Mercedes technical director James Allison has revealed that with the budget cap in place, the Silver Arrows can only afford to introduce “two or three major” upgrades per season.
The budget cap was introduced by the FIA back in 2021, with Red Bull having exceeded the cap in its first season in operation.
The big idea behind the budget cap is that it stops the leading teams from spending an incredible amount more than the backmarkers, something which should reduce Red Bull’s, Mercedes’ and Ferrari’s usual advantage.
It’s worked to some effect, with Aston Martin having moved towards the front, as have McLaren.
Red Bull though, boast a significant advantage.
With their being a cap, Mercedes can’t spend an endless amount to try and catch the Austrians, meaning they have to be more strategic with how they upgrade their car.
Mercedes have done this in 2023, by introducing a new concept of the W14, something which is certainly a very large upgrades package.
They did this after seeing a “big enough” improvement in the wind tunnel, which made them confident that it would be money well spent.
The days of testing something in a wind tunnel and then immediately introducing it, are very much gone,.
“Nowadays, you can afford maybe to drop two or three major or major-ish upgrades in a season, and then that just tickles things in between,” Allison told Motorsport.com.
“Instead of finding something in the tunnel and dropping it into the factory, you find something, and say ‘OK, that’s big enough now to go in a package that we can afford. We’ll make it, put it in the car’. And it means that the car lags the wind tunnel by far more.
“It doesn’t change the gain rates in the tunnel. That’s always the same. But the car catches up with the wind tunnel less frequently and is in more lag with it. So that’s how it affects you.”
With the budget cap, it’s not just the number of upgrades which have been impacted, with Allison having revealed that it’s also now “much harder” to put money into other departments.
“The other way it affects you is that it’s harder to find the resource, people, and hardware to invest in capability improvement,” Allison stated.
“If you’re spending all your money and time on those few upgrades and building a car for the new year, it’s hard to make the mousetrap better.
“The machinery that makes the car, the drawing office that draws the car, and the methodology in the factory – it’s much harder to invest in that than it used to be.”