McLaren providing ‘useful guide’ to Mercedes
By Ian Parkes
Saturday 14th October, 2023 - 5:00am
Mercedes technical director James Allison feels McLaren is providing “a useful guide” to the eight-time F1 constructors’ champions with regard to potential progression into next season.
From a winter of discontent for McLaren, as it readily conceded it was behind on its development curve that led to a woeful opening few races, the team has surged forward to being the second-best on the grid of late.
That was underlined by the front-row lockout for the Qatar sprint, spearheaded by Oscar Piastri, with the Australian and team-mate Lando Norris going on to secure a sensational victory in the one-third distance race.
The nature of the Lusail International Circuit played to the strengths of the MCL60 which has become strong in high speed, an area Allison believes could be of inspiration for Mercedes.
“Absolutely chapeau to them for having come from more or less the worst car, or vying for it, to being second quickest,” said Allison, speaking to Sky Sports F1.
“That makes us see what’s doable but actually that isn’t most of our focus.
“It’s more that when you look at any of the cars on the grid and you see the type of corners they’re strong in, the type of corners they’re weak in, you can sort of reverse engineer a bit from that – what are the characteristics that will prosper over a season as a whole.
“And you can see the McLaren moving towards the direction of a Red Bull – forget the late look of the car – but in terms of the way it performs on the track, and this really impressive, sort of 225 to 250kph performance, that gives a lot of signals about what they’re targeting, in order to be strong around all the championship tracks.
“So that’s a useful guide, a useful thing to sort of let you know whether you think you’re barking up the right tree or the wrong tree.”
After almost two seasons under the new aerodynamic regulations, Mercedes has slowly made improvements, albeit not enough to push Red Bull, and it now finds itself behind McLaren at certain circuits.
Allison insists the team is “on a very good path”, and that “much of what ails us now is reasonably well understood, and we’re working to fix that”.
Time, however, is pressing for Mercedes to make inroads for the 2024 and ’25 seasons before the regulations undergo another major overhaul in 2026 with the introduction of a new power unit.
Lewis Hamilton recently remarked over the Japanese Grand Prix weekend that the team needs “the greatest six months of development” if it is to challenge Red Bull over the next two campaigns.
“He’s right about it being a very important period because all of us have got half an eye on the fact that 2026 is coming down the tracks with a big rule change again – tear everything up and start all over again,” remarked Allison.
“That will have to be done in the 2025 season under a cost cap, so in order to have the sort of firepower to do that, it’s going to mean that probably the 2025 car will not be all new.
“It means that what you do for ’24 will echo into ’25 as well because a lot of carryover will have to happen, so it’s hugely important to set the tone for what ‘4 and ‘5 will turn into.”