Mercedes technical director James Allison has said the team are looking to bridge their gap and challenge Red Bull for race victories this year.
Red Bull have been the dominant force in Formula 1 all season long, taking all eight race victories so far this season in the dominant RB19, but Mercedes and others in the chasing pack have made improvements that will look to bring them closer to the runaway World Championship leaders.
Allison feels that the eight-time Constructors’ champions can put themselves back in the mix at the front this year, provided they can keep on their upward trajectory.
‘No reason why’ Mercedes cannot challenge Red Bull for wins this year
Max Verstappen has taken victory in each of the last four races by a comfortable margin, though his win in Canada by 9.5 seconds was the lowest it has been in dry conditions for some time, with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton keeping him in check and Red Bull admitting their rivals were closer than in previous rounds.
Mercedes have slated more significant upgrades to come to the W14 for the British Grand Prix as a part of their wider overhaul of the concept of the W14, which started back at Monaco in May.
With Hamilton urging the team to keep ‘one eye’ on next season already, technical director Allison thinks Mercedes will be able to take the fight to Red Bull later in the year – provided they can keep upgrading their car successfully.
Their ultimate target remains being able to battle at the front from the beginning of 2024, however.
“I keep saying it internally: there’s no reason why it won’t happen this season, as long as we’re able to keep improving our car,” Allison told German publication Auto Motor und Sport when asked when Mercedes will be able to catch up to Red Bull.
“The challenge is to do that and at the same time build up enough knowledge so that we can do it next season right from the start.”
Mercedes ‘closer to perfection’ following long-standing ride height troubles
A good portion of Mercedes’ struggles since the start of the ground effect era in 2022 can be traced back to their initial design approach of trying to run the car ‘on the deck’, as Toto Wolff called it, to try and make the most of the new aerodynamics by running the car as close to the ground as possible.
As a result, they suffered the unintended consequences of being the car arguably most affected by ‘porpoising’, the ‘bouncing’ suffered when the floor of the car is effectively sucked to the ground by the downforce generated underneath it repeatedly at high speed.
This forced them to raise the ride height of the car and has prompted a wider change in approach for how they went about designing the W14 this time around, and the technical director said they are getting “closer to perfection” in how to master their ride height track by track.
“Let me give you a brief insight into the development history of this car. Last year’s model was designed with the naïve assumption that we could drive it as low as possible, then we found out that wasn’t possible,” Allison explained.
“When we had to go higher, we were a good bit outside the range where the aerodynamics work optimally.
“On certain tracks with flat surfaces, we were able to drive it closer to the conditions the car was designed for.
“As the season went on, we learned how to get a bit more out of the car by going higher. That’s why we were a bit better off at the end of 2022.
“This year we have a little bit better handle on how low we can go before we get into trouble. We’re not perfect there yet, but we’re getting closer to perfection.”