Mercedes Discovers Vital Clue to 2024 F1 Struggles

Mercedes’ technical director, James Allison, has offered insights into the challenges the team has faced in the opening trio of races in the 2024 Formula 1 season.

Despite the Mercedes W15 being more manageable for drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, it has failed to deliver the anticipated performance boost.

The team’s struggles are evident in its failure to secure a position higher than fifth in any of the races so far. Following a disappointing double retirement in Australia, Mercedes now finds itself trailing 29 points behind McLaren, who currently occupies third place in the standings.

Even without accounting for the two Did Not Finishes (DNFs), Mercedes has encountered difficulties with performance. Across the diverse circuits of Bahrain, Jeddah, and Melbourne, where the season commenced, troubling patterns have emerged.

During the intense heat of Saudi Arabia, the limitations of the W15 became apparent, particularly in high-speed corners where grip proved elusive. This issue was exacerbated by bouncing, leading Allison to observe a concerning trend: the team’s competitiveness diminishes in warmer conditions.

The disparity in performance was highlighted by the contrasting sessions between Australia’s free practice three and qualifying. In the cooler morning session, Hamilton and Russell were nearly matching the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari.

However, during the afternoon qualifying session, while Ferrari and Red Bull made significant gains, Mercedes seemed to stagnate, with Russell and Hamilton qualifying in seventh and eleventh positions, respectively.

“We are starting to see a pattern emerge that most weekends we have a period in the weekend where we are feeling confident about the car, but then in the paying sessions, in qualifying and the race, that slips through our fingers,” Allison elaborated.

“If we were trying to draw that pattern together then probably the strongest correlation that we can make at the moment, is that our competitiveness drops when the track is warm, when the day is at its warmest and therefore the tyre temperatures rise with those of the track.

“That gives us some clues about what we need to do as we move forward from here. From FP3 to qualifying in Melbourne there was not a set-up change.”

Allison expressed uncertainty regarding whether adjustments to the W15’s setup would suffice to address its deficiencies or if more significant changes are necessary.

“If you’ve identified correctly an accurate assessment of why our competitiveness waxes and wanes, then you can work into the weekend a programme that is dedicated towards trying to move the temperature and the temperature balance front to rear in your favour and using all the conventional set-up tools on the car,” he further stated.

“That work you can do back here in the factory and the simulation and so on.

“But if you conclude having exhausted the degrees of freedom that you have available to you in set-up terms that you still need to go further, well then that gets harder at that point.

“That will be that there are underlying characteristics in say the aerodynamic map that you’ve engineered or the suspension characteristic that is aggravating that particular feature.

“In order to make it really heal up nicely, then you would have to change those underlying features. It can be either quick and dirty, or a little more involved and a bit more complicated.”