Mercedes taking action to cure F1 car’s “underlying balance” problem

The German manufacturer has endured a challenging start to the 2024 campaign, with its W15 showing flashes of speed but struggling to deliver consistency through race weekends.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have battled a ‘knife-edge’ feeling at times, as Mercedes has failed to nail a set-up that exploits the potential that it believes is locked in the car.

While the team is hopeful that an aerodynamic upgrade package scheduled for the next race in Miami will bring an overall lift to its performance, the squad is also in tandem planning other changes to its car over the next few grands prix.

Speaking in the team’s regular post-race video debrief, technical director James Allison has revealed the upcoming introduction of new parts are specifically targeted at making the car handle much better.

“We’ve got upgrade packages coming to the car but also components that we hope will rectify the underlying balance that is causing us difficulty,” he said, reflecting on another up-and-down weekend at the Chinese GP.

“Much as it’s painful to talk in this way after a weekend like this, I just have to remember that there’ll be races in the future when we’ve executed those things, when we’re back more on the front foot and when we’re progressing, where the pleasure of talking about it will be massive, and that day can’t come soon enough.”

James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes-AMG

James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Erik Junius

Allison said that while the team delivered a well-executed race in China to bring home a double points finish, the overall performance was far from the high standards that he and Mercedes expected.

“We’ve had something of a front-limited car all year, especially in the lower-speed corners, and that was really amped up to 11 this weekend,” he said.

“Once you’ve got front tyres that don’t want to go around the corner, that means the drivers have to wait an eon to get on the power on the exit of the corner, you haemorrhage lap time there.

“In extremis, actually to make the car go around the corner, they have to boot it around the corner with the throttle to loosen up the rear end somewhat, and that kills the rear tyres so you end up overheating on the rear as a result of being front-limited.

“It’s no pleasure at all to be taken from a weekend which, even though competently executed and well driven by both guys – no pleasure at all when the hardware itself is not where it needs to be or should be.

“Of course, the challenge that we face in the coming races is to try and move both the set-up of the car and also the pieces that we bring to the car so that that’s improved.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Allison said that going into Miami, Mercedes also needed to change its approach to mid-weekend set-up changes, with both drivers having made big shifts from the China sprint into the main grand prix, which did not deliver the step forward hoped for.

“We definitely learnt during this weekend that if you’re going to be ambitious, be ambitious in the sprint race and then tune it down for the main race rather than the opposite way around,” he said.

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“Hopefully we’ll land a car in a better place, that the upgrades that we’re going to bring to Miami serve us well in a grid that in qualifying at least is really close.

“Around the part of the battle we’re fighting, a few hundredths can make a difference sometimes and a couple of tenths would make all the difference in the world. So, looking forward to seeing how that all plays out.”

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