Mercedes technical director James Allison has opened up on the ‘small margins’ between Formula 1 world title rivals both in terms of on-track performance and the off-track developments at Mercedes and Ferrari.

Allison, who switched from Mercedes to Ferrari in February 2017 with Paddy Lowe exiting to Williams, has rated the current campaign as Mercedes’ toughest in the V6 Hybrid era with the growing threat from Ferrari building from last year’s title battle.

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The Mercedes technical boss admits Ferrari has gained an edge on outright horsepower from its power unit package while each team still holds strengths over the other which are circuit-specific.

“The development race has ebbed and flowed throughout the season but there are a little few patterns that are relatively constant,” Allison said on the latest Mercedes Pure Pitwall video. “Certainly for a few races now we’ve been missing just a few horsepower to a Ferrari that has been very, very impressive in terms of its rate of development this year.

“We are probably on average better than Ferrari through the corners at most tracks, sometimes they take a bit from us in low speeds, but in medium and high speeds we normally prosper relative to them.

“I would say they have tended to be a little bit stronger than us at tracks that are strongly rear-limited but we are talking small margins here.

“We have tended to have better pit stops while they have tended to have better starts, although we appear to have put that right in recent races with a lot of work from the good guys we have in the controls department in the factory.”

Allison also feels these ‘small margins’ have opened up the higher rate of surprising race results where the perceived favourite has failed to claim victory.

Lewis Hamilton regained the F1 world championship lead from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with back-to-back wins heading into the summer break and holds a 24-point advantage with a total of five victories in 2018 compared to Vettel’s four.

The Mercedes chief estimates almost half of the races so far this season have not been won by the favourite which heightens the pressure on finding any edge, or profiting from any mistake from a rival, over the second half of the campaign.

“It is small margins which is why the championship has yo-yoed one way and then the other,” he said. “It is quite interesting to note that in the 12 races we’ve had so far only five of them have been won by the car most people would agree was quickest on that weekend. Seven have been won against the head of the field.

“Three of them we’ve stolen, two of them Ferrari have stolen and two Red Bull have had.

“So it is has been a very intriguing year where these very small differences, maybe an error or a moment of particular genius, or just sheer good or ill fortune, is what is determining who comes home smiling at the end of the race.”



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