Mercedes W15, 2024

Budget cap limited how far Mercedes could overhaul 2024 car – Allison

Formula 1

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Mercedes technical director James Allison says the team has achieved the goals it set for its W15, which is the product of a new design philosophy.

However he admitted some aspects of the car’s design have not been radically changed due to the limitations imposed on the team by the cost cap.

Allison returned to the role of technical director in April last year after Mercedes were disappointed by the performance of the W14, produced under Mike Elliott. Allison has masterminded an overhaul of the team’s approach to the technical regulations which were introduced in 2022, since when the team has won just one grand prix.

Mercedes committed to extensive changes to the architecture of its next car soon after Allison took over.

“Bigger layout changes are not freed up by no longer having the hassle of racing, you make those big layout changes prior to the summer,” Allison explains. “So, when we talk about a layout change, you’re generally talking about where the engine sits in the chassis, what geometry of rear suspension you’re going to have on the gearbox and what changes you are going to make to the part that contains the driver.

“Those are all three things that are hypothetically do-able in the middle of a year but come at such huge opportunity cost that you would never contemplate it. But nevertheless, you need to commit to them in the preceding summer.

“The off-season is about proving to yourself on your internal rigs and simulators that those pieces are what you hope they might be; that it looks like it will deliver on your hopes.”

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Although the team won’t get their first impression of how successful they have been until the W15 completes its first scheduled run at Silverstone today, Allison is confident about the direction they have taken.

Mercedes W15, 2024
The car’s rear end has been a major focus for improvement
“I feel like we have delivered on all the things we said we wanted to do,” he said. “Some aspects are unbounded and therefore you can never be fully satisfied. We will not know until we run the car truly.

“But I think we can say that we feel like we have worked well. Formula 1 is a relative game. Whether we’ve worked well enough to be competitive, only time will tell. We do not know what everyone else has done.”

Mercedes last won the constructors’ championship in 2021, the first year F1 introduced its budget cap. Allison admitted the restrictions on spending meant they had to accept some compromises to the scope of their chances to the W15.

“A new chassis and a gearbox were standard for every year, pre-cost cap. And there’ll be several other teams who have done both things in a single year. But the cost cap does force you to pick and choose your battles, and there’s no doubt that having a new outer casing as well as at the same time as having a new chassis are two big projects that are going to take a chunk of our available firepower.

“That is what we have done this year. It does mean that in other parts of the car we have not tried to reinvent the wheel. But it has allowed us to undertake a couple of big projects without breaking the bank and we believe that this is a good and important use of our efforts.”

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One notable area the team has left unchanged compared to the previous season is its suspension concept, retaining a push-rod arrangement at the front. However Mercedes plans to introduce a series of aerodynamic upgrades over the course of the year to unlock more performance from the W15.

“Most of the lap time you can put on a car comes from aerodynamics during a season, but precisely what we find and in what area is still unknown,” said Allison. “The aerodynamic department is, at this stage of the year, planning to put a good amount of effort in to front wings, rear wings, floor, brake drums, brake ducts, bodywork, all of which could produce things that might arrive for the European season.

“Several of those programmes will not come to fruition, but that is just the nature of experimentation. But if you try hard enough over a wide enough range of experiments, then enough of them will come good in that time scale and there should be a decent package to put on the car by the time we return to Europe.”

Drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell found it difficult to consistently get the best out of last year’s car due to its unstable rear end. That has been a key area of focus for the team to solve over the winter, but Allison said improvements have been made in other areas as well.

“A big focus has been on improving the previous car’s unpredictable rear axle, which the drivers often referred to as spiteful. We have worked on that to try and create a car that is reassuring to the drivers. At the beginning of a corner when you’re hard on the brakes and turning in, the rear needs to feel rock solid. And then as you get towards the apex, the car needs to feel progressively more nimble, and eager, to turn. We have been trying to build that into the car.

“We’ve also worked hard to create a less draggy car, and to add performance in the corners. There’s also been some housekeeping on areas in which we had room for improvement, including the DRS effect, and pit stop performance. We were always very good at delivering a pit stop in a repeatable time, which is the key thing for a pit stop. The repeatable time that we could do our pit stops in was still three to four tenths slower than the best teams, though. So hopefully we will have moved in the right direction there.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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13 comments on “Budget cap limited how far Mercedes could overhaul 2024 car – Allison”

  1. Newey insisted on sorting the suspension first (a constant ride height essential to maintain the floor aerodynamics constant). Still seems to be last on the Mercedes priority list. Hamilton complained about the chassis so that makes sense.

    1. Nope, you got it wrong mate. Rear axle redesign is a testimony that the effort of improving the ride quality is of paramount importance. James explained it very well. I read the article and I understood very clearly their objectives. Maybe, Lewis thought that Mercedes will never be able to design a car with stable rear end under contemporary technical regulations and looked elsewhere. That’s purely my observation. It’s not only a constant ride height a feature to covet but also a constant roll angle. As James, this time Vowles, explained, you need a more sophisticated rear axle internals to provide that. Cars usually lift their nose a bit under roll and that disturbs smooth floor operation. There is a geeky solution to that because you’re fighting some kinematics laws to the limit.

      1. I meant Hamilton’s complaint about the chassis seems to have been heard as they decided to swap that. The rear axle redesign could be a big improvement, I agree. Guess we’ll see soon.

  2. retaining a push-rod arrangement at the front and rear.

    Mercedes ran pull-rod at the rear last year?

    1. Yeah that’s been corrected – my bad.

  3. Sounds a lot like it could be a Mclaren 2023 – an absolute dog until they bring the developments during the season.
    Either that or some of the engineering team are still insisting their designs from last year are the way to go.
    Time will tell whether or not they should have spent more getting things right for the start instead of retaining budget to try and improve it.
    Doesn’t really sound though as if they’re expecting it to challenge for either a WDC or WCC this year.

    1. I hope that after the shakedown the only person to be really shaken for leaving will be Lewis.

  4. I had a good chuckle when he said they made this pit stops consistent … consistently bad (-8

    1. Well, 3-4 tenths per stop isn’t actually bad is it, if you can do it consistently too? But it’s always nice to see these people being chill and easy about things. Every little bit helps, but in a 2-stop 50 lap race you are better off finding 0.02s of lap time compared to improving your stops (0.7s total vs 1.0s total). Also, lap time helps you in qualifying too.

  5. With these descriptions it’s hard to tell what ‘more stable’ or ‘more something else’ really means. After all, people in F1 tend to have a flair for the dramatic, where a two tenth increase in lap time supposedly indicates there is ‘no grip!’.

    Regardless, it’s interesting to see how much attention the teams seem to have given to the suspension. I think it was already back in 2022 that people noted that the Red Bull almost looked like it was running an active suspension. Not to insinuate that they were, of course, but just to emphasize how stable they kept it. Hopefully the efforts of the other teams have delivered; it’d be nice to see some competition.

    1. when mchonda stop being able to run misfiring on engine breaking in to the apex, you might see something difference. Its a very successful TC strategy which works well in other series like motorcycle racing. Until then, just expect trigger words like suspension. Because nobody really calls out whats going on, just like RBR getting constructors after cheating on their budget. The game is rigged, it appears. But for Hamilton’s sake, its probably Ferrari’s time to win in the new formula, because thats the way it seems things are playing out these days, certain teams at the top let other teams win for a few seasons, and the other teams destroy the design of their car and act completely stupidly about their design, and let those flaws persist for years. Its quite amazing nobody is really challenging Mercedes clearly intentionally spoiling their car for the last two years with their ‘design’ philosophy.

  6. 2024 looks like another annus horribilis for Mercedes but hopefully from 2025 on they can again deliver truly dominant cars

    1. Don’t see why one would hope for more dominant cars! If anything cars that can challenge the best car, which presumably will still be red bull.

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