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Lotus to move on without technical director James Allison
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Posted By: James Allen  |  08 May 2013   |  4:34 pm GMT  |  127 comments

The Lotus F1 team has today announced that technical director James Allison is to leave the team and that Nick Chester has succeeded him as technical director.

While Chester’s credentials for the role are unquestionably strong, the loss of an innovator like James Allison is a blow to the team, which has made great progress in the last two years on a significantly lower budget than the other front running teams. Allison is much in demand among the top F1 teams in an engineering arms race as F1 heads to a new formula from 2014 onwards.

Under Allison Lotus has grown steadily; they won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year and started this year with a win in Australia. The Lotus has been a front running car this season, with a double podium in Bahrain last time out.

Lotus currently lies second in the Constructors’ Championship on 93 points, 70 ahead of McLaren and 16 ahead of nearest rivals Ferarri.

At this stage last year the team after four races they had just 57 points on the board, indicating their upward progress.

Although some of the innovations he has overseen have not been a success – the front blowing exhausts of 2011 for example – Allison is highly regarded in F1 engineering circles for his stints at the Lotus team, formerly Benetton and Renault.

He is not a lifer with the team, he has moved around teams, including a stint at Ferrari with Michael Schumacher in the glory years between 1999 and 2005, when he returned to Enstone. He had previously been at Enstone from 1991-1992 and 1994-1999.

There is inevitably significant speculation about where Allison is headed and why he has left. The timing is strange as he will not be able to join a new team until the end of the year and will have limited input into the crucial 2014 designs.

Money could well be a motivator in this – not necessarily personal wealth (although that is always welcome!) but the funding seems to be gathered around a handful of teams now in F1.

Lotus operates on a tighter budget than its rivals and Allison told the JA on F1 podcast in April that there are always challenges to developing a car in competition with better funded teams.

McLaren and Ferrari already have technical directors in post, while Mercedes has Paddy Lowe joining the team shortly so is well stocked for senior technical figures.

A Ferrari return is a real possibility, to work alongside figures like Nick Tombaszis with whom he worked closely in the early 2000s, but this would require upheaval for Allison’s large family; his teenage children are at schools in Oxfordshire and they already have Pat Fry, who does not seems to have weathered the recent pressure.

However Pino Allievi of Gazzetta dello Sport suggested today that Ferrari are actively pursuing Allison as they seek to build a super team of engineers.

McLaren have pursued Allison’s signature since they lost Lowe recently, while Red Bull cannot be ruled out.

More is bound to come out on this over the weekend in Barcelona.

There has also been speculation that Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen may leave the team at the end of the 2013 season to join Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull. Given Raikkonen’s competitiveness since comeback, his relationship with Red Bull via rallying and his friendship with Vettel it makes a great deal of sense. It will be interesting to see what effect this latest development in the technical department has on his future.

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1

On a side note, I heard that Sir Alex Ferguson has resigned from Manchester United, and is heading to Mercedes.

Can you confirm that James?

2
Stephen Taylor

Thats funny I thought Sir Alex was going to Mclaren to replace the out his depth Whitmarsh?

3

Wouldn’t it be smartest to leave now? I mean look at paddy lowe having to sit out an entire year due to gardening leave. This way he only needs to sit out about 7 months or so. Remember gardening leave is usually enforced by the company you are leaving… Its in lotus’s best interest that allison exits stage left asap. I’m sure the cost of him not being able to work on developing the ’13 car is far less than allison taking the knowledge of the new car to their competitors. You can’t simply ask him to leave the room everytime the 2014 chassis is discussed.

As for kimi going to RBR, frankly I see it going bad for all parties concerned. I believe what malaysia showed is that vettel holds winning as no1 and doesn’t care who he has to upset to win. He will never yield to kimi just because they are mates. Vettel will always be helmut’s pet and kimi will not simply accept being a number 2 at Redbull. I only see one of two things happening… He will stay at Lotus or he will leave F1 again. He has proven he can come back and win, he knows he can come back later, I think he’s the only one in the paddock that doesn’t really care if he isn’t in F1 next season

4

If Kimi goes to Redbull next season, then Vettel will definitely be found out….

5

Not a single driver could go the Red Bull and result in Vettel being ‘found out’.

Vettel is likely the most intelligent and natural strategic thinker of all of the competitive drivers. He is also very, very adept in enlisting those around him.

Anybody going to Red Bull will have to contend with these tilted odds.

Only Ferrari could be worse.

With the certainty of a massive shakeup coming for next year, Mercedes is in striking distance of the front, and with a stacked line up of development talent.

6

Kimi might be found out as well, don’t forget

7
Stephen Taylor

Or he might retire.

8

McLaren was my first thought too, but I see that BBC sport ‘understand’ that Allison has already rejected a McLaren offer. Any thoughts on that James?

9

It’s Mclaren surely…isn’t it?

British based, big budget and big shoes to fill with Lowes departure.

It also doesn’t already contain Adrian Newey or a vast array of managers, technical directors and overseers a la Mercedes.

I’ll probably be proved wrong but….

10
Stephen Taylor

I’ve heard it’s Maranello.

11

You know…warmer weather, more sunlight, mountains.

It’s not a bad place really. 🙂

12

A big shame for Lotus, given the fairly steady upward trend in performance since he joined. Hopefully they can continue in the same direction without him. For them to come this far and then start dropping back again would be a shame for the competitiveness at the pointy end of the sport too.

13

This is a surprise…

why step down now when it’s all coming together…I suspect a deal is already been done…now we just have to wait and see where to next

14

And for all of the hordes discussing Kimi, and what he’s going to do; rest assured, Kimi and/or his people will deal with, I’d betcha.

Before the jump overboard by Allison, I really have believed Lotus to be the flower for Kimi, but, any reasonable person paying attention knows, Allison is the next in line for the throne of best designer; and ho ever got him, with large budget, will win in 2015-2016.

15

Yes, yes… it is aweful for me and all of the other Kimi fans, who want him to be driving a car that is capable of winning, since we all expect that if he is driving a car capable of winning…

Terrible.

I’m a bit surprised about the doubt in the article about where he is going; safe to say, as every other observer who has been paying attention, he can probably commute to his new work, and not have to uproot his family.

Money is money, but Allison just doesn’t seem the Ferrari type, to me.

Neither is it the quorum at Mercedes.

Unless Adrian Newey is leaving Red Bull, there is only one place that Allison could be going.

Duh!

Come on…

17

Not one to be stubborn about admitting my own error: I am somewhat affected by the wave of James Allison to Maranello rumours; also, if I was the best team on the grid, I would want to back my design supremo, if I could…

Who’s to say anything, though I still think that Mercedes is a definitely ‘no’.

18

Now Pat Fry away from the race with… …appendicitis?!? It could be just a co-incidence…

19

This is such a big shame for Lotus, they have really hit their stride of late. James Allison is a big key figure and highly respected, this could potentially have a big effect on Lotus.

Although some of team’s improving results might also be down to Kimi, the E21 doesn’t really look like a title contender when Grosjean is driving it. I just hope it is not to much of blow for the team’s competitiveness this season.

20

I will take a stab at this.

As mentioned above it sounds like one of the big budget teams came a courting (I don’t really speak like that) and Mr. Allison has been offered a deal too juicy for Lotus to be able to match.

However which of those teams could it be? I think Ferrari needs help, but Mclaren needs the most help with Lowe leaving. I would love to find out that Allison was going to Mclaren and I think that makes the most sense.

I also wonder what happens with Brawn. I think someone told me Mclaren and Brawn was a nonstarter but I like that combination should Brawn leave.

21

Yeah, I agree with your thoughts on JA (the other one) going to Macca.

Not so sure about your ideas for Brawn though.

22

Mclaren have said they approached Allison as soon as Lowe went on gardening leave but they were turned down. So, officially, they are denying its them. As mclaren have openly stated they tried to get him it would be odd for them to say its not happening. There’s also no feathers to ruffle at mclaren – which the secrecy and confidentiality clauses in all this suggests its either Mercedes or Ferrari – though given the obvious power struggle at Mercedes I’d put my money on that being the source of the upheaval.

23

I can’t understand why people overrate the input of a single engineer/designer this much.

There is a whole team designing/engineering the car that work together as a unit. Just 1 guy does not make it all good.

Same with Pat Frye, nothing changed there because he didn’t take with him the group of people that made it work together.

Look at RBR. Everyone says Newey, Newey, Newey, but take away the dozen engineers/designers below him and his cars wont’t win the constructor’s title… see 1999-2009.

24

The technical director decide the design direction that the team takes, which upgrade to pursue, etc. They may not design the whole car, but they are critical to the car’s performance.

25

+1

Might be true that non-technical guys don’t have much of a clue.

26

I can tell you from my experience working in big engineering companies, the difference between and a good project manager and a bad project manager makes a huge difference to how a project plays out. Even with the same group of engineers having a good PM focusing the right resources in the right place, making sure they get on your case to get the work done but don’t over interfere and do what they say they are going to do really improves your motivation and enjoyment of your work. Where I work is very different to what these guys do but the same rules will apply. The work being managed well cannot be over estimated as to the contribution towards the success of the project!

27

“I can’t understand why people overrate the input of a single engineer/designer this much.”

Newey alone made huge changes to the whole RBR team and structure. And those dozon engineers / designers weren’t from McLaren or Williams days he worked with. So yes he alone did make those changes.

The same with other good TDs / designers / engineers. Their jobs isn’t simply just about designing / making things, but also motivating people in getting them work to the best, and putting the right people in the right places for the whole team to perform.

Just look at Sam Michael vs Mike Coughlan. Yes MC this year so far hasn’t made much of an impression due to the exhaust problem, but last year’s Williams went up several steps because Coughlan came in.

28

Maybe it is Williams.

29
m.uSMAN GHANI

kimi x-engineer is already at RBR working with mark webber …so kimi departure to RBR will not be a surprise…speculation increased about kimi departure to RBR at this year end and now allison gone….so its quite probable tht allison have left For RBR with kimim to join at year end …so by the time kimi arrive he will have his own race engineer along with technical director (james allsion) who knows what kimi like and how he is comfortable in car….it will also make things easy for redbull to negotiate kimi…2ndly allison is a good replacement for newey in unforseen future….make a bit sense james?

30

mushman

RBR has more interest in providing Vettel with a car he likes than providing Kimi his choice of car.

If Allison moves to rbr, he will move for Vettel not Kimi, & money ofcourse from his point of view.

31

Sad news for Lotus.

Is Kimi next? I would love to see Vet&Kimi at RBR. Such a great lineup–a lineup that might actually work. I know that every man is for himself and all, but personal relationships play a huge role as well. It’s obvious that Vet and Kimi respect and like each other a lot. Good friends and great drivers=great combination.

32

Not sure how long the friendship would last if Kimi encountered the same Vettel actions as Mark Webber did. Driver friendships always seem more stable when its not direct teammate competition.

33

I’m pretty sure Vettel would treat Kimi completely differently from Mark. Vettel just doesn’t seem to regard Mark as equal to him( which is, in a way, completely justified, as Mark is not the triple WDC of the team). Vettel doesn’t seem to respect Mark much, but Kimi is another matter entirely. If I’m not mistaken, they’ve been friends since 2007, and Kimi seems to be the only person Vet doesn’t mind losing to. It’s obvious when they’re on podium together.

Besides, unlike Mark, Kimi isn’t one to whine, complain to public and create scandals, and Vettel generally isn’t either, so I believe they would work much better as a team than Webber and Vettel.

35

Kimi and RBR rumours have been around since 2010, and it sounds like a marriage made in heaven. Unfortunately that would also mean that all the best drivers on the grid will now be concentrated among 4 wealthiest teams.

For RBR, hiring Kimi makes perfect sense as Vettel may well leave the team after 2014. Kimi will be 35 by then, but can easily continue racing for another 3 years.

36

You are missing Hulkenburg and Ricciardo as among the best drivers. Those two will still be driving for lower rated teams (at least, till seasons end).

37

How could I have forgotten Bianchi as well?!

38

Of coursse there is The Hulk, Bianchi and others. The question is, do they have the sponsors/money?

39

Gives RBR negotiating leverage with 5xWDC….by then. 🙂

40

Ooops. If there was any chance that Lotus could keep up in the development race long enough to compete for one of the championships it’s gone now. And 2014 isn’t looking that great either.

41

Right Allison to Mercedes, cue the civil war exploding with Lauda, Wolff, brawn, costa, Lowe, et all in a major brawl over who’s really in charge.

Someone wants Allison and Lowe running the technical side of that team and wants brawn retired is my guess.

42

The name you’ve overlooked is Bob Bell, who was Allison’s -boss- until Bell went to Brackley.

“And here comes Allison, into the pits, he’s gone a lot longer on this stint than his teammate, but it looks like he could be about to switch to the same strategy. Will he able to get back on track -ahead- of Bell? Or will Bob Bell keep track position and retain seniority over his former Number Two?” 😉

43

To me McLaren, although a top team, seem to be on the slide and never fulfilling their true potential due to poor car design, bad starts to the season etc etc. Although they are very good at improving a car once they get their heads around the problems.But its always too late by that time.

Allison would vastly improve their chances of creating a great car from the get go, thereby vastly increasing their chances of more titles.

I’m sure a constructors title would be a holy grail for them, and they should grab both Allison and Kimi in order to help achieve this!

44

I can’t see Kimi going back to the domineering corporate culture at Mclaren.

45
Stephen Taylor

Never say never.

46
Stephen Taylor

And which driver do you remove?

47

Perez. He was a rush choice for them anyway.

48

That would mean bye bye to Slim’s Money, so it won’t happen.

49
Stephen Taylor

So Mclaren would have two 34 year olds in the same team? Surely in time Perez is Mclarens future . Kimi and Jenson is not a long term partnership . Your criticism of Perez is harsh and think a partnership between him and Kimi would make more sense.

50

Post-Bahrain I’d say Button. Perez is a damn lot faster.

51

Seems to me that these days there is as much focus on the technical director / engineer market as there is on the driver market…maybe even more so.

Question is, is this a good thing?

Regardless, hope Lotus can keep up their good form.

52

They make the car go faster. Once you have a top driver, as each of the top teams has, then you have to give them the equipment and that means the right people behind it

It’s an innovation arms race

53
Tornillo Amarillo

I’m not surprised, better people have to go to the best teams, specially when technical problems for 2014 are already on the table. My feeling is he is going to McLaren, time will tell.

Now everybody look to Kimi, he is gaining power in Lotus when they have to negotiate the contract for 2014. It’s a jungle there.

54

if kimi goes to red bull he’ll want a 2 year contract which kind of makes their red bull driver program pointless. i can’t see ricciardo being happy to stay at toro rosso for another 2 years, i think he’s worthy of a top drive so if he goes to one red bull would’ve wasted the big chunk of cash that funded his career path to f1.

55

The RB Driver Program has always been flawed and pointless from the start. They thought of TR as a graduation step kind of team, which isn’t how F1 works.

56

Someone else on here has hit the nail on the head. Its better to deny a team the input of someone like James even if you cant use him for the rest of the season yourself. Merc now have Wolff, Brawn, Lowe, Hamilton and now possibly Alison. If a ship gets too top heavy it will capsize.

57
unF1nnished business

James, how much will this affect this years development of the E21?

58

It will affect it, but they have people to cover Allison. He would have overseen the process, made decisions on where to deploy resources.

The people with the ideas work beneath him, he has to judge which ideas are worth pursuing, especially in a team that doesn’t have as much money to spend as others.

It will have an effect on Kimi’s decision process for next year as well. If he genuinely has a Red Bull opportunity I can’t see him not taking it

59

Kim to Red Bull: there are problems with this theory. Going to team mate the three/four time, in the past four seasons, world champion?!? Team Vettel?

I don’t know.

A tighter change would be to Mercedes, whose stock is finally on the rise, replacing, if one of the Mercedes drivers were to be dropped, Rosberg. And that a long shot as well, teaming Hamilton?

Yet better han a Red Bull-team Vettel move.

60

Another question is how important Chester was in the design process now that he has to focus on being boss?

61

I think it’s the other way around, Kimi is og to RBR, and without a new titlesponsor om place Allison leaves now as 2013 car development is more or less dine with. Ny money is on Merc!

62
Stephen Taylor

Do yo think he would have a chance to go to RB? I think Ricciardo is more likely to join RB because of Dr Marko.I would rather kimi went back to Mclaren in place of Button . More to the point I think Sir Alex Ferguson would do a far better job at running Mclaren currently.

63

Hi James,

Love this site. I was just wondering could you ever foresee Vettel trying to stop Kimi coming to Red bull? I would have thought the driver decision would lie with Mateschitz but events in Malaysia makes it look like Vettel pretty much does what he pleases in the team.

I for one think Raikkonen at Red Bull seems like a perfect match. What are your thoughts?

64
unF1nnished business

Interesting, thanks for your answer.

65

I feel somewhat a bit down at the possibility for Lotus losing both Allison and Kimi. It comes to be I hope they stay as competitive as they are now. More of the teams competing at the top, the better for us follower of F1.

Vettel and Kimi teaming for RB seems an appetizing prospect. I would love to see that pair up and I would have a hard time picking which of the two would come on top over the long run.

In what capacity would Allison join RB is also most interesting. Marc

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