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Mike and James Mid-Season Q&A: How We've Developed the W14

Our season so far has been all about improving the W14 after our disappointing start to the season in Bahrain.

We have been working hard to turn learnings into development and developments into steps forward in performance. We've brought regular upgrades throughout the season to date and that has been a major contributor to our current P2 in the standings.

As we hit pause for the summer shutdown, read how Mike Elliott, Chief Technical Officer, and James Allison, Technical Director, assess our year so far.

How would you both summarise our season so far, from a technical standpoint?

James Allison: "We started off with high hopes. Initially our position relative to the front of the field took some getting used to, but the subsequent reaction by the Team has been admirable. Quite early, we got a handle on what had gone wrong and have steadily been putting it right since."

Mike Elliott: "Last year we made gradual progress through the season. We got ourselves into a position where we had some confidence over the winter, hoping to start the season in a better place. To find out we weren't was a kick in the teeth. But it's been good to see the recovery path. If you look where we started and where we are now, compared to Aston and Ferrari, we have made good progress."

Mike, how's it been for you taking on more of an overseeing, future-thinking role? What has been your focus?

ME: "For me, moving into the CTO role has been an opportunity to step back and look at the wider organisation. I've been looking at the technology, the processes and asking where we can improve."

James, for you, what's it been like getting more involved again in the day to day and work on the existing car?

JA: "Being a Technical Director, everything is right in your face. Even when things are going well, you are regularly being bashed in the nose by things you didn't see coming. It can be tiring. I have always liked that punchiness though and how it involves being in amongst your team-mates more intensely. I enjoy that. I like the fight and it's a role that I'm probably better suited to."

How do you assess how our development journey has been?

JA: "The development journey hasn't been that different to any other year. Trying to add performance to the car with all the tools you have available. Finding more downforce, trying to not make the car heavier, making it handle better. The rewarding thing is we are not just adding bread and butter performance. We are also collectively assessing what we got wrong with our decisions last year. These were things we understood within the first few weeks of running the car. Since then, a major focus has been putting them right. I find that quite enjoyable and I know it's been rewarding for everyone in the technical team."

ME: "We're engineers and are interested in the technology. As Niki famously said, you learn more when you lose than when you are winning. I feel like it was a big learning journey through last year, and into this year. The hope is we've uncovered the learnings we need now, and we can keep developing in one direction. Sitting in my position, to look at things through a slightly wider lens, it's nice to see the learnings. You then illuminate another bit of the path, and it gets clearer."

The hope is we've uncovered the learnings we need now, and we can keep developing in one direction

Mike Elliott

JA: "Although we made great strides last year, 2023 presented all the Teams with a rule change that offered some protection against bouncing. Over the winter we faced a choice. Go aggressive and trade the bouncing protection in the rule change for performance, or take a more cautions route and steer clear of the sort of porpoising that wrecked our season last year. We chose the cautious path, knowing that it would be less painful to correct if we were wrong. The story of our year so far has been mostly about finding out that we had been too cautious and making the changes to correct that".

What have been the biggest gains we've found with the W14?

JA: "Simply putting downforce on the car in the medium to high-speed area of the aero map. That downforce is found closer to the ground than we had developed the car in the first instance."

And what are the improvement areas we still need to work on?

JA: "Bread and butter downforce is always a good thing. We are also trying to make the car more reassuring for the drivers when they initially turn in. It feels too reactive. And then when they get to the apex they have the opposite problem, where we want it to bite at the front and it doesn't. It's unstable when you first turn the wheel and then annoyingly dead when they get to the apex. We want it the other way around. That's what we are working on."

How excited are we to get back after the shutdown and continue to make progress, and fight for P2 in the constructors?

ME: "Everybody has been pushing hard in the factory, so the break is important. We'll get more out of everyone too when they are back refreshed. When we return, our focus will be on two things. First, making sure we are learning everything we can and feeding it into next year's car. And then the fight for P2 in the championship. While we want to be winning titles, P2 is still important for everyone in the factories. It's important to show progress from last year and end the year strongly. We want to take the momentum into the winter.

JA: "At the start of the year we were fourth quickest, looking at our customers who were beating us, and that was frustrating. Ferrari were beating us too. Little by little we are gradually putting them behind us. Everything is playing a part in it. From strategy to engineering, reliability, manufacturing and the drivers who are metronomic in their ability to turn half-opportunities into points. Although it falls short of our initial aims, securing P2 nevertheless really matters for all of us. Especially in the second half of the season when the tone will be shifting to the W15."

Although it falls short of our initial aims, securing P2 nevertheless really matters for all of us

James Allison

How much focus is now on the W15 and beyond?

ME: "Our aim is to win championships. Unfortunately, we are not in that position this year. But we want to be next year. We've got to get that balance right between getting all the learnings we can with our current car and trying to put most of our effort into next year's car."

JA: "At this stage of the year the wind tunnel is heavily focused on 2024. Large chunks of the drawing office, vehicle dynamics, manufacturing for long-lead time production items are starting to gather their skirts. From the summer break onwards, next year's car is where the largest call is answered. But that also gives opportunities for the W14 too."

Read more about our season so far with Toto.