With debate about to erupt over the radical new sidepods being developed by Mercedes, the team’s Formula 1 boss expects the design to be ruled legal.
Mercedes yesterday unveiled an extremely slim pontoon design with vertical air intakes as part of an aggressively packaged cooling solution.
He caught the attention of many in the paddock, with Christian Horner claiming to be from a German publication Auto Motor and Sport that the development was not in the spirit of the regulations.
F1 motorsport boss Ross Brawn also took part in the discussion, admitting it is a concept the FIA did not foresee when drafting the rules.
But despite apparently complying with the letter of the law as it stands, the mat could be removed under Mercedes.
A new governance structure in place this year requires a “super majority” to effect regulation chances mid-season.
This requires eight of the 10 teams, the FIA and Formula 1 to all vote the same, where previously it required unanimity.
“It’s clear that sometimes when you come up with an innovation, it creates the kind of debate that we have here. It was planned,” admitted Wolff on Thursday.
“We have the new governance with the super majority that is necessary. My opinion is that I would prefer to stay with the old system
“If a team comes up with an innovation, you can potentially remove it from the car if it complies with the regulations.
“I think the FIA and Formula 1 will certainly handle this diligently, in the spirit of sport.
“We were keen not to race with it alone, but to be in contact with the FIA and that’s why I think everything will be fine.”
According to Wolff, Mercedes has been keeping the FIA informed of its development throughout the process, sharing design drawings for the heavily revised sidepod concept.
“The process is very clear when you go into a specific development direction that your team has the FIA, part of the review, you exchange CAD data and bring it into the process,” he explained.
The pontoons made their track debut on the opening day of Formula 1 pre-season testing in Bahrain.
It’s unclear exactly what impact they’ll have as teams continue to run their own agenda, finding performance chunks through simple setup tweaks.
“We are really proud of what we have achieved in terms of concept, but now we have to make it happen quickly,” noted Wolff.
“I think that’s the direction of development that we like and it’s about tuning the car and so we’re experimenting a lot.”
However, the specific concern of the rivals centers on the treatment of the exterior mirrors, which are mounted on a wing-like fairing on the side impact structure.
There are also what appear to be aerodynamic strakes incorporated into the design, with some claiming this violates regulations.
“On the overall legality, I don’t think we can argue,” admitted Mattia Binotto, Ferrari team principal.
“He went through a process and [the] The FIA is certainly the one responsible for the policy and making sure it is completely legal.
“I would be surprised [to learn] Mercedes is also doing something illegal. So that’s not the point.
“I think about the mirrors, kind of surprised,” he added.
“I would say it’s something we don’t expect. I think with that in mind, I think something needs to be addressed going forward.
“Already in the past, we always argued that the mirror should not have an aerodynamic function, should be there just to look behind.
“I think the way they’ve treated or designed the car, there’s definitely an important aero objective in the mirrors themselves.”
It’s not the first time Mercedes has found itself in this situation, having run dual-axis steering (DAS) through 2020 before being banned at the end of the year.
In this case, by moving the steering wheel forwards or backwards, drivers could change the foot of the car while they were on the track.
The system was quickly castrated before the start of the 2020 season, but the change only came into effect from the 2021 campaign.