Allison on Mercedes' gains: ‘How could we have been so dumb?’


After significant upgrades, Mercedes struggles in the early stages of the 2024 F1 season seem to be a thing of the past, but technical director James Allison admits his team felt “dumb” for not resolving their car’s key issues more quickly.

Despite a bold decision to overhaul their car’s concept with the W15, Mercedes faced significant challenges in getting their silver arrow to perform consistently across various track configurations.

However, recent races have painted a different picture. A series of updates has propelled the Brackley squad back into contention, with George Russell securing their first pole position and podium finish of the year in Canada.

So, what exactly has changed for the Silver Arrows?

“I think that the thing that has bedeviled us from the start of the year, the overriding thing, was that you could get the car okay in a slow corner, you could get it quite decent in a fast corner, but you couldn’t get it good in both at the same time,” Allison explained on F1’s recent Beyond the Grid podcast.

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

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“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 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 whether it’s going to follow the trajectory they are asking.”

The introduction of a revised front wing design at the Monaco Grand Prix appears to have played a pivotal role in achieving this aerodynamic balance.

According to Allison, the new aero element helped generate a significant step forward.

“That’s one of the bigger things about it, and it’s all just trying to figure out how to get the car to go high and low speed in a good way and to go through a corner in a good way,” he explained.

“A thing that we’ve been fighting all year with springs and bars and all the mechanical accoutrements on the car, just attacking it with the aerodynamic characteristic of the car.”

Asked whether this development was the team’s ‘Eureka moment’, Allison downplayed that assumption. The Mercedes tech boss candidly admitted that it wasn’t a groundbreaking discovery but rather a realization of the team’s own oversight.

“Eureka moments are ones where you joyfully understand something that no one has understood before and you’ve advanced knowledge in the process,” he said.

“That’s a very wonderful thing but this is more of a ‘oh god how could we have been so dumb’ type moment, where you see the path forward and you should have seen it sooner.”

Mercedes effectively realized that its car was in need of an aerodynamic solution, which led to the design of the new front wing.

“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;" Allison said.

“And so we worked on things that did actually make the car better but weren’t the fundamental problem.”

Mercedes’ strong Canadian Grand Prix weekend was a strong validation of the team’s progress, but it was achieved on a track that suited its car.

Although Allison is confident that Mercedes will perform well in upcoming races, the Briton avoids raising expectations too high for the immediate future.

“I think that we can definitely get the car, this season, to be properly competitive and to fear no tracks,” he said.

“I think the specifics of this circuit [Montreal] might make our fans think prematurely that we are already there.

While I am pretty sure that we will make a good showing in the nearby future races, I would be surprised if we were on pole at the next one.

“But I am absolutely certain we can be as fast as anybody over the coming period.”

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