Mercedes: we have gained several tenths with the upgrades

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Mercedes Technical Director James Allison claims that his team has gained several tenths of a second with its recent upgrades, but the improvements have been slightly overshadowed by the gains of rival teams, McLaren and Ferrari.

Mercedes has endured a difficult start to its season despite hoping for a turnaround in its competitivess due to the concept change with its W15. The team appeared to be the second quickest car in several races in 2023, but it has now dropped down the pecking order behind the field-leading Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.

Although the W15 has shown flashes of impressive speed in certain conditions, it has failed to deliver a consistent performance so far. The Brackley-based outfit has set up an ambitious development plan for the coming races with Miami and Imola having been the first two destinations of this development curve.

Asked whether the upgrades introduced in Miami and Imola have worked as hoped, Allison said: "I would say yes. This weekend's stuff was actually  part two of the part one that arrived, the first half of which arrived in the previous race, and we completed that step in Imola. It's always hard to judge because you're comparing whether your stuff is working on a playing field that is continuously in motion.

"A lot of other teams were bringing new kit, Ferrari with their upgrade in Imola and McLaren with a load of stuff for the previous race. You measure what you measure on your car, but ultimately the truly telling thing about whether your stuff worked is did you move forwards? Because that's the purpose of upgrades,  is it actually propelling you up the grid in any meaningful way? "

"And I would say based on the race pace that we saw in Imola that we took a gentle step forward. We are several tenths of a second now nearer the front than we were at the start of the year and in Imola itself, I think we moved a tenth or two nearer to the front. So pretty happy with that."

More development for coming races

Mercedes is planning to introduce further upgrades in the coming races with a few new parts set to make debut in Monaco this weekend, and further tweaks set to appear on the W15 in Canada.

"Well, it certainly has been a push. The factory is really on a war footing at the moment and the reason that that upgrade package came in two parts is originally it was slated to arrive in one slab,  but we brought forward what we could to get it a little bit quicker. But yeah, so big old push and our challenge now is just to keep that momentum coming.

"We have some more pieces for the car, aerodynamic and others that will arrive for Monaco, again for Canada and again in the races to follow. So just keeping on slogging the assets back in the factory that find the lap time   to design them, build them, get them out on the car and hopefully just force our way up the grid."

Improved pit stop performance

Mercedes have failed to excel during pit stops in recent years as their tyre services have not matched the ones performed by Ferrari or Red Bull. However, team boss Toto Wolff vowed at the end of last year that his team would put in more effort in improving its performance during tyre changes, and the opening part of the 2024 F1 season has confirmed the efforts of the Brackley-based outfit.

"I think last year the pit stops   were not really at a competitive level. They were consistent, but they were consistently   offset from the front by an amount that was more than we were comfortable with. Quite a big effort over the winter on the design of the kit to make that more consistent,   give it so that the pit stop crew can be more confident in the way they handle the wheels off and on the car and the action that the gunman can take.

"And then an awful  lot of practice from the pit crew before the season and during to make sure that we're making good on the promise that was built into the design changes that we did over the  winter. And it does seem to be coming together. That was a very clean set of stops in Imola and   it's a really good weekend set against a general improvement that has been noticeable this year.

The unique challenges of Monaco

Speaking of this weekend's Monaco race, Allison stated that confidence is the most important thing around the tight streets of the Principality, that is why the best approach it not to spend too much time with setting up the car, but letting the drivers get used to the unique rhythm of the narrow street track.

"I think one of the main things you need to do at Monaco is to make sure that you spend as much time on the track as possible in the free practice sessions. Things change so dramatically from the opening laps of free practice to the end of free practice three.

"Generally speaking, the teams that do well there are the ones that don't hang around in the garage but are just out there on the track, remembering what it takes to drive at Monaco, finding the confidence to push near to the walls and just tuning the car as the weekend conditions   change. That's the sort of overriding compulsion when you're wanting a good Monaco weekend.

"And while it is definitely the case qualifying is super key at Monaco, you can't afford to ignore the race pace on top of that. You just can't afford to because imagine you do a wonderful qualifying session and you manage to get the car right at the best it could possibly be if it were  just focused on a single lap.

"Well bravo you but come Sunday you will find a trail of cars behind you and at a certain point you'll get frightened that they're going to undercut you and get past you into the lead and so you'll probably stop sooner than you want to stop because you're  frightened about losing the position to all those people behind you. And you'll find as soon as you come in the pits if your race pace was lousy those cars will just go thank you and then they'll just hair off into the distance in free air.

"They will not stop, they'll just run long,  they'll overcut you because they've been sitting on their tyres gently and they've got loads left  in the car and they'll just disappear. So you have to have half an eye on the race pace and half an  eye on the qualifying pace and spend as much of the weekend as you can on the track trying to get  the most from that very very unusual circuit so that you're good in both those conditions," said Allison.