Mercedes’ new technical director claims critics ‘lack understanding’

James Allison has defended Mercedes after he replaced Mike Elliott as the team's Technical Director, as the team bids to address its performance problems.

James Allison has rejected suggestions that he won’t be able to influence the direction of the design of the 2024 Mercedes car, claiming those saying otherwise “lack understanding” of the sport.

Allison returned to his role as Technical Director, replacing Chief Technical Officer Mike Elliott in April, as part of a job swap to revive the team’s chances on the grid.

The biggest area of development that has come under the spotlight is the zero sidepod concept adopted by Mercedes so far, pushed by the leadership of Elliott.

That concept has been blamed on the poor aerodynamic performance of the team, as Mercedes find themselves far off the pace of their rivals.

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However, Allison has argued that the design of the car is not down to one individual but is based on the whole team’s work.

“I think that sort of question is often asked in one form or another, and it betrays – forgive me – it betrays a certain lack of understanding of how our factories actually work,” he said when asked if his influence would not be seen until the W15.

“I mean, our factories, the [F1] grid’s factories, it’s many hundreds of people, a thousand-plus people in some cases. You don’t have one person’s hand on a car, it’s just not how it works at all.

“Each person puts their shoulder to the wheel, and if the whole place is well set-up and well organised, that wheel turns more and more effectively. 

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“Even the great Adrian Newey would probably tell you that if you pinned him down hard enough, it is a very big team effort. 

“And when I say that Mike and I would be slightly stronger, as a pairing, the other way around, it means that we’re able to put our respective shoulders to that wheel slightly more effectively, and help it turn just a little bit faster.

“I hope that that shoulder that I’m placing on that wheel will help from this point forward, and not a W14/W15 thing. But it is just a big team effort, the whole thing.

“If you go off Melbourne, I think we were arguably the second quickest car there, but if you look at Bahrain, we were fourth quickest. 

“I think we’re on an improving trend, but the tracks are quite different in the opening phase of this year and it’s a little too early to tell. 

“What I do know is that there is all manner of opportunity to improve the car. And that we intend to do that.”

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The changes in the design of Mercedes’ car comes as teams desperately look to find a way to unseat the title-leaders Red Bull.

With just five races down, Red Bull have claimed victory in every round so far, building up a 122 point lead over their nearest rivals Aston Martin.

Mercedes find themselves stuck down in P3, the same positions where they finished the 2022 season.