Mercedes’ Technical Director James Allison says the team is trying to learn from past dominant teams’ mistakes, to prevent a decline in performance.
There have been a lot of teams with long periods of dominance in the history of Formula 1, teams like Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and most recently Red Bull. However, they all have one thing in common, their dominance faded away at one point.
“Lots of things tend to get you in the end, but if you want to lob them all into one catch-all bucket, then probably the easiest one to put it in would be complacency,” Mercedes’ Technical Director James Allison told ESPN’s F1 podcast.
“It’s rare that another team simply makes some giant leap forward and leapfrogs the previously brilliant and undimmed-in-their-brilliance former champs.
“It’s normally that the former champ backs off from the loud pedal a bit and takes for granted the success that they’ve enjoyed and starts to feel like they are due that success and the back off in putting in the effort that they previously put in to earn it.
“It’s normally complacency of one form or another and then add to that complacency there are other attritional factors, like the people in the championship team tend to be very attractive prospects for the competitors to poach and eventually you lose one or two, who become ten or 15 and ten or 15 become 50 or 100 and what was an absolutely unbeatable combination of people starts to be a different animal.
“So it can be lots of different things stacking up on top of one another.
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Allison says Mercedes is consciously trying to avoid those same pitfalls.
“How have we tried to deal with that? We have at least been very aware that those are the risks, because the cycle of success and subsequent decline all of us have seen happen a few times and many of us have actually lived through it in other teams.
“And so we have been quite self-conscious in our determination to try and avoid those risks, try to remind ourselves that there is nothing special, nothing god-given about our success and it’s a result of hard work and effort and, to a degree, some sacrifice in terms of people being willing to spend their time here at work committed to this instead of in the arms of their family, quite often.
“So it’s really reminding each other every single year that the next year will only be a success if we earn it and that we need to ignore all the voices off stage that are busy telling the world that our success next year is a guaranteed thing and that we only need to show up in order for it to happen.
“So the humility to know we have to earn it. And then a determination to try to make it so that the people that work here enjoy working here.
“So while they might be given lucrative offers to move elsewhere, they see the overall proposition that this team puts to them is a good one, and the environment where they work, the type of responsibility they are given, the trust that is placed in them and the fun that we have together adds up to being something that they don’t want to scurry away from because it’s nice and it’s a nice place to work.
“So a big amount of effort is put into trying to nurture the sense of team spirit we have here.
“The final thing that the team has been pretty good about is not getting too overly reliant on individuals and to try to make sure it’s a collective strength that keeps us in good shape.
“Making sure we have some sort of succession plan for the key roles in the team for when people are spent, because it is a sport that uses you up gradually because you have only got a certain amount of vim and vigour to keep at this level of intensity, and when people have given their all, enjoyed every drop of it but are ready to hand the torch on, it’s important to make sure there is someone to hand that torch to and that the company can exchange from one to the other seamlessly without it causing a loss of form.
“There have been a number of exchanges like that that we have been able to manage and show a resilient team structure. That’s the things we have tried to do, but it would be completely ludicrous for me to say ‘and therefore we have the winning formula’ because it’s completely against the first thing I said, which is the complacency that all of us feel and need to remind ourselves that it is simply not a given.
“We need to keep earning it and, hopefully, if we enjoy it sufficiently and we recognise that we do it for the enjoyment every bit as much as we do it for the winning, then with a bit of luck the sheer pleasure of the enjoyment of doing a good job here has the consequence that you produce a thing good enough to win with and then you enjoy the winning as well,” concluded the Briton.