Mercedes technical director James Allison insists rival Red Bull’s sideline choice is not the reason behind his Formula 1 dominance – although others have now headed in that direction.
The start of the new ground effect era in Formula 1 saw some interesting variations on the sidepods, with Red Bull one of many adopting what’s known as a downwash design.
Elsewhere on the grid, Ferrari had the washtub solution and Mercedes went with the zeros.
But as teams come to better understand what is needed to extract the best performance from the existing set of rules, and also where the best development potential lies, the idea of backwashing seems to be winning.
Both Ferrari and Mercedes have shifted their designs in this direction as part of a broader overhaul of their cars, which appears to have provided much-needed steps forward.
Despite this progress and general convergence in the Red Bull design idea, Allison believes it is wrong to suggest that side rolls are a key factor in explaining teams’ performance – especially as it shows that all designs are effectively trying to replicate the ‘downwash’ idea.
“I’d be surprised if there was a sideshow on the grid, before us, and our position, anyone, that’s not a sideshow,” Allison explained.
“They’ve been washing water for years, and I suspect they’ll stay that way for several years, too.
“I’ll go on to point out that the reason Red Bull beat the rest of us won’t be in the details of his side-side, nor (explain) the rise in Mercedes’ pace with our upgrade. It’s not particularly related to his side-sides either. It’s just not a big advantage.”
Mercedes has updated its sidecar at the Monaco Grand Prix
Photography: Eric Junius
But while the overall impact of the sidepod design is much less than the floors, Aston Martin technical director Dan Fallows points out that they are essential to the overall performance package.
“There is no doubt that the sidepods are primarily flow-adjusting features,” said Fallows, whose team pushed the idea of a hydroplaning variation. “It’s stuff that adjusts the flow to the rear of the car, but it also helps the floor function as well.
“Obviously the philosophy that we’ve adopted, which is getting wider adoption across the network now, is something that helps this floor concept work as well.
“While the actual performance improvements to the body structure itself may not be great on their own, they help everything else function. So it’s a huge advantage for the car.”