F1 Testing: Mercedes attract attention in Bahrain with radical 'no sidepod' design on new-look car
Mercedes' innovative new W13 breaks cover in final Bahrain pre-season test with car featuring minimalist sidepods and fins on the side; Martin Brundle: "It looks like a bar of chocolate has been left out in the sun and melted."; Christian Horner denies he said car was "not legal"
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 10/03/22 2:08pm
Mercedes' have captured the attention up and down the pit-lane at the final Bahrain F1 test with a radical 'no sidepod' design on their dramatically different W13 car.
Though Mercedes unveiled a fairly unadventurous car for the first three days of pre-season running in Barcelona last month, there had been speculation that they were planning aggressive upgrades for Bahrain ahead of the first race.
And that proved correct on Thursday morning as a new-look W13 broke cover, featuring minimalist sidepods - so tiny they are barely visible - and fins on the side of the car to improve airflow.
"It looks like a bar of chocolate has been left out in the sun and melted," said Sky F1's Martin Brundle.
Ted Kravitz added: "This has captured the attention of everybody in Formula 1 this morning.
"If Barcelona was just the starter, this Mercedes is the big main course.... this is essentially a new car for the eight-time champions Mercedes."
And Mercedes' car also may have angered Red Bull, although the team have denied that Christian Horner said it was "not legal".
German publication Auto Motor und Sport claimed to have spoken to Horner in the paddock, stating he said: "The new Mercedes violates the spirit of the regulations. For us there are some parts that are not legal."
But Red Bull issued the following statement later on Thursday: "Christian Horner has not given any interviews regarding Mercedes' car. Any quotes being attributed to him this morning are incorrect".
Horner then told Sky Sports F1: "I was slightly surprised to be reading comments I'm supposed to have been making, but there we go.
"I haven't paid a great deal of attention to [the Mercedes]. It's obviously a fairly different concept, but that's for the designer guys and aerodynamicists to get into."
Asked what the next steps could be and whether there could be a protest, Horner added: "Let the guys digest it and understand it."
However, Red Bull then issued another statement that seemed to suggest Horner had in fact spoken to the German publication: "Just so we're clear, we have made no official comment regarding Mercedes' car and will not be doing so."
What is the purpose of the 'sidepod-less' car?
Hamilton was in the car on Thursday morning, with Mercedes aiming to steal a march on their rivals following the 2022 rules refresh ahead of the first race, also in Bahrain and just over a week away.
Sidepods are used in F1 to guide air inside cars to provide cooling for the engine, but Mercedes' bold sidepod design has been debuted to maximise that effect - while it should also help aerodynamics.
"It's to accelerate the air as much as you can around the area on top of the diffuser, in order to make that ground effect absolutely as powerful as possible to push the car to the ground," explained Ted.
Red Bull were also expected to bring a new-look car to Bahrain, although their RB18 featured few noticeable differences compared to in Barcelona where admittedly their challenger was more updated than the Merc.
"I'm sure Red Bull are thinking, what is the benefit of that compared to ours?" said Ted. "Do we have to worry about this?"
Brawn believes car is legal but admits teams may protest
Mercedes' W13 car will have already been checked by the FIA, and F1's governing body have not said that a team have launched a protest of any sort. And F1's managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn said he believed the car was legal.
"Some of the solutions quite honestly we never anticipated and I think we will go back in to investigate those solutions and make sure they maintain the objective of the new rules - I think they do," he said.
"I think there's no doubt that the Mercedes concept we didn't anticipate. It's a very extreme interpretation of the regulation.
"Our initial impressions are that there's nothing here that we would be overly concerned about in terms of those objectives in the regulations.
"The regulators of the sport know what's going on - I think they're ok with it so far, but a team may come in and raise an objection that the FIA hadn't considered, and then you have a problem."
Follow F1 Testing live on Sky Sports F1
You can watch the second and final pre-season test all live on Sky Sports F1 from Thursday as Formula 1 2022 ramps up with three days of action in Bahrain.
With coverage starting early morning on March 10 and running through to Saturday, Sky F1 will be the place to be to watch the eight hours of live track action from each day - plus a nightly Ted's Testing Notebook.
Sky F1's Martin Brundle, David Croft, Ted Kravitz, Anthony Davidson Rachel Brookes and new arrival Naomi Schiff will be out in Bahrain to help tell the story of each day's track running and all the big stories of pre-season.
Former W Series driver and Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador Naomi Schiff joins the Sky F1 team, co-presenting the new 'Any Driven Monday' show.
In addition to the Sky F1 channel, subscribers can also watch the live action on their mobile by logging in with their Sky iD on the Sky Sports App.
The Sky Sports website and app will be the place for the live digital blog with updates, timesheets and free-to-view video clips of key incidents and interviews, while there will also be updates on Sky Sports News.
You can also follow the latest updates via the Sky F1 social channels.