The talk of the paddock after the 2023 British Grand Prix was, as Lewis Hamilton described, the “space rocket” of the McLaren MCL60. While passing Hamilton for second place on the podium was a great result for Lando Norris, far more important was the performance of his rookie teammate.
Piastri qualified third behind Norris and would have scored his first podium finish had it not been for Safety Car quirks that benefited Hamilton and not the young Australian.
Mercedes was the dominant team for almost a decade until big changes to F1’s rules saw the return of ground-effect car designs in 2022.
Despite having an impressive zero-pod car design, last season’s World Champion team’s entry looked anything but a championship contender and their lack of performance cost Lewis Hamilton his record of one race win in each year. since he joined Formula One.
Clearly the much faster Red Bull was used with a different design philosophy than the Mercedes W13, but the team again stuck to its principles when launching this year’s successor car.
Not being any closer to Red Bull, Mercedes quickly abandoned their design and went back to one where side pods once again featured on their car.
However, in his recent comments following the British Grand Prix report, Mercedes technical director James Allison reveals what some may consider a shocking and arrogant view inherent in the Mercedes design team.
When asked about the jump in performance for McLaren, Allison revealed:
“What is interesting and unusual about the McLaren update is that its lap time effect is quite strong. It’s unusual to have a step of that size of relative competitiveness in the middle of a season and a lead up to them.”
“They’ve done a good job there, but that also makes it interesting for us because we have before and after shots and we know the effect of the lap time was big.”
However, despite being vastly outclassed by Aston Martin’s new design this season, Allison has had little to say about the possible influences Mercedes could take from the Silverstone team.
If Alonso had a teammate who could get anything close to Spanish out of the car, Aston would be a long way behind Mercedes in the race for the constructors’ title.
Allison’s final comments about McLaren are also rather strange given that Mercedes has repeatedly refused to follow Red Bull’s design philosophy, something McLaren is now doing well.
“Therefore, it’s worth us paying more attention than we normally would to updating another competing team because in this case [McLaren]we know that whatever you’ve changed has made a significant difference to your lap time.
“It’s quite useful for us to know what that was and see if it can influence our own thoughts about developing our own car.”
Mercedes brought a much-hyped new front to Silverstone, although it appeared to be a step back in qualifying as both Russell and Hamilton finished behind Verstappen and both Ferrari and Mclaren.
Again when asked in the team report how he felt the new wing had worked, Allison was cautious, saying: “It’s a little early to say.”
“The specific features of this new front wing that we are excited about is that it should improve the balance and performance of the car through the slower range of corners.
Then, bizarrely, Allison confirmed that the new wing was no idea for the track characteristics of Silverstone.
“Now Silverstone is famous for many things, but a lot of slow corners is not one of them. What we took as a consolation from Silverstone is that in the slower parts of the track, we looked pretty decently competitive.
This sounds like an upgrade and is akin to taking a high-downforce rear wing from Monaco to Monza, where in fact a slim and slippery rear wing is the order of the day.
Mercedes has struggled with tire wear this season and the fact that George Russell started the race on the soft tire and completed an impressive 28 laps before pitting for new rubber suggests that the new front wing may have improved somewhat. the W14.
This issue is a bit cloudy due to the fact that Pirelli brought a new dry weather compound design to the British Grand Prix.
With Spa and Monza on the horizon, the new Mercedes upgrade may be missing when the F1 circus winds down in these particular venues.
Although the next race at the Hungaroring will be of particular interest with its low-speed traction requirements. All eyes will be on whether McLaren’s updates trump Mercedes’ somewhat mysterious new front wing.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 17, 2023