James Allison weighs in on upgrade race amidst Toto Wolff’s 2024 warning

Michelle Foster
Mercedes Silverstone front wing Sam Cooper photograph. Britain July 2023

Mercedes Silverstone front wing Sam Cooper photograph. Britain July 2023

James Allison has hinted at a more balanced approach to come from Mercedes in the development war as any improvements made to the W14 will “carry into” next year’s car.

Second in the championship, Mercedes’ progress this season has been intermittent with the introduction of a B-spec W14 seemingly heralding a fight-back with back-to-back races on the podium only for the team to suffer a setback in Austria while their Silverstone upgrades didn’t produce the performance gains expected.

That Sunday Lewis Hamilton did reach the podium but he was fortunate in the timing of a Safety Car and even with soft tyres on his W14 on the restart wasn’t able to take second off the much-improved McLaren of Lando Norris on the hard Pirellis.

Mercedes development path outlined by Toto Wolff

As Red Bull once again extended their advantage over the Brackley squad in the title race, Max Verstappen securing his eighth win of this season, the gap increased to 208 points with motorsport boss Toto Wolff conceding the time was fast approaching when Mercedes would have to turn their full attention to their 2024 W15.

“I think pretty soon,” he told the media, including PlanetF1.com. “We have no choice.

“P2 or P3 fundamentally doesn’t impact me and the team. It’s about coming back and being able to win a World Championship in that respect. That’s not going to happen this year.

“So we need to set our eyes to next year and then, at all the races to come, learn and develop, and make sure that we can carry that forward into next year.

“But, having said that, the regulations are the same. So it’s not that you’re not learning nothing by continuing this car. It’s a balance that we have to strike right.”

But it’s a balance that technical director Allison believes can be struck given that any lessons learned with this year’s car will continue into next season’s.

As such the Briton says Mercedes will continue to upgrade the W14, a plan he reckons their main rivals Aston Martin, Ferrari, and McLaren will also follow.

All it will take, he says, is one upgrade to set them apart in the battle for the best of the rest in the championship.

“Well, the simple answer is yes,” when asked in Mercedes’ Silverstone debrief whether he believes an upgrade could make the difference in the fight.

“We’re only around about halfway through the season and there’s still plenty more development to come in these cars. All of the teams will of course be turning their attention to next year, and that will sort of just defang all of us a little bit in terms of the rate at which we can improve our cars.

“But for each of us and for us, absolutely there are improvements that we would like to make on the current car that we know will also carry into next year so it doesn’t feel like sort of throwing good money after bad. It feels like you’re investing in both seasons with those upgrades.

“So for us yes, you’ll see the upgrades coming for a little while longer. I suspect for the others too.”

Those upgrades, Allison believes, could see the leader in the battle behind Red Bull swap almost race on race.

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“And what you will get in these next sequence of races is a little bit in yo-yo-ing for a position in a very closely tight, closely packed bunch, as upgrades sort of make the difference for one team for a while until someone else will come out of sequence with another upgrade a race or two later to sort of even things back up,” he said.

“Whether it will all settle down for the final sort of quarter, one third of the season, we’ll see. Hopefully, we’ll have our noses in front and be able to have a strong second half of the season.”

Mercedes are 22 points ahead of Aston Martin in the Constructors’ Championship with Ferrari a further 24 off the pace.

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