Mercedes technical director James Allison believes delivering a fast launch car will be crucial in minimizing the impact of the cost cap on his team this season.
Formula 1 teams will have to operate under a maximum budget of $145 million this year, as financial regulations are introduced into the sport for the first time. As one of the highest spenders in recent years, Mercedes is having to make some of the most significant adjustments to the new rules and Allison says avoiding the need to play catch-up in terms of car performance will become even more important.
“That has been a very interesting change here inside Mercedes, because we are one of the bigger teams in Formula 1 and so we had to figure out how we can operate our championship assault with far less financial resource than we might have had previously,” Allison said.
“This means figuring out how we can make components on our car to last longer, how to build them more cheaply and how to make sure we maintain the same sort of performance that we did previously, despite the fact that our overall budget has come down.
“It’s a huge challenge and building the car is only part of it. We then have to operate the car, develop the car, we have to do the entire season with all the uncertainties that we face in terms of how often it might crash, or how reliable components are and then need resources spent to fix that.
“Probably the biggest weapon we could possibly have to attack these new financial regulations in a good way would be to launch with a car that is fast from the beginning, because a car that is fast from the beginning is going to be cheaper to stay quick during the whole season. So, let’s hope that we’ve put enough goodness into the car at the beginning of the year, to allow our plans to unfold in a way that sees us operating at a high level under this new constraint, where we are fighting with exactly the same guns as everybody else.”
Mercedes launches its new car on March 2, but Allison says the need to focus on the 2022 regulations is also playing a big part in the importance of starting strongly before diverting the most resource possible to the next generation of car.
“The season hasn’t even begun yet — no car is even launched, no one has turned a wheel and yet we’re already starting to think very seriously about 2022. Next year brings a complete revolution in the technical regulations of the car. The sort of things we have seen racing for the last few seasons will be dead and gone at the end of this year, replaced instead by a new generation of car, which has a completely different technical objective — to try and make the racing closer, by making the lead car damage the performance of the trailing car less.
“This change is so large and the cars so different, that we are going to have to spend a large part of our technical resource during 2021 in order to make sure that we are ready, with a good car that can then see us in decent shape for the years that follow in 2022 and beyond.
“So, we are busy doing that, in a world where we are cost capped, where we haven’t yet started racing in 2021 and where we have to manage our total resource so that we can have an effective campaign in 2021, while also building for the future and this exciting new set of 2022 regulations.”