Lotus F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen said today in Barcelona that the sudden departure of technical director James Allison would not affect the team’s performance.
Allison quit the team yesterday to be replaced by Nick Chester. There are no firm indications of where he is heading, but there is a strong suspicion that it is Ferrari, as they seek to build a brains trust at Maranello to mount a sustained challenge for the championships over the coming years.
Fernando Alonso was cagey in the FIA press conference today when the subject of Allison came up; his body language suggesting that it was a subject he did not want to discuss. Alonso worked closely with Allison at Renault, winning two world titles in 2005 and 2006 and then reconnected with him after his one year career at McLaren.
He expressed the highest regard for his abilities “We just know the news from yesterday and we don’t have any more news. For sure, I worked very closely with him and was World Champion with him two times. Then I came back to Renault in 2008/9; in 2009 he was already technical director and we were not so successful with that car, but we saw the Lotus car in the last two years and no secret that he’s one of the top men here and we will see what future he has.
“I would like to work with all the technical directors. It would be nice to have all of them in our team and see how our competitors create their cars because this is impossible. We are working well and this year things are going much better so we are happy with what we have but it’s always welcome, any extra help.”
Allison is also well known at Ferrari from his time there in the dominant Schumacher era.
However speaking yesterday after the news was announced, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said, “To my knowledge, he’s not coming to us. I speak only when I can give news, so I must deny this. But we’re always looking around to look for quality and if the right opportunity presents itself..”
This ties in with the feeling in the F1 paddock that Allison is likely to move to Ferrari, but that nothing is yet signed.
As for Raikkonen he shrugged off the loss of his technical director, saying that Lotus has strength in depth and said it would not affect his decision making process about where he will race in 2014,
“For me it doesn’t really make a difference,” he said. “It’s not like it suddenly happened one day. People have discussed it and the team will have known it was coming for a while. So it’s not like we woke up it’s different to what it was when we went to sleep.
“I think there are a lot of strong people and we should be fine.”