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Mercedes: New W15 F1 car has ironed out "spiteful" rear end

Mercedes says early indications point to its new W15 Formula 1 car having gotten rid of the "spiteful" rear end that hampered its progress last year.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

The team has been working hard on a major car revamp that it hopes will allow Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to take the fight to Red Bull this season. 

And while it knows that its chances of success depend entirely on how much of a step forward the opposition has made, technical director James Allison has revealed some positive early signs about the W15. 

Asked by Autosport about the level of confidence within the team based on some promise from the simulator, Allison said: “It's impossible at this time of year to be anything other than apprehensive, coupled with excited, coupled with frightened.  

“Those are always the emotions that you feel, and I would imagine that even in Red Bull, after a year of such good performance, they will not be sleeping easy in their beds either because no one knows what everyone else will deliver.  

“However, what we do have some hope for is that some of the more spiteful characteristics of the rear end of our car will be a bit more friendly to us, and the handling of the car a happier thing.  

“That's all in simulation, but nevertheless we’ve got reasonable grounds to believe that we've made some gain there.” 

Beyond the handling issues that made the W14 such a tricky car, Allison said other targets – which included more downforce and power – had also been areas of focus.

Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, leads Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, leads Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

“On top of that [handling], you've got all the normal housekeeping type stuff of just making it lighter, making it more 'downforcy' and hopefully getting a bit of uplift from the power unit side, with the calibration level tinkering that they're still capable of doing under these current rules,” he said. 

“Whether it's enough, time will tell. But it's nevertheless going to be interesting because we saw some things we knew were problems. We have hypothesised what the reason for those problems were, and we fixed those reasons. It will be interesting to find out how accurate we've been with that diagnosis.” 

While Red Bull was supreme last year, winning all but one race, Allison thinks it is not a given that the team will keep its advantage. 

And he thinks that, while it may be too early to judge Mercedes’ own chances, F1’s new ground effect regulations will make it hard for Red Bull to keep improving. 

“We hope we've done a good job with the new car, and we hope we've addressed some of the shortcomings that were so publicly on display with it last year,” he said. 

“There is also just a little bit that nestles in the back of our heads, which is that the rules themselves have a much more sort of clear upper bound to them in the amount of lap time these cars are capable of producing. 

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“It’s a much more clear upper bound to them than the older generation of cars, which the more love you gave them and the more labour you put into them, the faster they got, seemingly without end.  

“I think if you look at last year you see from the start of the season to the end of the season, although Red Bull's dominance was near complete and they didn't look vulnerable even to the last race of the year, if you look at the bigger picture, this is a grid that is gradually compressing.”

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