Mercedes technical director James Allison believes even Red Bull will be feeling apprehensive ahead of their new F1 2024 car next month.
The start of a new year is a time for renewed expectation and fresh hope for F1 teams as work continues behind the scenes on the cars for the season ahead.
Red Bull may have fewer reasons than most to be concerned in 2024 having produced the most dominant season in 2023 with the RB19 car, which won all but one of the 22 races as Max Verstappen eased to a third consecutive World Championship.
Mercedes hope to have solved key 2023 weakness with new W15
Allison’s Mercedes team are among those hoping to take the fight to Red Bull this term, having suffered their first winless season since 2011 last year.
With drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell complaining about the handling of last year’s car, Allison – who agreed a new multi-year contract with the team on Thursday – is hopeful that Mercedes’ winter work on the new W15 has eradicated some of the more problematic characteristics of 2023.
According to the official F1 website, he said: “It’s impossible at this time of the year to be anything other than apprehensive, coupled with excited, coupled with frightened – those are always the emotions that you feel.
“I would imagine that even in Red Bull, after a year of such good performance, they will not be sleeping easy in their beds either, because no one knows what everyone else will deliver.
“However, what we do have some hope for is that some of the more spiteful characteristics of the rear end of our car will be a bit more friendly to us and the handling of the car a happier thing.
“That’s all in simulation, but nevertheless we’ve got reasonable grounds to believe that we’ve made some gain there.
“Then, on top of that, you’ve got all the normal housekeeping type stuff of just making it lighter, making it more ‘downforcey’ and hopefully getting a bit of uplift from the power unit side with the calibration level tinkering that they’re still capable of doing under these current rules.
“Whether it’s enough, time will tell, but it’s nevertheless going to be interesting because we saw some things we knew were problems, we’ve hypothesised what the reason for those problems were and we’ve fixed those reasons.
“It will be interesting to find out how accurate we’ve been with that diagnosis.
“On the technical side at least, I don’t think any team has ever been anything other than apprehensive at this time of year. Alongside excited, or whatever, but I think you’d have to be psychotic to be bullishly confident because you only know one side of the equation, which is what you’ve done.
“There have been years where you’ve run a car for the first time and the driver’s sort of got out and said: ‘Well, spend your bonus, this is a brilliant one.’
“But even then you don’t really believe it until you get to the track and start using it in anger, and everyone else is alongside you.”
Allison’s comments come after he revealed last month that Mercedes aim to be “in with a shout” of winning both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles in 2024 having established a “pretty ambitious program” for the new car.
The W15 is set to be unveiled at Mercedes’ launch on February 14.