When James Allison stepped away from trackside operations at Mercedes in the middle of 2021, he left behind a legacy of over five years of utter dominance with the German team. However, in the year of his departure, a new contender emerged to take the spotlight: Red Bull.
Max Verstappen is well on his way to clinching his third consecutive drivers’ world championship in 2023.
Setbacks for Mercedes
Despite the setbacks with their 2022 car, they have been diligently working their way back into contention. A concept overhaul for the 2023 car has ignited hopes that the tide has finally turned.
With challenges with their ‘zero sidepods’ concept, the team persisted with a similar approach at the start of 2023, only to witness the disappointing performance of the car in the first race in Bahrain.
Subsequently, the Formula 1 team made a surprising announcement that they would be taking a completely different approach to address the issue. However, in Monaco, onlookers were bewildered to see the upgraded W14 F1 car featuring wider sidepods.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 26, 2023
Hamilton admits new sidepods ‘not his idea’
Lewis Hamilton has been transparent regarding the directions his team has pursued in the car’s development. Discussing the changes, he clarified that the decision to incorporate wider sidepods was not made by him.
Although he appeared dissatisfied with the current trajectory of the car’s development in Monaco, he acknowledged that making adjustments takes time to execute properly.
“We have had a lot of input as a team over the past year,”
“Those constant conversations of ‘why does that look like that and we look like this, have we tried that?’
“We now have the wider sidepods more in the direction of Red Bull, and it’s not been my decision to go that way.
“It’s been clear since we dropped the car back on the ground in the first test, it’s been the identical twin to last year’s car, except for the bouncing.
We have taken note of where we are and where we have gone wrong, so are slowly chipping away back to the front.
“It’s just a long process…”
Wolff admits pain, Allison see’s it a challenge
While Team Principal Toto Wolff has repeatedly described the downturn in performance as painful and embarrassing (although they still secured third place in the constructors’ championship last year and currently hold second place in 2023), Technical Director James Allison sees this challenge as an opportunity for growth and excitement.
Allison commented, “We’re all naturally disappointed that we’re not competitive. But we witness that kind of dissatisfaction every time they win. However, it’s balanced by the excitement of fighting back and progressively improving our car week by week.”
Allison reveals an attack on Red Bull
After years of unparalleled dominance, Allison now relishes the thrilling challenge posed by Red Bull’s seemingly insurmountable lead:
“They haven’t earned the right to be at the top just by virtue of their existence; they are there due to their exceptional performance. If we can match or surpass their achievements, we will be right up there, and that’s incredibly rewarding.”
Target is to win again
Mercedes’ mood has already improved to some extent following their double podium finish at the Spanish Grand Prix and a strong performance in Canada. The team’s new underbody, sidepods, and suspension design have provided them with a stronger position to challenge Red Bull.
Allison states, “I believe our two drivers, like the rest of the team, are elated when they feel the momentum shifting. It gives us a tremendous boost, knowing that the good times and celebratory moments will return. And for drivers who feel their car overtaking others, it lifts their spirits.”
However, in the pursuit of perfection, even standing on the podium is insufficient for Hamilton. He admits,
“I can imagine that the drivers’ enthusiasm is slightly dampened when they’re standing on the podium, knowing that they aren’t on the top step. It’s an incredibly exhilarating thought when you manage to achieve that level of success. It’s what we all strive for.”