If it turns out that Ferrari are indeed the front-runners at the Australian Grand Prix, then it won’t take long for Mercedes to overtake and surpass the Italian Manufacturer.
The key to Mercedes catching Ferrari, should defending World Champions find themselves behind in the early stages is the fact they have James Allison in their team. He led the design of the SF70H, and will know all of its secrets. Other technical leads like James Key and Adrian Newey have pointed to this year’s Ferrari as a real point of interest, a car that has elements of the Red Bull RB13 and Mercedes W08 in balance, as well as incredibly unique solutions on the sidepods and intake.
Given that 2017 will see a development war throughout the season, having the guy who created the car that looks to be on top at the minute in your team is going to be a gigantic asset. It also brings up the question as to whether Ferrari will be able to bring updates as efficiently to the SF70H without James Allison.
The appointment of Allison gives Mercedes an unprecedented advantage in the long game, especially as an effective counter to anything that specifically Ferrari have hidden in their locker. If the Silver Arrows and Scuderia lock horns in the development race and focus on bettering one another, it will produce a tense and very competitive season, which is what the sport needs.
There’s a prelude in that there won’t be much overtaking in Australia given the nature of Albert Park. There are alot of mid-speed corners and aren’t really any long straights. Given that the brake point into corners this season is going to be later on average, drivers looking to out-brake a rival into a corner are going to find it a much more difficult thing to pull off than before.
As Gilles Villeneuve once said, “People don’t come to races to see brilliant aerodynamicists”. Ross Brawn and his new board are going to have to keep a sharp eye on how the racing develops this season. If the development race proves more engaging than the racing on-track, expect swift changes to be made. In the meantime, James Allison is able to reveal all he knows about the Ferrari to his new employers.