Mercedes made another significant upgrade to the bodywork of the W14 at Spa, with a new radiator inlet shape converging into an enhanced upper sidepod overhang, creating a mild version of the fashionable ‘water slide’ as pioneered on the Aston Martin and Alpine and since seen on other cars too.

    Mercedes claim that the taller inlet has improved the quality of airflow to the radiators, allowing fewer aerodynamically disruptive bodywork louvres for a given level of cooling.

    How the bodywork is formed around that new inlet shape as its runs down the length of the car has been fashioned to enhance the ‘tube’ which separates the airflow going over the top of the sidepod with that rushing through the undercut below.

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    The upper surface of that tube section now runs with a more enhanced downhill sweep to form the ‘water slide’. Essentially it enhances the undercut effect around the ‘coke bottle’ section at the rear. This is all attempting to increase the speed of airflow feeding into the rear – both into the rear wing and around the diffuser.

    The new radiator inlet is taller than that introduced at Monaco but still far from the original vertical inlet which was part of the since-abandoned zero pods concept

    The floor edges have also been modified around the rear, in conjunction with the new bodywork, trying to feed more energy into that area around the diffuser, which in turn should increase the speed of the underfloor airflow and therefore its performance. The specifics at which ride height this has been optimised around will determine whether the benefit will be felt more in slow or high-speed corners.

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    The team have already accepted that there are limitations in how this car can be developed because of the basic architecture which was formed around the ‘zero pod’ concept of both the ’22 and ’23 cars, a concept which has now been abandoned.

    Mercedes Chief Technical Officer Mike Elliott was on hand at Spa to oversee how the upgrades worked but was keen to emphasise that these were relatively minor changes and their real value was in increasing the team’s understanding, which can be fed into the conception of next year’s car.

    GettyImages-1562316927 RED.jpg
    In this picture we can see how the new enhanced tube at the rear of the sidepod is pulling in the airflow to the gap between the rear tyre and diffuser

    “This is just a development of the upgrade we brought to Monaco, which didn’t bring a lot of performance but which did allow us to look at some different avenues of development,” he explained. “This is a response to that.

    “If you look at where we were last year, we took quite a big step backwards to get out of some of the positions we’d gotten ourselves into. Once you’re there, it’s just catch-up and this is part of that. It’s always hard to make big changes to chassis and gearboxes, the big structures. That’s far easier to do over the winter. But in terms of what we’re trying to achieve, we can get that learning on this year’s car.

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    “We said before, if you look at where we are and where Max [Verstappen] is, we have to make sure we have understood all the lessons we can from this year’s car and turn it into the right thing for next year.”

    093-23 MRCEDES SPA R WINGS.jpg
    George Russell ran the higher downforce version of the new rear wing, Lewis Hamilton the lower. Both cars were afflicted by bouncing

    There was also a new lower drag rear wing. Lewis Hamilton ran the lower downforce version of it, George Russell the slightly higher downforce version. Both cars were troubled with high-speed aerodynamic bouncing, a phenomenon always close at hand with this generation of cars, but which is the very core of the limitations Elliott is referencing.

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    It’s possible that the new developments have increased downforce sufficiently to re-initiate the bouncing. Not being able to significantly change the rear suspension has possibly limited how effective the aero changes can be.

    But if the team can see their effectiveness in terms of load and how the downforce is delivered through various phases of the corner, that’s all information which can be invaluable as the team create their 2024 car, which can be expected to have very different architecture and suspension pick-up point positions.

    Race Highlights: 2023 Belgian Grand Prix
    Race Highlights: 2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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