James Allison has revealed Mercedes were aware as early as Bahrain that their W14 was “not even close to matching” the pace they’d expected from the car.
Having won last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Mercedes kept the faith with the zero-pod concept with this year’s W14.
The car in the hands of Lewis Hamilton was relatively quick in the only pre-season test with the Briton’s 1:30.644 on the final day at the Sakhir circuit the second fastest time.
Mercedes tech chief: That was no fun for anyone here
But come the Bahrain Grand Prix shortly after, the Mercedes team-mates were more than half a second down on pole-sitter Max Verstappen.
The deficit continued in the Grand Prix with Hamilton P5 on the opening Sunday of the championship, 50.977s off the pace, while George Russell was a further five seconds down.
That prompted Mercedes to overhaul the W14 as they dropped the zero-pods, changed the front suspension, and put a new floor on the much-changed car at the Monaco Grand Prix.
But while it initially seemed the gap to Red Bull had been slashed with Mercedes potentially finishing to be P2 on the track, as others upgraded their cars, Mercedes were at best fourth or fifth on any given Sunday.
Tech boss Allison, who returned to the position when Mike Elliott was moved to the chief technical officer role, revealed Mercedes knew early on in 2023 that the W14 was not the car they’d hoped for.
“I think clearly from early on in the year, from winter testing, the first race, it was pretty clear that we had not even come close to matching what we’d hoped for with the car,” he told Sky Sports.
“And that was, you know, no fun for anyone here.
“But our job is to try and digest where you’re at rather than where you might have hoped you were at.
“And the story of this season has been a team that has tried to do the very best with where we’d started and honestly the very best outcome we could have had with where we started was coming P2.
It is a source of great satisfaction to all of us that that’s what we managed to do.
“So that was our objective and along the way, we have to learn all that we needed to learn in order to try to mount a rather more impressive championship challenge in 2024.”
Hamilton and Russell can fight for the title
Having already dropped the zero-pods and changed the suspension, next year Mercedes will put an all-new W15 on the track with team boss Toto Wolff revealing they’re changing every component of the car.
But whether that will see Hamilton or George Russell, Mercedes’ last race winner, fight for the title remains to be seen.
Allison reckons both have it in them, they just need the right car.
“They need us to provide them the equipment, but each of those men… I mean Lewis has proved seven times that he is World Championship material and he was the highest scoring non-Red Bull driver this year.
“And George has, okay he’s made one or two errors during the year, but equally you’ve seen very strong performances from him in a number of races this year. And it’s been quite a good learning experience for him, I think his second season with us.
“I’m certain that both men with the right equipment could both be World Champions if they fought hard and well enough.”