After making a poor start at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Toto Wolff admitted Mercedes had made a mistake by keeping the faith in their unconventional ‘zeropod’ concept and declared the team would have to change their design direction to get back to the front. 

Why Mercedes car concept needs to CHANGE

Mercedes have since set “strong targets” as part of an action plan to improve over the short, medium and long term but have stopped short of divulging exactly what steps they will take. 

F1 technical expert Sam Collins has provided some insight into the dilemma Mercedes is facing, and suggested several possible routes the eight-time constructors’ champions could take…

Change the sidepods 

According to Collins, it is "entirely possible to change the sidepod concept on its own”. 

“If you change the sidepod, you’ve got to change the floor edge, because they interact with each other directly,” he explained. 

“Then you’ve got to change the treatment around the rear suspension, the brake cooling ducts, the rear wings. All of these parts have to be changed because you’ve changed the sidepod. 

“The sidepod doesn’t work in isolation. The front suspension would need to change. The little details on the leading edge of the chassis will need to change as well.”

Take inspiration from Aston Martin 

Mercedes have already taken inspiration from the sidepod design of Ferrari’s F1-75, and Collins thinks the Brackley-based outfit could go down a similar route to that of Aston Martin.

“If you look at the other Mercedes-engined cars on the grid, you’ve got the Aston Martin, you’ve got the Williams and you’ve got the McLaren - very different concepts of cars,” he said. 

“So the Mercedes power unit, which is identical between all of the cars, can accept those different concepts. They can redesign this [rear-end] section of the car. 

“At the rear you have the Mercedes transmission. Again, that’s shared by Aston Martin. You can go to a very Aston Martin-style concept with that. 

“So could we see big Aston Martin-style sidepods with that big swoop down in the middle? I’m sure Mercedes is looking at that in the wind tunnel.” 

Develop a ‘W14-B’ or early W15 

Finally, Collins suggested a drastic overhaul of the car with the development of a B-spec W14, or even early introduction of next year’s W15. 

But he warned such an approach would be a massive undertaking. 

“If you just change the sidepods, you are pretty much going to have to change every other panel you can visible on the bodywork of the car,” Collins explained. 

“That’s when you get into talk of B-spec cars. In an era where you’ve got wind tunnel restrictions and you’ve got a cost cap, Mercedes is going to have to split its resources. 

“We have to assume that Mercedes is going to be running very close to the cost cap, because why wouldn’t you if you can afford it? 

“Their using all of their wind tunnel allowance, and they’ve got very talented people working on the development of next year’s car. 

“Well that development for next year’s car, with stable regulations, could Mercedes bring next year’s car forward? Not just introduce the W14-B, could they introduce the W15 a hell of a lot earlier than they first planned to? Even as early as Silverstone perhaps. 

“A complete new chassis seems a bit of an ask - and that is an expensive thing to do for the team.”

Wolff appeared to rule that out on Friday when he stressed that a complete chassis change would be “out of the question” due to the F1 cost cap.

“If they did do that, they would be taking out of their budget for next season,” Collins concluded. 

"Money spent this year on the development of next year’s car, all goes on the cost cap for this year - same with the aerodynamic testing restrictions. 

“They are developing this car in the windtunnel, but also developing next year’s [car]. 

“If they switched this car off entirely, switched all of that effort onto the W15 and tried to bring it to the track early, that is a possible way that Mercedes can solve their problems. 

“But the details of this car are all going to have to change if Mercedes want to take to the fight to Red Bull and Ferrari."