Mercedes took a cautious approach to the changes in regulations for 2023 that proved to be the wrong direction, according to technical director James Allison.

The phenomenon of porpoising – or bouncing – surfaced last year as a result of the new ground effect regulations that were introduced, leading the FIA to enforce changes to the floors to combat the issue this year. Allison says Mercedes had been understanding how to improve last year’s car as the season went on but then made a mistake in how careful it was with its new car over the winter.

“Although we made great strides last year, 2023 presented all the teams with a rule change that offered some protection against bouncing,” Allison said. “Over the winter we faced a choice: Go aggressive and trade the bouncing protection in the rule change for performance, or take a more cautions route and steer clear of the sort of porpoising that wrecked our season last year.

“We chose the cautious path, knowing that it would be less painful to correct if we were wrong. The story of our year so far has been mostly about finding out that we had been too cautious and making the changes to correct that.”

That scenario has left Mercedes needing to make significant changes to its car mid-season, and Allison – who returned to the position of technical director in a role swap with Mike Elliott earlier this year – says the way the car responds in corners is also proving costly when it comes to lap time. 

“Simply putting downforce on the car in the medium to high-speed area of the aero map (has been the area of biggest gain). That downforce is found closer to the ground than we had developed the car in the first instance.

“Bread and butter downforce is always a good thing. We are also trying to make the car more reassuring for the drivers when they initially turn in. It feels too reactive. And then when they get to the apex they have the opposite problem, where we want it to bite at the front and it doesn’t. It’s unstable when you first turn the wheel and then annoyingly dead when they get to the apex. We want it the other way around. That’s what we are working on.”