the upper one generating a lip-of-sorts which, paradoxically, recalls the first version of the Ferrari sidepods.
This raises the question of what was the reason behind the adoption of this concept having already been discarded, or rather replaced by Ferrari at the Spanish GP.
We actually learned from our sources that the W14 has now adopted this new version of sidepod with ovoid inlets for two reasons.
On the one hand, the team can obtain more effective management of the lower flow at the edge of the sidepods themselves, channelling flow towards the rear.
On the other, despite the evident lower sidecut, it can maintain adequate heat exchange to guarantee the reliability of the power unit.
It must be added that Mercedes is in fact exploring some solutions that can be applied to the current aerodynamic concept and to prefigure that of next year's car.
In short, from this point of view, the intention of using the remaining races to the end of the season as a test bed for the solutions that should be integrated into the 2024 would seem clear.
The objective datum remains to obtain understanding of the potential of this car which, like other rivals, demonstrates excessive track sensitivity.
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If we have used the term Frankenstein to define the de facto coexistence of two distant concepts for Ferrari since the chance of sidepod profile in Spain, it seems objectively adequate to use similar phraseology for the W14.
We could say it is a condition which the teams directly pursuing Red Bull and its concept have to share having evolved the respective cars towards the RB19's direction, integrating some solutions on architectures conceived in a totally different way.
A price, which in terms of technical gap, highlights a delay of almost a season due to the complexity of understanding such development concepts.
New sidepods air intake profile
The adoption of an ogival profile [no longer present on any other F1 car] provides interest, with the function of improving the flow management in the lower part of the sidepods, directed towards the rear.
At the same time, it guarantees an adequate heat exchange, despite the modification of the internal ducts.
Sidepods lateral profile
The new lower profile of the sidepods of the W14 is striking, characterized by a deep sidecut that recalls the profile of the first version of the sidepods of the SF-23.
The function of the deep lower cutout is to generate downwash of the flow directed towards the diffuser.