James Allison says it is important for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team to not dwell on the past and think negatively about how they slipped well behind Oracle Red Bull Racing in recent years.
Mercedes were the dominant force within the FIA Formula 1 World Championship during the hybrid era, but since the aerodynamic regulations were altered ahead of the 2022 season, they have only taken one race victory in that time, courtesy of George Russell in the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Red Bull, on the other hand, have been dominant, with twenty-one victories in twenty-two races in 2023 as they swept to both championship titles, with Max Verstappen claiming his third consecutive drivers crown with nineteen of those wins.
Allison, the technical director at Mercedes, says there two ways of dealing with their apparent fall from grace, but it is important not to think negatively and instead work towards finding a way to return to winning ways.
“I think that as an organization if you have been at the top and you start to fall, there’s two ways of looking at that,” said Allison to the Performance People podcast, as quoted by RACER.com. “There’s a backwards-looking way of lamenting what you once were and sort of going ‘how could this have happened to us?’ … as a keening lament of ‘oh my God, this is all so terrible’ and ‘how could we have fallen so low when we were once so great?!’
“If you have that sort of backward-looking mentality it can be quite depressing and likely to prolong the downturn. The sooner, on the other hand, you’re able to say ‘we are where we are, let’s not pretend we are deserving of winning at the moment. Let’s figure out what we need to do so we are deserving of winning at and let’s enjoy that transition from what we deserve to be right now and what we’re going to be in the future.’
“The sooner everyone can be on that page, A, the shorter the slump is and B, the more fun it is, because the sense of growing momentum is deeply joyful and the idea that you’re building the things that are going to allow you to walk around the paddock with your chest out at some point in the future, that’s a really energizing thing.
“As much as maybe the outside world might imagine this is deeply painful internally, and on one level it is, it’s also really exciting. And a lot of whether it’s depressing or exciting is how you choose to look at it.”
Allison acknowledges that it is difficult to judge whether Mercedes can return to winning ways again in 2024, with Lewis Hamilton looking to break his longest run of his Formula 1 career without standing on the top step of the podium, his last win coming in the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
However, Allison says they have a good set-up in place to change their fortunes and fight once more against the likes of Red Bull for the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships.
“I hope that we have put in place enough of a program of work that we have put ourselves in with a shout to be back to winning ways – does that mean winning a race does that mean winning a championship?” said Allison. “In my head it’s only ever about championships.
“That’s what Formula 1 is, it’s a constructors’ and a drivers’ championship. So I hope that we will have done enough to give ourselves a shout of being in a championship fight in both championships.
“If you look at the long march of F1 history, then the stats are against us. Teams do not bounce back from slipping from their previous peak in the length of time we have set ourselves but we have nevertheless set a pretty ambitious program.
“We have quite a lot of strength in depth here and we’ve made quite a lot of progress with next year’s car. Whether it proves sufficient enough, only time will tell, but that’s what I’m hoping for us and I know that all my colleagues and teammates around me will be hoping for the same.”