Between chasing downforce for the W14 and resolving an issue that meant the car went from “too reactive” to “annoyingly dead”, James Allison says the first 12 races of 2023 have been a “journey” for Mercedes.
Struggling for performance at the start of this year’s championship, Mercedes put a B-spec car on the grid at the Monaco Grand Prix having abandoned the zeropod solution in favour of a design more akin to Red Bull’s downwash concept while also introducing a new floor and front suspension layout.
Although it didn’t have huge gains on the track, Mercedes have often spoken about the revised car opening new doors for development. Doors that include finding more downforce as well as ways to improve the car’s handling and balance.
Mercedes W14 goes from ‘reactive’ to ‘dead’ during cornering
The latter has been a major issue with the W14 with Lewis Hamilton complaining about rear-end stability, or best to say the lack thereof.
“We’re a long way down on downforce,” Hamilton said early in the championship. “So we’ve got to pick up the rear end downforce particularly. The more rear we gain, the more stable the rear becomes, and the more confident I’ll be able to attack.”
Allison accepts that this is still an issue with today’s W14.
“We are trying to make the car more reassuring for the drivers when they initially turn in,” he told the team’s website. “It feels too reactive. And then when they get to the apex they have the opposite problem, where we want it to bite at the front and it doesn’t.
“It’s unstable when you first turn the wheel and then annoyingly dead when they get to the apex. We want it the other way around. That’s what we are working on.”
They have, however, taken steps forward when it comes to downforce with Allison stating that most of the car’s performance gains have come from “simply putting downforce on the car in the medium to high-speed area of the aero map. Bread and butter downforce is always a good thing.”
It’s been a journey for Mercedes, not only in establishing where they went wrong at the start of the ground effect aerodynamic era but in righting those wrongs.
“The development journey hasn’t been that different to any other year,” Allison added.
“Trying to add performance to the car with all the tools you have available. Finding more downforce, trying to not make the car heavier, making it handle better. The rewarding thing is we are not just adding bread and butter performance.
“We are also collectively assessing what we got wrong with our decisions last year. These were things we understood within the first few weeks of running the car. Since then, a major focus has been putting them right.
“I find that quite enjoyable and I know it’s been rewarding for everyone in the technical team.”
Mercedes are up to second in the Constructors’ Championship, 40 points ahead of Aston Martin, but a whopping 256 behind Red Bull.