James Allison explains how the cost cap hinders car development

© Daimler AG

Mercedes’ Technical Director James Allison says under the cost cap “you can afford maybe to drop two or three major or major-ish upgrades in a season”.

Back in 2021, Formula 1 introduced a budget cap, which limited how much money the teams can spend in a single season.

Mercedes’ Technical Director James Allison explains how it has made car development much more difficult.

“If you imagine that most of the performance is coming from the wind tunnel, the wind tunnel is always, therefore, leading where the car will ultimately follow,” Allison told Autosport.

“The lag between what the car sees and what the wind tunnel is doing is how quickly you can drop the wind tunnel geometry into the design office, and how they can spit that out into manufacturing to make.

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“Back in the day, when cost cap wasn’t there, then you could drop those things out the wind tunnel pretty much every other day, and people would furiously design them and then you’d furiously build them, which meant the lag between where the tunnel was and where the track was – was always only a few weeks.

“Nowadays, you can afford maybe to drop two or three major or major-ish upgrades in a season, and then that just tickles things in between.

“Instead of finding something in the tunnel and dropping it into the factory, you find something, find something, find something, find something, and say: ‘OK, that’s big enough now to go in a package that we can afford, we’ll make it, put it in the car.’

“And it means that the car lags the wind tunnel by far more. It doesn’t change the gain rates in the tunnel. That’s always the same.

“But the car catches up with the wind tunnel less frequently and is in more lag with it. So that’s how it affects you.”

Allison added the cost cap also makes it much harder to invest in team personnel.

“The other way it affects you is that it’s harder to find the resource, people, and hardware to invest in capability improvement.

“It’s very easy to get stuck in the same way of doing stuff because to improve the way of doing stuff costs money and time.

“If you’re spending all your money and time on those few upgrades and building a car for the new year, it’s hard to make the mousetrap better.

“The machinery that makes the car, the drawing office that draws the car, and the methodology in the factory – it’s much harder to invest in that than it used to be,” the Briton concluded.

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