Mercedes’ distinctive new sidepod design has sparked controversy, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner allegedly calling it “illegal.”

As a regulations dispute threatens to engulf the 2022 Formula 1 season, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has labeled Lewis Hamilton’s new Mercedes as “illegal.”

On the first day of the final test in Bahrain which comes just ten days before the race, Hamilton’s Mercedes team debuted a significantly upgraded machine. The focus was on Mercedes’ almost non-existent sidepods, which are designed to increase airflow, improve downforce, and efficiently accelerate the car.

The triangular cut for the radiator inlets also improve airflow by increasing cooling speed, resulting in increased downforce as they also try to pull air into the back of the F1 cars to fill the space between the floor and the back tires, which stops the automobile from achieving top speed.

The Mercedes’ ground-breaking design follows the sport’s most significant technical revamp in decades.

Given the tensions between Red Bull and Mercedes following last season’s dramatic finale, which was the culmination of months of sniping and competition, Christian Horner’s reported challenge to the legality of the design came as no surprise.

In an interview with German publication Auto Motor und Sport, Horner said: “From our point of view, Mercedes went a step too far.

“That doesn’t correspond to the spirit of the regulations. For us, these wings are illegal.”

Rival teams may protest the Mercedes during the opening round on March 20 in the Gulf Kingdom. The W13 might also be banned if eight of the ten teams on the grid – the so-called “super majority” – decide it violates the spirit of the new rules.

F1 chairman Ross Brawn, who spearheaded the rule change, admits that Mercedes’ new design caught him off guard.

“There are some very extreme interpretations of the regulations which could lead to a lot of debate,” Brawn said.

“We did not anticipate the Mercedes concept.”

“The regulators of the sport know what’s going on – I think they’re OK with it so far – but a team may come in and raise an objection that the FIA hadn’t considered, and then you have a problem.”

Toto Wolff, the team’s chief, said he is certain that the team’s car is legal.

“When you go down a specific development direction, the FIA scrutinises it, and you make them a part of the process,” he said.

“We were keen in not running alone, but being in touch with the FIA, and that is why I think it will be ok.”

“It is clear that when you come with an innovation it creates the kind of debate that we are having here… that was expected.”

“We have new governance with the super majority. I would have preferred to stay with the old system where if a team comes up with an innovation you cannot take it off the car as long as it is compliant with the regulations.”

“But the FIA and Formula One will handle that with diligence and in the spirit of the sport.”

However, Red Bull released a statement saying: “Christian Horner has not given any interviews regarding Mercedes’ car. Any quotes being attributed to him this morning are incorrect.”

Speaking to Sky Sports, Horner said: “I was slightly surprised by some comments I was supposed to have been making, but there we go.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t been paying a great deal of attention to it. It’s obviously a fairly different concept, but that’s for the aero guys and the designers to get into.”

“I think that’s somethnig beyond my technical competence, let the guys all digest it and understand it.”

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