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James Allison

Allison warns on Mercedes comeback: 'The stats are against us'

The Mercedes Technical Director explained how the lack of performance on track led to "fragmentation" among the team.

Hamilton Perez Hungary
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Mercedes Technical Director James Allison has warned that statistics dictate teams struggle to come back from tough spells in Formula 1.

The team finished the 2023 season winless for the first time since 2011, as they struggled to make their evolution of the troubled W13 work in the early stages of the season.

Even with a car concept switch midway through the year, the W14 was still not good enough to topple the dominant car and driver combination of the RB19 and Max Verstappen.

Allison returned to his role as Technical Director seven months ago, when the team elected to replace the Mike Elliott who led the technical effort behind the trouble 'zero sidepod' concept.

Mercedes is now under pressure to deliver in 2024 after a year spent catching up to rivals, but Allison believes it is not a foregone conclusion that they will return to their previous form.

“If you look at the long march of F1 history, then the stats are against us,” he told the Performance People podcast.

“Teams do not bounce back from slipping from their previous peak in the length of time we have set ourselves but we have nevertheless set a pretty ambitious programme.

“We have quite a lot of strength in depth here and we’ve made quite a lot of progress with next year’s car.

“Whether it proves sufficient enough, only time will tell, but that’s what I’m hoping for us and I know that all my colleagues and team-mates around me will be hoping for the same.”

Allison identifies area that affected Mercedes

Allison believes the poor performance on track compounded issues off-track, leading to "fragmentation" among key parts of the team as they all searched for more performance.

"When a team has been on a very high plateau for quite a large number of years, for quite a long period of time, and then takes a dip, for whatever reason, it's very disorientating," said Allison.

"The foundations of that have been loosened by the reality of the stopwatch and being beaten by another team.

"It rouses people to action but the action can tend to be that all the disciplines in the company - the aerodynamics, the vehicle dynamics, the drawing office, all the specialisms that are necessary, that work together to create a good car - that each of them can sort of scatter on the four or five, six winds to their individual corners, to do what they can do or contribute in the way they think is best, driven by this very loud call that the car needs to improve.

"If you're not careful, those groups can stop talking to one another because they're all head down, trying to fix what they see as their part in making the world a better place.

"Probably the most destructive pattern that we as a group got into over that difficult period from when our crown first slipped, was that we fragmented more than we should have done. Not because anyone fell out with anyone, far from it. In fact the spirit in this place, considering the pressure it's been under, has been incredibly resilient."

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