There may not have been a collective gasp when Mercedes pulled the sheets off its Formula 1 car, but the carryover of its design was certainly on people’s minds: The side pods. They were the same. Mercedes doubled down on its “zeropod” design for 2023, confident it had learned enough through 2022 and the off-season to improve its concept and performance. But as team principal Toto Wolff and the rest of the F1 team are now realizing two races into the new season, that’s simply not the case.

Speaking to the media, Wolff accepted that the team’s had to change direction in terms of design and that its zeropod concept is not going to deliver the performance he had hoped for. As a result, Mercedes is now looking at Red Bull’s design as a goalpost—and it wouldn’t be ashamed to borrow some of the world champion’s ideas.

“If it’s a Red Bull, we will put a little bull somewhere with a sticker, and I will have no shame if it’s quick,” Wolff said, according to

“I think at this stage, we have no dogmatism of how the car should look like,” added Wolff. “It just needs to be the quickest possible race car. And if that car looks like a Red Bull, or like SpaceX, I don’t care, it just needs to be quick.”


Following the season-opening race in Bahrain, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner, advisor Helmut Marko, and even racing driver Sergio Perez made lighthearted fun of Aston Martin for copying its design. Horner went as far as saying that “imitation is the biggest form of flattery.” I bet they probably aren’t laughing now, knowing that the green cars will be there to catch them if they’re slippin’.

Either way, Wolff—and the rest of the paddock—is aware of how much Aston Martin has improved by going Red Bull’s route, and he made sure to bring it up in his comments to the press.

“Definitely what Aston Martin has done proves that, within six or seven months, you can gain so much lap time that it makes you play very much at the front. So that is good to see. It is good to see for all of us that you should never write off a season if these kinds of steps can be done,” said Wolff.

Of course, it’s not just as simple as throwing some Red Bull-esque sidepods on the W14 and sending it to win its first race of the year. No, it requires an overhaul of the entire concept of the car, from the floor to the exhaust and the rear wing; it all has to be retweaked, maybe even completely redrawn. For that reason, Wolff doesn’t expect a quick turnaround in performance but remains optimistic that Mercedes will offer Lewis Hamilton and George Russell a winning car later this year.

“Obviously everything else follows in terms of floor, and bodywork that you want to achieve. So I don’t want to sound too foolishly optimistic, but at least we see low-hanging fruit with things that are encouraging,” he said.

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