Andrew Shovlin says Mercedes have got “evolutions coming in terms of sidepod design”

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Photo: Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team

Speaking to Sky Sports F1 earlier today, Mercedes’ Director of Trackside Engineering, Andrew Shovlin was quizzed on where Mercedes stand right now and what lies ahead of the team who are looking likely to be playing catch up once more as we head into the 2023 season.

Today’s practice sessions provided more evidence that the team is in a similar position to the start of last season in terms of where we can expect them in the pack, but have already brought one upgrade – a new rear wing – to this race which may yet to prove valuable, though Shovlin was tight lipped regarding its impact so far, saying “it looks fine aerodynamically,” before praising the team for having the new parts ready to be fitted ahead of the season opener.

He went on to comment on some of the improvements the team have made in the off season with the W14 versus its predecessor, but was also quite candid in his assessment of the shortcomings inherent in their new challenger:

“The big thing is we’ve got rid of the bouncing, so we are able to run the car where we want to, its much much smoother than last year, we are still working on the balance, we haven’t really got that where we need it even though we had the 3 days so theres more to do…so as you say the side pods are a similar theme but if you change…if you go copy someone else you’re then backwards before you go forwards but the big focus for us was really trying to add performance and get rid of that bouncing.”

Though eliminating the porpoising so evident in last years car may not have delivered a pace increase immediately, the fact the team can move on from that towards other upgrades is a positive step forward, as Shovlin was eager to point out.

“We’ve got evolutions coming in terms of sidepod design that Mike

Photo: Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team

Difficult as it may be to wrap our heads around this team starting a second season in a row trailing behind at least 2 other teams, and now the looming threat of Aston Martin – the era of the cost cap means that Mercedes’ full financial might may not be able to be brought to bare on the problems facing the team, so how does this affect future upgrades mid season?

The 49-year-old engineer explains: “You are trying to think carefully about what you do.…to be honest the development bit when you’re actually in the tunnel or working on concepts trying to solve problems, that’s not the bit where you’re going to spend huge amounts of money its where you’re sort of committing things to production so it effects how quickly you can react, how many developments you might be bringing, but fundamentally we’ve just got to understand where this car is and how to get the most out of it at the moment.”

However, as one would expect, winning the championship this year is still their goal, even if they may not completely understand how far this concept can be evolved and just exactly what limitations have been placed on them by the side pod design for example, as seems to be the case judging on Shovlin’s comments when asked about the possibility of fighting for another title.

“That’s our goal but it’s very early days to see what we can actually achieve this year, I think the first thing is to understand where we are, understand what the limitations are, we’ll get a clear idea of what we’ve got to go and work on and then we’ll go get our heads down. Whatever the gap is all we can do is get our heads down and get working to chip away at it.”

Photo: Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team