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Russell: Mercedes "magic" in Spain not owed to new F1 sidepods

The “magic” that helped Mercedes to score a double podium in Formula 1’s 2023 Spanish Grand Prix did not come from the car sporting new sidepods, according to George Russell.

The car of George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14 in the pit lane

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

For the return of ground-effects at the start of 2022, Red Bull (downwash), Ferrari (in-wash) and Mercedes (size-zero) all developed radically different sidepod designs.

With Red Bull emerging as the dominant force, it left many to suppose that sidepods are the determining factor in car performance. As such, questions were asked of Mercedes for it not converging around the Red Bull design sooner to improve its form.

But with engineers estimating that top surfaces now only comprise 40% of the car’s aerodynamic ability and the rest comes from underfloor aero, Russell has defended Mercedes’ update strategy saying that the upturn last week in Barcelona was not solely down to the sidepods.

When asked by Sky Sports F1 why the team had not changed its aerodynamic philosophy sooner, the third-place finisher said: “It’s not the sidepods what make the difference. It may be a factor, but the magic isn’t in the sidepods.

“We brought that design to the car to kind of rule it out, the sidepods. The magic was done underneath the car, on the floor. That’s the same for every single team.”

Following the cancellation of the Emilia Romagna GP last month due to flooding, Mercedes brought its first major upgrade package of the season to Monaco. There, the W14 gained its new bodywork, revised floor and front suspension configuration.

Further modifications also made their debut in Spain, with the diffuser changed most notably.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

Russell joked that runaway Spanish GP victor Max Verstappen would still be capable of winning the race by 24 seconds even if the RB19 turned up with no sidepods at all.

He continued: “I’m sure Red Bull could put no sidepods on their car and still be the quickest.

“It's a little bit more complex than that but nevertheless, really happy with the work the team have done and the validation that the steps we’ve made are steps in the right direction.”

While Russell acknowledged that Verstappen was still well ahead, he added that Mercedes’ recent progress meant “our sights are on victory”.

He added: “I definitely had confidence that we could move forward [at Barcelona]. The race pace was really strong this weekend with these updates.

“I was very disappointed with the qualifying result [12th] but I think it’s proof that you just need to keep on believing. It was a new day, new opportunities out there.

“We ticked all the boxes. The car was fast, good overtakes - a really enjoyable race.”

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