Mercedes are looking to bounce back in 2024 after two seasons of Red Bull domination; technical director James Allison says changes to team processes will ensure a different-looking challenger for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to drive; new W15 car to be revealed on February 14
On the F1 2023 Season Review show, Mercedes technical director James Allison remains optimistic Lewis Hamilton can win a record eighth world title, despite the team struggling in the past two years
Mercedes technical director James Allison says changes in the team’s processes following two disappointing campaigns will result in a different-looking car for the 2024 Formula 1 season.
After claiming eight successive constructors’ titles, Mercedes adapted poorly to the introduction of new design regulations in 2022 and won just one race across the last two seasons as Red Bull dominated.
Mercedes’ initial struggles in 2022 appeared to be exacerbated by the team’s decision to stick with the same concept for 2023, before abandoning it in the early stages of a season in which Lewis Hamilton and George Russell salvaged a second-place finish in the constructors’ standings.
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While explaining what he believes are common misconceptions around the phrase ‘concept’, Allison revealed the process that is likely to lead Mercedes’ 2024 challenger to look significantly different to its predecessors.
“To the mind of a designer or a performance person in F1, concept is actually nothing to do with the car,” he told Sky Sports F1.
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“It’s about a process by which you decide what good looks like, and what bad looks like. It’s your methodology for sort of sieving out all the many, many things you might put on the car and finding only the ones that you really think are going to add lap time, it’s method. The car itself is just the output of that method.
“So when you talk to us about concept, we’re hearing, ‘What, you think our wind-tunnel weighting system wasn’t right?’ And we’ve changed that, or our way of meshing in CFD was wrong and we’ve changed the concept of that.
“That’s what concept means to us and the car just pops out at the far side of that when we apply that process and that concept.
“So, of course the last two years have required us to adjust our approach and our methodology, our concept, if you will, and as a result of that the hardware that pops out the far side of that, will necessarily be different hardware, because it’s defined by different decisions and different weightings of what’s important and what isn’t.
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“You get all excited by the end result, but actually our fate is made by the approach.”
Mercedes have confirmed a February 14 launch event for their new W15 car, while team principal Toto Wolff has said he is committed to remaining in his position until the end of the 2026 season.
‘Sidepods emblematic of Mercedes failings’
Mercedes did attempt to begin to shift the profile of their W14 car during the 2023 season, but the limitations of F1’s cost caps mean there is only some much a team can change within a campaign.
The most visually obvious change was a move away from the ‘zero-sidepod’ look that had made the W13 stand out from the rest of the field when the cars were first unveiled in 2022.
Along with that change, Allison made a mid-season switch from chief technical officer to resume his previous role of technical director, swapping positions with Mike Elliott, who would then depart the team later in October.
Allison believes that the impact of Mercedes’ sidepods has been exaggerated, but admits that feature was “emblematic” of the team’s overall failings.
“I don’t quite see the world the same way as you guys do, looking at a sidepod and deciding that’s a concept,” he said.
“We definitely took a path with our car, and I would say that’s from the tip of the nose to the very back of the tail, which was not a competitive one. The most visually notable aspect of that was our sidepods, but by no means the definitive factor.
“It was not right from front to back and that’s the thing we have had to learn and have had to deal with – that’s taken us longer than we would have like.
“But the sidepods are maybe emblematic of a team that took a little too long to figure out which way was up, but by no means the distinguishing feature that sealed our fate.”
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