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Mercedes: Strong F1 start even more important in 2024 before new rules focus

Mercedes Formula 1 technical director James Allison reckons a strong start to next season is “doubly important” before teams turn their attention to mastering the new 2026 regulations.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

For 2024, Mercedes has confirmed that it will move away from its ‘size-zero’ sidepods architecture to bring a new car concept after struggling to keep the “capricious beast” that is the W14 within its narrow operating window.

But with new engine rules (that ditch the expensive and complex Motor Generator Unit – Heat) coming in for 2026 alongside a switch to active aerodynamics, for which the research and development will consume resources, the 2025 cars are expected to be evolutionary “close cousins” of what hits the track next year.

As such, Allison reckons teams must place even more emphasis on a strong start to 2024 given it will influence the next design.

Asked whether he agreed with Lewis Hamilton’s recent sentiment that the next six months are critical if eight-time constructors’ champion Mercedes can return to title contention, he said: “It'll be a different car for one thing. So, we won't be working with this one.

“[Lewis] is correct in two senses: it's a new season; it's important that we get off the new season on the front foot.

“But more than averagely so because with 2026 bearing down on us, that car will need to be engineered in 2025.

“It's highly likely that the 2025 cars can be close cousins of the 2024 cars. So doubly important to get the 2024 car good.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Allison also reckoned Mercedes would not have to wait long to discover how its 2024 will shape up.

He reckons, based on his experience, initial driver feedback during the opening laps of testing has often been a fairly clear indicator of how the entire season will play out.

He continued: “Over the years, most of the good cars that I've been lucky enough to be around while they've happened, the driver gets in and doesn't exactly say, ‘Spend your bonus’, but they more or less do.

“Unlocking potential is not really something that takes very long if the car is well born. And that will be the aim of this one.

Allison added: “It's not particular to us but it does sharpen your focus, wanting to make sure that we have a car that gives us a good run in to 2026 as well as good championships and the fun that that brings.”

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