James Allison Confident Mercedes has Resolved “Spiteful” Characteristics of Last Season’s F1 Car

Mercedes’ technical director, James Allison, is optimistic that the team has resolved the “spiteful” characteristics of last season’s F1 car, which had troubled drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

The primary issue faced by the drivers last year was the car’s instability at the rear during corner entry, which compromised their confidence and performance through the corners and upon exit, resulting in slower lap times.

This led to a challenging season for Mercedes, marking the first year since 2011 that the team did not secure a victory, despite finishing second in the constructors’ championship, significantly behind their main competitor, Red Bull.

In preparing the W15, launched on Wednesday, Allison and his technical team have focused on rectifying the rear stability issues to better support Hamilton and Russell in the upcoming season.

When inquired about the key areas of improvement for the car, Allison stated:

“A big focus has been on improving the previous car’s unpredictable rear axle, which the drivers often referred to as spiteful.

“We have worked on that to try and create a car that is reassuring to the drivers. At the beginning of a corner when you’re hard on the brakes and turning in, the rear needs to feel rock solid.

“And then as you get towards the apex, the car needs to feel progressively more nimble, and eager, to turn. We have been trying to build that into the car.

“We’ve also worked hard to create a less draggy car, and to add performance in the corners. There’s also been some housekeeping on areas in which we had room for improvement, including the DRS effect, and pit stop performance.

“We were always very good at delivering a pit stop in a repeatable time, which is the key thing for a pit stop.

“The repeatable time that we could do our pit stops in was still three to four tenths slower than the best teams, though. So hopefully we will have moved in the right direction there.”

Allison expressed confidence that Mercedes has “delivered on all the things we said we wanted to do,” but acknowledges that the true test will come when the car undergoes pre-season testing in Bahrain next week, after an initial shakedown at Silverstone.

“Some aspects are unbounded and therefore you can never be fully satisfied,” added Allison. “We will not know until we run the car truly. But I think we can say that we feel like we have worked well.

“Formula One is a relative game. Whether we’ve worked well enough to be competitive, only time will tell. We do not know what everyone else has done.”

Crucially, with the W15 possessing an all-new chassis, Allison can only hope the aerodynamics work in tandem with the vital area of the floor that has been so inherent to the current ground-effect era, and where Red Bull has had the upper hand that has led to its dominance.

“Most of a Formula One car is not visible,” said Allison. “It has always been like that, but even more so with this current generation of cars where so much of the performance comes from how the floor interacts with the road.

“Everything you see above the waterline are the ugly, inefficient conditioners that try to help the floor do its good work. Whether or not a car is effective is down to how well, aerodynamically at least, that floor is permitted to behave.”