Reflecting on the team’s troubles under the latest regulation cycle, Allison, who returned to his current post in April, reveals how the unexpected downturn impacted Mercedes.
“When a team has been, as we were, on a very high plateau for quite a large number of years, for quite a long period of time, and then takes a dip, it’s very disorientating,” he told the Performance People podcast.
“It’s very unpleasant to suddenly feel that what you had previously felt about yourselves as a group, the foundations of that have been loosened by the reality of the stopwatch and being beaten by other teams. It shakes the confidence of an organisation and it also puts a lot of very short-term pressures on a company that’s been used to thinking further ahead.”
Allison has addressed how the internal urgency to overturn Mercedes’ woes early in 2022 contributed to the working environment within Brackley becoming “fragmented”.
“The short-term pressures are that the car is poor and the results are poor and they must improve,” he explained. “And the call of that is very loud, completely natural, but very loud nevertheless, and it rouses people to action.
“But the action can tend to be that all the disciplines in the company – the aerodynamics, the vehicle dynamics, the drawing office, all the specialisms that are necessary that work together to create a good car – that each of them can sort of scatter on the four, five, six winds to their individual corners to do what they can do or contribute in the way that they think is best, driven by this very loud call that the car needs to improve.
“If you’re not careful, then those groups can stop talking to one another because they’re all head down trying to fix what they see as their part in making the world a better place. Probably the most destructive pattern that we as a group got into over that difficult period from when our crown first slipped, was that we fragmented more than we should have done.”
Following its breakthrough victory in Brazil at the end of last year, Mercedes opted to retain faith in its ambitious ‘zeropod’ solution.
However, the squad swiftly abandoned the concept at the Monaco Grand in May ahead of expansive plans to launch a revised philosophy with its 2024 W15 F1 challenger.
The team’s sluggish start prompted an internal restructuring that saw Mike Elliott and Allison swap positions, allowing the latter to reorganise the technical division.
“If I’ve had any effect that’s been a positive thing, it’s to try to draw that back together, to try to get the main engineers who are leading the main divisions in the company to talk to one another more, to try to take off their shoulders some of the immediate pressure and just dampen down the shout that is coming from the car and just to focus on coordinating our work,” he added.
“Just bring those important folk together and ask a few questions of them, the answers to which are only possible if they spend a bit of time talking to one another. And the fact that they then spend that time talking to one another automatically means that they will coalesce around a jointly-agreed programme of activity to get those answers.
“It doesn’t take too long before people fall back in the habit of leaning on each other rather than working individually, because actually it’s way more fun that way. And if someone’s giving you permission to do it because those are the questions that need to be answered, then that’s what happens.”
Allison is hopeful that the changes he has already orchestrated will enable Mercedes to be in a position to return to competing at the sharp end from the outset next season.
“I hope that we have put in place enough of a programme of work that we have put ourselves in with a shout to be back to winning ways,” the British engineer issued.
“Does that mean winning a race? Does that mean winning a championship? In my head, it’s only ever about championships. That’s what F1 is. It’s a constructors and a drivers championship. So I hope we will have done enough to give ourselves a shout of being in the championship fight in both championships.”