Bringing a new floor to Austin, James Allison says don’t expect Mercedes to “leap past” Max Verstappen, the upgrade is more of a “bellwether” to ensure they’re heading in the right direction towards a title challenge next year.
Nearing the end of two arduous seasons in which Mercedes, undone by porpoising issues last year, have made stilted progress, the Brackley squad recently appears to have established a better understanding of the new ground-effect aerodynamic cars.
It, however, is by no means on the same level as Red Bull’s, at least not yet.
Mercedes to trial a modified floor at the Circuit of the Americas
Hampered by the budget cap limiting in-season development, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are pinning their hopes on next season’s W15.
And they could have a glimpse at how that might pan out for them at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.
Mercedes will introduce a “modified floor” with 2024’s car in mind with Allison, the team’s technical director, hoping it will give them an indication of whether they’re heading in the right direction.
“Hopefully it will give us a bit of lap time, always a benefit,” Allison explained. “But it is mostly a useful thing because it’s a bellwether for whether we’re on the right track.
“But in lap time terms it will be small. Useful, but don’t expect us to have leapt past Max.”
Whilst Mercedes won’t suddenly start winning races as early as this weekend, Wolff has given the upgrade a slightly more important billing by describing the update as “significant”.
“We’ll be bringing a modified floor, which is the last significant update we will take to the track this year,” Wolff said.
“It will hopefully bring a small gain but more importantly, is another milestone in setting our development path for W15.”
Allison highlights importance of a ‘well-born’ W15
Next season, though, passing Verstappen and Red Bull is the goal.
After two years of trailing Red Bull, Mercedes not holding either championship title for the first time since 2013 as Red Bull claimed the double last year, Allison says it is more important than ever for Mercedes to come out firing in 2024.
That is in part because he believes 2024’s cars will be “close cousins” to the next year’s editions given there are new regulations on the horizon for the 2026 championship.
“It’s important we get off the new season on the front foot,” he said as per The Race, “but more than averagely so because with 2026 bearing down on us it’s highly likely that the 2025 cars are going to be close cousins of the 2024 cars, so doubly important to get the 2024 car good.
“That’s not particular to us, but it does sharpen your focus [in] wanting to make sure we have a car that gives us a good run into 2026, as well as good championships and the fun that brings.
“Over the years, most of the good cars I’ve been lucky enough to be around while they’ve happened the driver gets in it and doesn’t exactly say, ‘Spend your bonus’, but they more or less do, and unlocking potential is not really something that takes very long if the car is well-born – and that will be the aim of this one.
“I feel like all of us have got a pretty clear-sighted view of what we want to do with the car. This championship, while we haven’t made the really impressive progress that say, McLaren have, we have nevertheless been charting a path through the season that gives us a very clear idea of what we need to put right.
“So that makes next year’s fun very exciting to look forward to, and this period actually of the year extremely enjoyable.”
With five races remaining, Mercedes are second in the Constructors’ Championship with 326 points to Ferrari’s 298.