Motor racing-Step up left Mercedes wondering how they had been so dumb


Formula One F1 - Canadian Grand Prix - Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada - June 9, 2024 Mercedes' George Russell in action during the race REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Mercedes's recent performance breakthrough left the Formula One team wondering how they had been so 'dumb' in not understanding the car's problems sooner, according to technical director James Allison.

George Russell took pole position in Canada, round nine of 24, on June 8 and finished third for the once dominant team's first podium of the campaign.

Allison told Formula One's Beyond the Grid podcast that Mercedes were back up to speed and expected to be competitive in coming races.

"The thing that has bedevilled us from the start of the year, the overriding thing, was that you could get the car OK in a slow corner, get it quite decent in a fast corner, but you couldn’t get it good in both at the same time," he said.

"What has changed in the last two, three races is that we’ve modified the car in such a way as it actually has a reasonable high-to-low-speed balance and a reasonable through-corner balance.

"Eureka moments are ones where you joyfully understand something that I guess no one has understood before and you’ve advanced knowledge in the process," he added when asked about the breakthrough moment.

"That’s a very wonderful thing, this is more of an ‘Oh God, how could we have been so dumb’ type moment, where you see the path forward and you should have seen it sooner."

Allison said Mercedes had been distracted by 'side problems', chasing downforce and working on mechanical areas that made the car better but did not fix the fundamental aerodynamic problem, with a new front wing a key element.

Mercedes are fourth in the constructors' championship ahead of this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya but 177 points adrift of leaders and reigning champions Red Bull.

The team of seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton last won a race in 2022. The 2023 season was their first without a win since 2011.

"I think that we definitely can get the car this season to be properly competitive and to fear no tracks," said Allison.

"While I’m pretty sure that we will make a good showing in the nearby future races, I’d be surprised if we’re on pole at the next one, for example. But I am absolutely certain that we can be as fast as anybody over the coming period."

Red Bull have won six of nine races so far in 2024, with Ferrari taking two and McLaren one.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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