Damon Hill’s ‘absolutely stupid policy and strategy’ to assist Mercedes in 2024

Michelle Foster
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. Spain June 2023.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell celebrate on the podium for Mercedes in Barcelona. Spain June 2023.

Now seemingly on the right path with their car’s development, Damon Hill has told Mercedes to do “really badly” for the rest of this season in order to gain extra ATR [aerodynamic testing restrictions] allowance for 2024.

After much speculation, Mercedes arrived at round six of this year’s championship with a B-spec W14, one that no longer featured zero-pods but instead had bulk on the sides for the first time in F1’s new ground effect aerodynamic era.

Already the changes, which it must be noted also included a new floor and front suspension, are paying off with the team securing a double podium at the Spanish Grand Prix where Lewis Hamilton was second to George Russell’s P3.

The result created cause for optimism, Mercedes now dreaming of closing the gap to Red Bull and becoming the team that ends their winning streak.

But even if they win a race, or four, the championship trophies are all but Red Bull’s as, barring disaster, they hold a 135-point advantage in the Constructors’ Championship while Max Verstappen is 71 points up on the nearest non-Red Bull driver which is Fernando Alonso.

As such Hill reckons Mercedes should do “really badly” for the rest of the season in order to drop down the standings and secure that all-important extra ATR time to develop next year’s W15.

This is due to how Formula 1’s rules operate, with the lower a team finishes in the Constructors’ Championship translating into more time allowed in the wind tunnel of the course of the next season to try and level the playing field.

“I think going forward you’ve got the development curve and the cost cap restrictions to think about because ironically the better Mercedes do, the less scope they’ve got for the following year,” he said in the latest Sky Sports podcast.

“So you’ve got Aston Martin who are benefitting, if you’d like, from a poor performance relatively from last year, the glass ceiling is much higher for them.

“And you kind of wonder whether Mercedes ought to be thinking about doing really badly between now and the end of the year.”

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Asked if the extra wind tunnel time was really that important, he replied: “I think when you’ve got a budget that you can can spend it but you can’t because you did so well the previous season, then it kind of makes you wonder whether you ought to do really badly. ”

Conceding with a laugh that F1 “can’t” have teams doing that, he added “but if you’re not going to win this year, you want to win next year.”

Put to him that it would cost the team prize money, Hill replied: “There’ll be accountants and all sorts of experts that will tell me that’s an absolutely stupid policy and strategy.”

But while Hill has praised Mercedes for their revised car and the step forward, the 1996 World Champion was left perplexed by Ferrari.

The Scuderia also opted for a new look, introducing new sidepods at the Spanish Grand Prix, only to finish fifth and 11th on the day with the upgrades doing nothing to resolve the car’s inconsistency problems.

“What can you say about Ferrari?” Hill asked.

“They somehow manage to when one is up, the other is down. It’s like they are running with one leg all the time. There always seems to be a problem with them.”

Ferrari are fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, a massive 187 points behind Red Bull.