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Mercedes: We will make a good fist of chasing Red Bull in 2024

Mercedes technical director James Allison is optimistic the team will be able to “make a good fist” of chasing Red Bull during the 2024 Formula 1 season.

The former champions have designed a much-changed car for the new campaign, which begins live on Sky Sports F1 from Thursday ahead of Saturday’s race at 3pm, and were left encouraged by the initial performance shown by the W15 during the three days of the Bahrain test with drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell reporting that it was already a nicer-handling car than either the 2023 or 2022 versions.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1’s Ted Kravitz in Bahrain, Allison was asked if they had solved the driveability issues of the past two seasons and said: “I think we largely have.

“The bouncing is still a thing that’s going to be a threshold that all the cars in the pit lane will work up against until this generation of car moves on to something different. So there is still some bouncing that we can bury ourselves in or come out of just in pursuit of what the right performance compromise is.

“But the sort of horrid snappy rear end, that is happily not troubling us in the way that it did in the past.

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Sky F1’s Anthony Davidson analyses Lewis Hamilton’s fastest lap in the Mercedes during the second day of testing

“It’s mostly mechanical changes in the car but it’s always a marriage between the aerodynamic behaviour through the corner and the suspension.”

While optimistic of a stronger season from a stronger starting point with the W15, Mercedes along with their rivals in the chasing pack have also stayed realistic about their chances of immediately taking the fight to Red Bull this year given the size of the advantage from last year they are all trying to close down.

“I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone that the cars down there [at Red Bull] have got their noses and perhaps a bit more of their face in front of those of us that are chasing,” said Allison.

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Mercedes driver George Russell praises the changes made to the car from last year and hopes they can compete for the top spots

“But I think we’ll make a good fist of the chasing and hopefully just develop strongly through the year.”

Hamilton, who completed 172 laps during his time in the W15 at testing to add to Russell’s 189, praised the work that the team had done in designing the new car and agreed they had a better basis from which to add performance through the season.

“It’s work in progress. It’s definitely improved,” said Hamilton, who last won a race in 2021.

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Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen serve a moment of action during the final day of testing in Bahrain

“I think everyone has and we’re just going through the same sequence everyone is. The cars are still stiff and bumpy, as we know with this generation of car. But the team has done a great job over the winter.”

Asked if he was more positive about the car than 12 months ago when Mercedes admitted they already knew they were in for a tough year, replied: “[Thursday] was a good day. It felt much more enjoyable to drive and I think, like Lando [Norris, who was sitting alongside him in Friday’s press conference] mentioned, we still also have time to find.

“I think Red Bull clearly are out in the distance, but I think it’s a good platform to work from this year.”

What’s the idea behind Mercedes front wing?

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Sky Sports’ Ted Kravitz delves into Mercedes’ front wing after its legality was questioned

Having moved in a different direction on their car design this year following two disappointing seasons, one aspect of the W15 that sparked early intrigue was its front wing and the presence of a small flap on the top element.

“We just didn’t want a lot of cord at that point,” said Allison of the idea.

“If you look at all wings, their cord varies across all the span on the wing according to what the team thinks is going to work for them. I guess with our little inboard flap, we have to satisfy the rule so we have to have some flap there, but don’t want an enormous one so made a small one.

BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 21: George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15 during the Pre-Season Test at Bahrain International Circuit on Wednesday February 21, 2024 in Sakhir, Bahrain. (Photo by Zak Mauger / LAT Images)

Asked if he was surprised no one had thought of it before, the technical chief replied: “I imagine lots of people have thought of it before, maybe they haven’t wanted to have less cord there. But I don’t think people up and down the pit lane would have gone ‘oh my god, we never thought of that’.”

But it was Red Bull’s new RB20 – and the world champions’ revised approach to the sidepods and cooling on its latest car – which gained most attention and interest. Allison himself was intrigued by the approach.

“I would deeply love to be invited into the Red Bull garage and to take their engine cover off and delve around under those sort of snorkely things,” smiled Allison.

“There is definitely a different approach being taken there because what glimpses you see of their cooling system it’s definitely not light and svelte, so they are doing that for a reason and I’d love to know what that reason is – but we haven’t figured it out yet.”

Sky Sports F1’s live Bahrain GP schedule

Wednesday February 28

  • 12.30pm: Drivers’ Press Conference
  • 3pm: The F1 Show – 2024 Preview

Thursday February 29

  • 7.50am: F3 Practice
  • 9am: F2 Practice
  • 11am: Bahrain GP Practice One (session starts at 11.30am)
  • 12.55pm: F3 Qualifying
  • 1.40pm: F2 Qualifying
  • 2.35pm: Bahrain GP Practice Two (session starts at 3pm)
  • 4.15pm: The F1 Show

Friday March 1

  • 10.10am: F3 Sprint Race
  • 12.15pm: Bahrain GP Practice Three (session starts at 12.30pm)
  • 2.10pm: F2 Sprint Race
  • 3.10pm: Bahrain GP Qualifying build-up
  • 4pm: BAHRAIN GP QUALIFYING
  • 6pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook

Saturday March 2

  • 8.55am: F3 Feature Race
  • 10.25am: F2 Feature Race
  • 1.30pm: Bahrain GP build-up: Grand Prix Saturday
  • 3pm: THE BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX
  • 5pm: Bahrain GP reaction: Chequered Flag
  • 6pm: Ted’s Notebook
  • 6.30pm: Bahrain GP highlights

Watch every round of the new season, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix from Thursday February 29 to Saturday March 2. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership

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