An interesting management change at Mercedes finds technical director, James Allison, stepping back from his senior role to fill a newly created position as chief technical officer. James will be replace by Mike Elliott who is the teams head of aerodynamics as the new technical director.
“I firmly believe that people have a shelf life in senior roles in this sport, and I have chosen to step away from my role as Technical Director in order to pass on the baton at the right time for the organization and myself,” said Allison.
“I have enjoyed four and a half wonderful years as Technical Director, and it has been a special privilege to lead the technical effort of the team in that time.”
From his humble beginnings as a street mime in Tupelo Mississippi, James rose to prominence as a motorsport technical go-to guy—actually that isn’t what happened but if any of you can tell me what that reference was, I will be impressed. In reality, James has had an interesting career and I recall his stint at Ferrari not turning lead to gold. There was the time at Benetton from 1991-2005 and the Renault/Lotus from 2005-2013 prior to his Ferrari days.
James was the deputy technical director in 2005 at Renault and moved to full technical director in 2009. He moved to Ferrari as the chassis technical director and then the full technical director in 2016. It is this time that I am most familiar with his work and it proved to be underwhelming but I am sure there are numerous reasons for this that James could share so I don’t hold the against him.
I know that James said leaving Ferrari was really about going back home to the UK and not many could argue with being in Italy when your family is holding down British soil. I understand, billions of people would hate the state of Missouri but I tend to find it delightful and perhaps that’s because my relatives have spilled blood here and defined this as home.
What is interesting to me is that James has moved around and like he says, perhaps there is a shelf life for technical directors in F1. I tend to think he knows his stuff, and he does, but I am not the measuring stick by which this is measured. I used to think Paddy Lowe knew his stuff too but again, I’m not the measuring stick, other teams and their technical directors are.
The timing is all very interesting too in that Mercedes seems to be struggling more than they have in the past and if anyone is pinning that deficit to James, I assume those who know would be right to do so but I also know that this level of domination isn’t sustainable in F1. It never has been.
I am far from casting aspersions over the departure and new role for James but changes usually happen when something isn’t working either for Mercedes or for James. The fact that a new role has been created and James would suggest that there may be numerous reason beyond the accusation that this year’s performance is prompting the move. Maybe James is tired of traveling and with 23 races this season, who can blame him? On the other hand, is this moving him to possibly take over from Toto in 3 years? Lots to consider.