Mercedes rivals knew controversial sidepod design was a flop last year after private test

F1 preview: A lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix

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Mercedes may have caught some by surprise last week in Bahrain testing at the unveiling of their new-look W13 with minimal sidepods, but Haas seemingly weren’t that transfixed by their rivals. The Silver Arrows caused a stir last week when Lewis Hamilton’s car left the garage on Thursday with an extremely trimmed sidepod design.

With new regulations in place, teams have been battling behind the scenes on how to extract the best package together. Mercedes admitted in Barcelona that Red Bull’s design on the RB18 was of interest to them, hinting at a change to their car.

Reports soon emerged that the W13 was producing impressive results in the simulator with their new-look, yet-to-be revealed design. But nobody envisaged the kind of design Mercedes unveiled in Bahrain – nobody apart from maybe those at Haas.

F1 teams competing further back on the grid had already started planning for the 2022 season way in advance of the likes of Mercedes and Red Bull. And Guenther Steiner has admitted that Mercedes’ bold W13 design was in fact what Haas initially were going to go with.

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However, the Haas team principal went on to state that the team quickly realised after several simulator runs that “wide sidepods” were the best way to go. “Exactly this concept was our first draft,” Steiner said.

“We had it in the wind tunnel last July and already realised that it brings advantages in slow corners. As an overall package, however, we saw greater potential in wide sidepods.”

The F1 grid appears to be split on the sidepod design for the new season with a host of teams differing in their views. Both McLaren and Williams appear to have gone down the same route as Mercedes with a narrower sidepod design.

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But Ferrari and Haas are among the teams to have gone in a completely different direction. Red Bull appear to have gone with a mix of the two after debuting a radical new design of their own which a wide area at the top, which tails off into the body to allow more airflow through the car.

Christian Horner hit the headlines last week with quotes attributed to him which labelled the Mercedes car ‘not legal’. The Red Bull chief has since denied those claims, insisting he feels that Mercedes’ sidepods are within the regulations.

“What’s so good about this sport is you get a clean sheet of paper, you get 10 different interpretations (from teams),” Horner said. “Obviously Mercedes have come up with an extreme one that’s a different interpretation. To answer your question whether we think it’s legal or not: yes, absolutely. It looks like it ticks all the boxes.”

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