Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2023

Mercedes won’t “tear things up” and start again with 2024 car – Allison

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Mercedes’ new technical director James Allison says the team isn’t about to embark on a total change of design for its next Formula 1 car following his return as technical.

The Mercedes team recently confirmed Allison, who was previously the team’s technical director before swapping roles with chief technical officer Elliott, would return to their previous roles. The move sees Allison return to trackside with the team, while Elliott will be based at Mercedes’ Brackley factory.

Speaking ahead of qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Allison said Mercedes’ shake-up of the technical team would allow both him and Elliott to work more to their own natural strengths.

“Between the pair of us, we reckon that we would be able to cover the ground better with him doing my role and me doing his old role,” Allison explained. “We’ve both got certain skills and after a couple of years of trying it that way round, I think a sober reflection of what we’re both good at meant that it would be a little more powerful swapping around.”

Mercedes’ move follows a disappointing start to the 2023 season with the team’s W14 car failing to match the dominant Red Bulls at the front of the field. Asked if his influence over the team’s performance would not be felt until the 2024 season and their next chassis, Allison insisted that the team would see benefit from the reshuffle in the short term.

“I think that sort of question is often asked in one form or another and – forgive me – it betrays a certain lack of understanding of how how our factories – the grids’ factories – work,” Allison said.

“It’s many hundreds of people – a thousand-plus people in some cases. You don’t have one person’s hand on a car, it’s just not how it works at all. Each person puts their shoulder to the wheel. And if the whole place is well set up and well organised, that wheel turns more and more effectively. Even the great Adrian Newey would probably tell you that, if you pinned him down hard enough.

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“It is a very big team effort and when I say that Mike and I would be slightly stronger as a pairing the other way round, it means that we’re able to put our respective shoulders to the wheel slightly more effectively and help it turn just a little bit faster.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine, Baku City Circuit, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying in pictures
“I hope that shoulder that I’m placing on that wheel will help from this point forward and not a ‘W14’, ‘W15’ thing. But it is just a big team effort, the whole thing.”

Mercedes secured their first podium finish of the season with second place for Lewis Hamilton in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Allison says that it is difficult for him to assess Mercedes’ current level of competitiveness compared to their rivals at the head of the field.

“[It’s] a little hard to know, because if you go off Melbourne, I think we were arguably the second-quickest car there,” he explained, “but if you look at Bahrain, we were fourth-quickest.

“I think we’re on an improving trend, but the tracks are quite different in the opening phase of this year and it’s a little too early to tell. What I do know is that there is all manner of opportunity to improve the car and we intend to do that.”

With team principal Toto Wolff having admitted that the team may have to look at abandoning its fundamental car design concept for 2024 after failing to find the intended success from their car so far, Allison said that starting entirely from scratch would be a last resort for the team.

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“I don’t think any of us would ever consider a wholesale revamp, clean-sheet, a good or prosperous approach,” he said. “If the rules change, then of course you have to change with them. But engineering is about iteration.

“In all likelihood, if you tear things up – I’m going to mix metaphors horrifically here – but you are going to just throw away an awful lot of baby along with a small amount of bathwater. Because all of these cars from the top to the bottom of the grid are unbelievably good cars. It’s merely a question of how competitive are you – are you the best in the whole world?

“Necessarily you are going to use the platform you have and you’re going to choose the paths forward that allow it to get better in the fastest possible way. Almost never – in fact, never – would you ever tear things up and say, ‘no, enough with that, let’s change and do something completely different’.”

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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    Author information

    Will Wood
    Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
    Claire Cottingham
    Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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    9 comments on “Mercedes won’t “tear things up” and start again with 2024 car – Allison”

    1. Hmmm, it seems Aston Martin tore it up and started again last year, and it worked out well for them. Third time lucky with this concept for Mercedes maybe?

      1. It’s true, there is so much made of Mercedes’ progress last year but by the numbers relatively Aston actually improved more. So I feel that their progress this year is not as unexpected as much press would have us believe. I think though it beceomes a game of what does it mean to ‘tear it all up’? Or what this means to Alison? We’ll never know how deep Astons’ changes went last year beyond the side pod/floor edge re-work but you do make a good point I think.

    2. It’s good they continue with the sidepod-less concept, trying to be different. In some track it could be working better, and this could be the golden chance to snap a win or a few wins from the monstrous dominating Red Bulls.

      1. That’s the logical view. Aston Martin threw everything at copying the RedBull and while it bumped them up the grid they are still no where close to beating them.

        I don’t think Mercedes can beat RedBull at their own game, so building on their own concept and grabbing the occasional win where the track suits their car is probably their best/only approach.

        It’s easy to slate Mercedes, but they’ve beat everyone excluding RedBull on raw pace already this season. They don’t look good in Baku, but I expect they’ll return to second fastest or even fastest at several events this year.

    3. With overtaking harder on this track the trick will be to gamble for hards, and then stay out as long as you can hoping there’s a safety car, when others have pitted. If there’s an early SC, then bolt on the mediums. Let’s see if the Ferraris can last the race ;0)

    4. The real question is how they exploit their heavier water-cooling solution, which after all, was the reason behind the slim side pods. I personally think they have the wrong kind of airflow over the car. It’s fast, but it’s also not helping their skirts to contain the air from the underside of the car. The fat side pods create vortices that keep the air from spilling from under the car.

      1. Absolutely. It’s not even as if the sidepod less approach is low drag, with Lewis commenting on how much quicker the Bulls are on the straights.

    5. Welcome to the midfield, then!

    6. insanity is trying the same thing again and expecting different results.

    Comments are closed.