George Russell, Mercedes, Circui Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, 2024

Mercedes wondered “how can we have been so dumb?” after breakthrough – Allison

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Mercedes technical director James Allison admitted they felt “dumb” not to more quickly solve a key problem which dogged their latest car.

The team’s performance has improved in recent races, particularly following the introduction of a new front wing design at the Monaco Grand Prix. Allison said their improvement has come about because they can make their car perform well in a mixture of cornering speeds.

“The thing that has bedevilled us from the start of the year, the overriding thing, was that you could get the car okay in a slow corner, get it quite decent in a fast corner, but you couldn’t get it good in both at the same time,” he told the official F1 channel.

“What has changed in the last two, three races is that we’ve modified the car in such a way as it actually has a reasonable high-to-low-speed balance and a reasonable through-corner balance.

“Those are sort of boringly jargony things that it just means that the driver can trust both the front and rear axle in a fast corner and a slow corner, and can trust it from when he hits the brakes at the beginning of the corner, all the way through the apex and out the other side. That balance is crucial to a driver, that they know whether the car is going to understeer or oversteer, and that it’s going to follow the trajectory.”

Allison describe the breakthrough as “more of an ‘oh God, how can we have been so dumb?’-type moment where you see the path forward and you should have seen it sooner.”

The team realised it needed an aerodynamic solution, which its revised front wing is part of. “A thing that we’d been fighting all year with springs and bars and all the mechanical accoutrements on the car, [we’re now] just attacking it with the aerodynamic characteristic of the car,” Allison said.

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“It’s quite easy to get distracted by things that are side problems rather than the main problem – to allow yourself the indulgence that if we just sort out that little thing then we’ll be okay,” he added. “And so we worked on things that did actually make the car better but weren’t the fundamental problem.”

George Russell took pole position for the last round in Montreal, and though Allison suspects that track flattered their car, he believes the upward trend in their performance will continue.

“I think that we definitely can get the car this season to be properly competitive and to fear no tracks,” he said. “I think that the specifics of this circuit [Montreal] might make our fans think prematurely that we’re already there. This circuit has quite a low range of cornering speeds in it, and it tests the car maybe slightly less severely than some of the others that are coming up.

“While I’m pretty sure that we will make a good showing in the nearby future races, I’d be surprised if we’re on pole at the next round, for example. But I am absolutely certain that we can be as fast as anybody over the coming period.”

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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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24 comments on “Mercedes wondered “how can we have been so dumb?” after breakthrough – Allison”

  1. This only happens when you have engineers who aren’t listening to the drivers.

    It seems to me you had George, new to a leading team, and prepared to drive anything they place before him. On the other hand, you had the experience of Hamilton voicing his concerns only for it to fall on deaf ears. Had they listened they might have addressed the car’s major failings long before now. Dumb, doesn’t begin to describe this farce.

    1. Not entirely. The 2009 McLaren MP4-24, widely considered as one of the most shockingly bad cars to ever hit the grid, suffered from a simple, yet catastrophic problem that took McLaren (at the time one of the best teams on the grid) half a season to understand, as it wasn’t showing up in wind tunnel testing (60% scale).

      As I recall, the problem was that at high speed, the front wing was causing the rear wing to stall. Something that McLaren then used to their advantage to create the F-duct, and later, was implemented as DRS.

      They only discovered this via straight-line aero testing which is now disallowed.

      During winter testing, the car was off by 3 seconds a lap. Even once they solved the problem, they wouldn’t have won races without a very reliable KERS system from Mercedes.

    2. There’s no way of knowing how good his suggestions were. And they DID listen to some (and that did not seem to help at all). You or I don’t even know what the problem was (or still is), so let’s not suggest any solutions…

    3. Drivers are quite good sensing the cars has some problem, and can be very bad in detecting the root cause of the problem.

  2. Let’s see them having at least 3 competitive races in a row first, before jumping to conclusions.

    1. +1 I came here to say the exact same thing. We’ve seen it a few times now where Mercedes have a good result and believe they now understand the car (Brazil 2022 and COTA last year) then they are no where again the next weekend.

      I expect the same and another P7 for Hamilton on Saturday.

      1. Jumping to conclusions is an internet sport.

      2. That’s awfully generous. Q2 elimination is probably likelier.

    2. Yup. My first thought was “how could you be so dumb to assume you’ve fixed your problems based on a sample size of one race?” At least wait until after Spain, which has a bit of everything, before declaring yourselves out of the woods. Mercedes seems like they’re always in a rush to put out some statement that seems designed to make them look foolish.

  3. Let’s see what will happen with the wings now that the FIA is on it.
    A new front wing and suddenly the car is good.

    1. Let’s see what will happen with the wings now that the FIA is on it.
      A new front wing and suddenly the car is good.

      From all accounts, that is actually:
      a new wing, new floor bottom, new floor edge, new beam wing and a modified (new if you like) rear wing.

      So, hardly surprising that it makes a difference.

  4. James Allison is a relatable genius, from my humble perch.

    1. James Allison is a relatable genius, from my humble perch.

      A group in society that are often referred to as “interesting characters”

    2. no, Mercedes are not interested in winning after 2021, they didn’t actually care to address the radical and different approach whats his nuts took. In fact, Toto probably encouraged the wild departure from the norm, to zero pod.

      Facts are, Mercedes wanted to lose, they are not stupid, but most people do what they are told so they can keep getting paid. But in all honesty, Toto, and the lads in charge, had no interest in fixing their problems, only encouraging self-deception, political correctness and social control.

      Teams like RBR make their money by winning, politicians like Toto, and Large engine manufacturers like Mercedes win by twisting politics, and controlling narratives. Two different levels, one that belongs in F1, and one that needs to die like the dinosaurs.

    3. No, hes just there as a point of confidence, in a game obsessed over public opinion and payouts. Anyone honest will and can tell you, >> A. F1 is not an honest game, and those in it, have a hard time being honest with themselves, at least to other people. >> B. Mercedes never wanted to win after 2021.

      If anything 2021+ looked like payback to RBR for 2014 regulation changes. Seems pretty obvious too. When your technical understanding is above the trigger summaries/narratives of the commentators, its pretty clear to see whats going on, especially given how fake this ‘new formula’ is with ‘ground effects’. Lolz. Wow, floors with tunnels, so innovative and transformational. Maybe not.

      1. Why even follow F1 if you think all the powers that be are arrayed in conspiracy against your favorite driver?

  5. Good that they eventually did get what/where the issue was. I hope we can get both Russel and Hamilton in the mix to fight for the top positions, the more the merrier

  6. Now they know what the fault is, I wonder if we’ll see the slim pods back? Just saying ;0)

  7. Mercedes has been experiencing organizational dysfunction for a few years now. Their engineers trusted their design and simulations even though there was no correlation to real world on track performance. They still need changes as they seem to have continued with this arrogance into this season.

  8. Even though I will remained reserved until after the Spanish GP, to hear James Allison say, ” how can we have been so dumb”, this time it seems as if they have found their “Aaaaaah Ha” moment. It seems as if they got a bit of vindication at Monoco, but its hard to tell at that track due to low speeds. Canada seemed to allowed the to say, yes, the updates are finally making its way to the track. Spain will be final stamp of approval if they come away fighting at the front.

  9. I’ve listened this morning a lengthy podcast with James on and I have to say that James radiates a very positive attitude. I think that Mercedes as a team experienced THE PENNY HAS FINALLY DROPPED moment. I hope Lewis doesn’t beat his head against the wall too much over that.

  10. I wouldn’t get up and temporarily leave Allison with 50 cents of mine, even if there were 24 CCTV cameras pointed at that spot.
    He’s one of the shadiest characters in motorsport.

    1. He’s one of the shadiest characters in motorsport.

      So, you’re ranking him number 3 on that scale, then? because another team has positions 1 & 2 nailed down

  11. if they haven’t figured it out, they never will. Facts.

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