James Allison on whether Hamilton’s car comments are ‘help or hindrance’

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Mercedes’ Technical Director James Allison was asked if Lewis Hamilton’s comments on the team’s car are a ‘help or a hindrance’.

Since 2022, Lewis Hamilton has been very vocal about what he thinks is wrong with Mercedes’ troubled car, and what he believes needs to be done about it.

On Formula 1’s F1 Nation podcast, Mercedes’ Technical Director James Allison was asked if these comments are a ‘help of hindrance’.

“It’s both,” Allison said.

“Both is probably the right thing to say. I think that drivers sometimes conflate identifying a problem with knowing what the solution is.

“Where it’s a massive help is the accurate description of what is difficult about extracting lap time from the car.

“If they can say ‘here it is letting me down because the front axle is too weak, here it’s letting me down because the rear axle is too weak, here it just feels bizarre and I don’t trust it’, that’s ever so helpful because you can have a million pressure sensors on the car, loads of load cells, accelerometers up the ying yang, but ultimately, those are a little bit sort of stunted in their ability to tell you truly what the car is doing.

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“The driver is a much better sensor. So if a driver says ‘the car’s lacking rear downforce’, bang, I’ve solved it.

“[If a driver says] ‘go to the rear downforce shop, get me some downforce’, then that’s the point where it becomes slightly less helpful.

“But at that point we just have to accept the car is lacking in a certain thing and it’s our job as Lewis rightly points out. He doesn’t design the car, it’s our job to respond with the solutions that bring that.

“But I think that he could rightfully say that both he and George [Russell] had been saying a particular consistent thing about the car since the first laps of the 2022 cousin of this one.

“And the 2023 version inherited that same behaviour and we have been slow to react, slow to fix.”

Allison added it is a luxury for Mercedes to have two drivers who are basically saying the same thing.

“In our case, we’re dead lucky that we’ve got two drivers who are saying, in slightly different vocabulary, pretty much the same thing.

“That I think answers the question about ‘is one driver pulling you in an unfruitful direction?’ If they are both saying it… I mean, to be honest, if just Lewis were, he’s experienced enough to know.

“But also with George saying the same things, that is reassuring that the problem is significant and needs attacking.”

The Briton added the team is “pretty hopeful that we’ve got a good handle on what’s been ailing us” and are now “pretty confident that we know which direction to head in for the following season”.

“That leaves an open question though. Let’s say we’re dead right and we know where we’re heading,” he continued.

“Can we actually walk that path fast enough to overhaul a pretty dominant Red Bull and pop our noses in front? That’s our challenge, more so than being confident of where we’re headed.

“I think we’re headed in the right place, but the challenge, and that’s what makes this part of the year so breathlessly brilliant, is can we not just walk along that path but fair sprint it for the next several months,” Allison concluded.

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