Mercedes’ James Allison says the team’s best way of approaching the cost cap is producing a competitive, reliable car prior to the start of the season.
Allison suggests that the F1 team can avoid high spending on in-season development by producing a car that is highly competitive from its inception, and does not present costly reliability issues throughout the campaign. The team have been the class of the field since 2014, and are expected to continue to hold an advantage in 2021.
Allison, however, is quick to point out that the team face new challenges with a cost cap limiting their spending, and says that the $145m cap will have to be worked around, as the team grapple with its effects in the midst of a championship effort. “We all have about the same financial firepower to go about prosecuting the championship,” Allison began in a video interview.
“That has been an interesting change inside Mercedes, because we were – and are – one of the bigger teams in Formula 1. We’ve had to figure out how to approach our championship assault with far less financial resource than we might have had previously. That means figuring out how to try and get components to last longer, how to build them more cheaply, and make sure we maintain the same level of performance 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 of the uncertainties that we face in terms of how often it might crash, or things being unreliable and need[ing] resources to fix that. The biggest weapon we have to attack these new regulations in a good way would be to launch with a car that’s fast: fast from the beginning.
“A car that is fast in the beginning is going to be cheaper to [develop] over the season. Let’s hope we 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’re fighting with exactly the same guns as everybody else,” Allison said.
Allison had previously said that the team spent much of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 attempting to interpret the new rule, working to find any possible daylight between the spirit of the rule, and the wording with which it is written. Last season, the team were involved in a controversy surrounding their innovative trombone steering system DAS, which was within the rules as they were written, though considered illegal by rivals.
In the case of DAS, the team were permitted to continue to use the system in 2020, but were informed it would be banned in 2021. “We’ve been working on that all the way through 2020, and carry on working on it over the winter to try and make sure that we understood what the regulation was saying, and tried to find every opportunity presented within that set of regulations,” said Allison.
“Every regulation brings opportunities once you can see exactly what they’re saying – and then [finally] to adapt our operation and our company so we can make the most from it and be ready for the challenge of this new era of F1 operating under a cost cap. That has been a huge body of work that’s kept us on our toes for a really long time,” summed up Allison.
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