Allison hopes ‘spiteful’ characteristics have been eliminated with Mercedes’ 2024 car after winter push
James Allison has shared some initial details about the Mercedes W15, fresh from signing an extension as the team’s Technical Director, expressing optimism that the Silver Arrows have righted the main wrongs from their previous designs.
Mercedes headed into F1’s latest ground effect era off the back of eight successive constructors’ titles but struggled to adapt to the new ruleset and had to settle for distant P3 and P2 finishes behind Red Bull in 2022 and 2023.
However, following a change in concept last year, and amid the development push with their 2024 car, which will be revealed to the world on February 14, Allison described his and Mercedes’ feelings heading into the new season.
“It’s impossible at this time of the year to be anything other than apprehensive, coupled with excited, coupled with frightened – those are always the emotions that you feel,” said Allison, who returned to the Technical Director role in April last year, taking over from Mike Elliott.
“I would imagine that even in Red Bull, after a year of such good performance, they will not be sleeping easy in their beds either, because no one knows what everyone else will deliver.
“However, what we do have some hope for is that some of the more spiteful characteristics of the rear-end of our car will be a bit more friendly to us and the handling of the car a happier thing. That’s all in simulation, but nevertheless we’ve got reasonable grounds to believe that we’ve made some gain there.
“Then, on top of that, you’ve got all the normal housekeeping type stuff of just making it lighter, making it more ‘downforcey’ and hopefully getting a bit of uplift from the power unit side with the calibration level tinkering that they’re still capable of doing under these current rules.
“Whether it’s enough, time will tell, but it’s nevertheless going to be interesting because we saw some things we knew were problems, we’ve hypothesised what the reason for those problems were and we’ve fixed those reasons. It will be interesting to find out how accurate we’ve been with that diagnosis.”
Asked if being slightly apprehensive – as opposed to full of confidence and bullishness – is a better approach to a new season, Allison reiterated his eagerness to see the W15 hit the track alongside its competitors for the first time during pre-season testing next month and get some answers.
“On the technical side at least, I don’t think any team has ever been anything other than apprehensive at this time of year,” he continued. “Alongside excited, or whatever, but I think you’d have to be psychotic to be bullishly confident, because you only know one side of the equation, which is what you’ve done.
“There have been years where you’ve run a car for the first time and the driver’s sort of got out and said, ‘Well, spend your bonus, this is a brilliant one’, but even then you don’t really believe it until you get to the track and start using it in anger, and everyone else is alongside you.”
Mercedes will not only be pushing to return to title contention in 2024, but also to get back onto the top step of the podium, having gone without a win last season for the first time in more than 10 years.