Mercedes appoints James Allison as F1 technical director
Mercedes
James Allison
Posted By: Editor   |  16 Feb 2017   |  10:02 am GMT  |  97 comments

Mercedes has hired former Ferrari and Lotus Formula 1 technical director James Allison, it was announced today.

The 48-year-old Englishman left Ferrari last summer after the death of his wife and reports of rift with the Scuderia’s chairman, Sergio Marchionne. He will join Mercedes on 1 March 2017.

Before taking up his position with Ferrari, which was his second stint at the Italian team after he worked there during its dominant F1 years at the turn of the century, Allison was the technical director at the Enstone-based Renault and Lotus squads.

James Allison Lotus

Speaking as the news was announced, Allison said: “I am very excited to be getting back to work after this time away from the sport. It’s a massive privilege to be given the trust of a position in a team that has done so spectacularly well in the past three seasons. I am really looking forward to playing my part in helping Mercedes go from strength to strength in the coming years.”

The news of Allison’s appointment at Mercedes comes a month after the world champion squad’s former technical executive director Paddy Lowe left the team and began a period of gardening leave, which is expected to lead to him joining Williams in a senior management position.

Mercedes 2017 challenger, the W08, will be revealed at the Silverstone circuit on 23 February, and will be driven in the upcoming season by triple world champion Lewis Hamilton, and new recruit Valtteri Bottas, who was hired to replace the 2016 title winner, Nico Rosberg.

The Brackley-based team has won the last three drivers’ and constructors’ championships, and is attempting to retain its titles despite the major regulation changes that F1 is introducing for the 2017 season.

The new cars will look visually more aggressive with wider bodywork and front wings, wider and lower rear wings, as well as bigger tyres. The changes will create a significant increase in downforce and will emphasise the need for strong aerodynamics performance, which was a notable feature of Allison’s race winning Lotus cars from 2012 and 2013.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff welcomed Allison to the team and described him as “the perfect guy” to head up its technical department.

He said: “I am delighted to welcome James to Mercedes and very much looking forward to working with him. Our technical team is extremely skilled at every level and at the top of its game after delivering three world championships in a row.

“It wasn’t an easy task to find the right personality who can strengthen our experienced group of engineers, give our talented young team members the space to develop and also bring his own vision to this role. James is a sharp engineer; I think we have found the perfect guy and the right fit with our senior leaders.”

What do you make of the news that Mercedes has hired Allison? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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1

And the winner of the 2017-19 WCC is Mercedes with RB in second place……snore…… the rest of the pack may be fun to watch!

2

Good man. He’s had an awful year, personally, and while I’m not super keen on Mercedes, I’m glad to see him back in the midst of things.

3

Allison winning at Lotus with Kimi was a sign of brilliance, indicating he may be only guy about to foil A. Newey as Renault closes on MERCEDES power unit. Do not know that Lowe has the creativity in aero to do the same job as Allison. So seems to me a smart switch by Wolff.

4

Congratulations James; it’s a great appointment in a strong team. He will do well there as I’m sure he will be supported in his convictions, unlike at Ferrari….

As for Ferrari they are a dead duck; useless aerodynamic department, useless strategy calls, and dodgy resource and personnel management. Can’t seem them winning anything for years. If it wasn’t for the $100M “Ferrari are the soul of F1” downpayment over the last few years they probably would have been roundly beaten by the likes of Force India and Torro Rosso.

5

When it comes to Sergio Marchionne, Clint Eastwood would put it best: “yeah, you’re a legend in your own mind”

6

Not Technical Executive Director – so Toto is a single boss now!?
Looks like Vettel and Hamilton re gonna swap seats in 2018.

7

a testament to Ferrari’s idiocy.

8

2015 I was getting excited by the momentum they were gathering Robert NYC….2016 they looked like they were way out at sea with little or no control at the helm.

9

This is excellent news for Red Bull especially after merc signing that gifted ex williams hack

10
The Grape Unwashed

Great for Mercedes, but I wonder whether he’ll hit the same sort of problems as Ross Brawn? They’re both similar characters, I’ll be interested to see how it pans out.

11

He is pretty good, but ain’t Newey. But, It doesn’t make much difference, as long as Merc has an edge in the Engine department.

12

He’s considered in F1 to be the next best thing after Newey, so let’s see

13

Such a shame. Or is it?

We cannot say that Allison’s time at Ferrari was anything more than a limited success. I remember the huge number of upgrades he brought to Spain 2015 with no possible evaluation time. The result was little tangible gain in pace.

He also took too long to switch from pull-rod to push-rod front suspension. When he finally did so, in 2016, rivals had already stolen a march on Ferrari. But at least, Kimi was able to out-qualify Vettel, among other top qualifiers.

James reported here how Allison was not willing to contribute in the aftermath of the tragic death of his wife. Here like everyone else, I understand that personal
circumstances made it difficult for him. But, as James related, Ferrari begged him to come to Silverstone on the sunday to help them but he would not.

In brief, Ferrari may feel they have been let down by James Allison. They invested their hopes in his talent. They were a little short-changed no matter how you read the events of his tenure with them.

14

I can’t believe all the comments about Ferrari fault.. or Ferrari fired him… His wife died.. Ferrari team is in Italy, James kid are in Britain, most of the team are located in Britain.. it was obvious that he would go back to work with a team close to his kids.. as much as Ferrari wanted to keep him, his family comes first, is not the same case like also Costa..

15

That is not necessarily so……

16
Clarks4WheelDrift

Spot on, well said. In those circumstances it must all be about family. Location to them is key, a few grand more or less or a slightly better historical image matter not a jot.

17

James Allen mentioned in one of his articles (few months ago) that it was a bit of both.

18

Taken from a german forum, let’s recap Allison’s achievements:

2006: Place 1 (Allison newly arrives at Renault, as Assistent Technical Director)
2007: Place 6 ( = Falling with Allison)
2008: Place 4 ( = are they going to recover?)
2009: Place 9 ( = nope, falling even deeper)
2010: Place 5 (Allison is promoted to proper Technical Director)
2011: Place 5
2012: Place 4 (The Team becomes “Lotus”)
2013: Place 4
— technical regulations revolution, Allison goes to Ferrari, Renault and Ferrari are having difficulties with their PU —
2014: Place 4 (Ferrari dropping from 3rd in the year before)
2015: Place 2 (Ferraris PU was improved, Renault seems to be struggling still, turning their engineering department upside down, ending in a scandal over Red Bull’s engine supply, meanwhile newcomer Honda completely messed up their debut, Alonso rages over his “GP2 Engine” – in Japan)
2016: Place 3 (Renault and Ferrari”s PU seem to be on the same Level, but Ferrari has more DNFs than Red Bull, Honda improving, but still behind)

Average place of Teams under James Allison: Place 4 (Exactly: 4,2727..)

2017: Mercedes replaces Paddy Lowe with James Allison (after scoring 4 titles in a row).

Comclusion: Looking at the results alone, that have been scored under Allisons direction/(direction assistance), it looks like he is slightly overrated (since Trump I hate to use that word).

;———
2006: Renault R26, R26B – Robert Bell (TD), James Allison (Assistant TD), Pat Symonds (ED), Tim Densham (CD), Martin Tolliday (Assistant CD), Dino Toso (AE)
2007: Renault R27 – Robert Bell (TD), James Allison (Assistant TD), Pat Symonds (ED), Tim Densham (CD), Martin Tolliday (Assistant CD), Dino Toso (AE)
2008: Renault R28 – Robert Bell (TD), James Allison (Assistant TD), Pat Symonds (ED), Tim Densham (CD), Martin Tolliday (Assistant CD), Dino Toso (AE)
2009: Renault R29 – Robert Bell (TD), James Allison (Assistant TD), Pat Symonds (ED), Tim Densham (CD), Dirk de Beer (AE)
2010: Renault R30 – James Allison (TD), Tim Densham (CD), Martin Tolliday (Deputy CD), Dirk de Beer (AE)
2011: Renault R31 – James Allison (TD), Tim Densham (CD), Martin Tolliday (Deputy CD), Dirk de Beer (AE)

2012: Lotus E20 – James Allison (TD), Naoki Tokunaga (DTD), Martin Tolliday (CD), Dirk de Beer (AE)
2013: Lotus E21 – James Allison (TD), Martin Tolliday (CD), Dirk de Beer (AE)
2014: Ferrari F14 T (665) – James Allison (TD), Pat Fry (ED), Nikolas Tombazis (CD), Loïc Bigois (AE)
2015: Ferrari SF15-T (666) – James Allison (TD), Simone Resta (CD), Loïc Bigois (AE)

19

Nice stats. They beg the question… Is his entire reputation based on the few results Kimi eeked out of his Lotus?
I don’t know why.

20

Sir Tease, either that or it is based on first hand knowledge of his achievements by people who worked closely with him and are well aware of the constraints he worked under at Enstone. Definitely one or the other…..

21

Of course it isn’t, but let’s say that Kimis good results sparked a good hype.
He was well rated before, for his ingenuity/guts when he presented the front exhaust, blowing the floor instead of the diffuser and he’s spent a good amount of times in top teams with other top people, so he sure has his reputation from more than just a few flukes with Kimi.
Still, I found that looking at the lead engineers who are attributed to a car’s design, does give a bit of an insight. If you do the same thing with Loïc Bigois’ career, for example, it looks rather grim. Which means: either he doesn’t have the best influence on cars, or he has bad timing when changing teams, like Frnando Alonso. If you do the same with Newey, Prodromou, Byrne or Tombazis, it looks pretty fantastic (ok, Prodromou was hampered by the Honda Engine lately). There are also some pretty surprising results: Gascoyne for example seems to have had a rather good influence on teams, apart from when he went to Lotus/Caterham – which looked like it would be the best of the three “Budget Cap” teams, but never managed to really set itself apart. Probably as a result of the low budget, which set a cap on the performance that was not too hard to reach, but this is highly speculative. Anyway, in teams with medium to high budgets ingenuity should be less limited. Allison sure is one of the better people on the market, but is he really Grade A or just B+? The media hypes him a lot, like he was the next Newey, but I have my doubts.

22

How long did the front blowing exhaust last ?

23

Not long, but it was a gutsy move and looked pretty good at the start of the season. Unfortunately the huge potential it had proved to be too hard to control (balance issues). Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but you’ve got a take a leap of faith once in a while.

24

Is it fair to say then that the hype is based on his potential? A glimmer of which has shone throughout his career so far. Expectations that it will be fulfilled sufficing as evidence of his talent. I think that’s fine while his career is on an upward trajectory and I suppose it was all supposed to come to fruition during a long stint at Ferrari. But it didn’t.
Success is always relative. I fear that his efforts at Mercedes, however effective, will be cast as average in the light of their current success.
In other words (your words) an A+ is going to look like a B at Mercedes.
Maybe he cares not for reputation.

25

I can’t say. But I have the feeling like he’s in a kind of Rubens Barrichello, Jarno Trulli, Martin Brundle, Jean Alesi, Nico Hülkenberg, Nick Heidfeld situation: Everyone calls him a great talent, but for some reason the great successes to his name don’t show up.
Does that mean he’s a great talent struck with bad luck, or does it mean people are parroting each other, reinforcing their misconception, not able to admit their fault, because “if everybody says so, it must be true”?

26

Whoa. i did not see that coming……………. /s

27

Yes, Allison is a top-notch engineer, with a successful track record; the work at Lotus was impressive.
Yes, Mercedes is coming from the top step, from… the past three years.
But…
There are very significant regulations changes, which introduces a wildcard to the design element. From the top spot, could Mercedes have played the iterative/conservative development approach; might they have missed the next ‘double diffuser’ (one can only hope).
Also, I see a very significant management structural change at Mercedes. Previously, Lowe was one of the triad of top tier management (supposedly). Does anybody else believe think that Paddy went to Williams because he wants THE TOP ROLE; not as the top technical person, but as THE TOP PERSON, the team principal! Was he chaffing at having to deal with Toto, when he was the main guy in value-adding to make the cars go faster? Allison is slotting in under, and reporting to Toto Wolfie, and he will be the top technical guy?!
One can only hope that things go wrong at Mercedes, so that they’re development lags enough for a team or two to catch them, and we can get some real competition.
And I am unconvinced about Allison! Yes, the Ferrari barracudas can make life… challenging, but isn’t he supposed to have the creds to overcome that kind of thing? Isn’t the corporate yes-man ladder going to be a challenge for him also?
Of course, no matter how good he is, he will have no effect on the car until Spain at the earliest, and then only minimally; it’s the 2018 season when he will be ‘the guy’.

28

Yes, Wolff needs someone to be his ‘sheep’s clothing’ and that will be Allison.

29

@ DC we share the same sentiments apparently.

30
Clarks4WheelDrift

Kimi to Mercedes in 2018 then…

double Finns next year 😉

31

hahaha…yes, like a ’58 chev impala hahaha

32

Looking forward to helping Mercedes go from strength to strengh

Can Merc get any stronger??😄

33

@ james K…Yes, they can. last year they had around one to a half a second on red bull et al. This year they could have three seconds…maybe more if they have struck gold over the winter. It could get a lot worse. Depressing thought.

34

@kenneth
Won’t be good for the sport if it turns out that way, even though I can’t see it happening. So let’s hope the “Bulls” are in the mix and the “red prancer” has learned how to run again!😊 Obviously hoping the McHonda can surprise us all and Williams to. Can’t wait to see the new cars and looking forward to Australia 🏎🏁 let’s hope we’re not disappointed!

35

@ james K…Yes, i agree. It will be a sad season if we simply get a repeat of the last three years. Until we see the results from melbourne we just will not know as the Barca tests will not throw up any definitive trends but there may be some indications.

36

I guess Allison’s former pardner at Ferrari {Aldo Costa} gave Mercedes a good referal about him.

The wall Arrivabene is building around Ferrari is almost complete.
There is only Vettel and Kimi left.
The President will throw them from the top of the wall into the castle pit and shout: Arrivabene {have a nice landing}.
xP

37

Great for Mercedes, but really wanted him to go to McLaren, I think he would have formed a formidable technical partnership with Peter Prodromou.

38

Hi Dipo Andrew and Sir Tease

With the recent changes at Mclaren surely this would have been a given and rather welcoming…there is plenty of room for him and his technical expertise. A challenge at the very least!

As others have alluded to wouldn’t this role at Merc be just another somebody who is merely dipping his wick in custard?

39

Yep. Allison to McLaren would be something to get excited about. Allison jumps on the band wagon… Not so much.

40

This may have been unavoidable for Ferrari, given that Allison wanted to return to the UK. But it’s hard to think of any other Ferrari staff that Mercedes would want.

So the only man Mercedes need falls into their lap with a head full of the technical details of a close rival. No wonder Toto is pulling his Cheshire Cat look.

We just need a photo of Marchionne unloading a gun into his right Gucci loafer to finish off the story. You need a cartoonist James!

41

@ Matthew cheshire….With the demise of allison’s wife it was played out that his return to UK to be near his kids was the primary reason for leaving ferrari. Reports that i have read reflect that this was only a small part of what actually happened. His kids by the way are adults. The main reason that he left ferrari was a falling out with marchionne who was interfering in the day to day ops and allison didn’t like it. That was the main reason he left, which also helped out with his other concerns re family etc etc.

42

Congrats to Allison on the new job and good on him that he was able to find work a lot closer to home

Also good scoop by the Mercedes team on securing his services considering the fact he is highly regarded

However, I think it would have been better if Allison joined a team that hasn’t won and then turn them into winners thereby getting the lion’s share of the credit

For instance, Allison was with the dream team at Ferrari but he hardly got credit for his role

On the other side of the coin, if Mercedes stop winning, Allison will be blamed for the turn in fortunes

43

why can’t someone else do a better job?

44

@ aveli

Aah that is the million dollar question the other teams have been asking themselves.

This is similar to owning the Coca Cola formular

45

in that case, ask those teams to send me a million dollar each and i’ll provide the answer to the question.

46

@ aveli

Hahaha sure

47

I see that Ferrari is back to the culture that Ross Brawn is describing in his book “total competition”. Can they never learn?

48

Memo to Scuderia Ferrari; What part of, “We’re going to free this horse from the barn?,” didn’t you understand?

49

Mercedes to Ferrari: ” You fire ’em – we hire ’em!”

50

James, do you have an idea as to the organization chart structure for Mercedes aero team? They have Costa (Engineering Director) and Willis (Technology Director), and now I guess Allison slotting in above them? Geezus, Mercedes AMG F1’s website still has a Paddy Lowe page under their Team heading. Guess they were waiting for today’s news to fibally change that.

Another thing, did Bottas just inherit all of Nico’s race team (Tony Ross, etc.), or did he bring anyone over? Rosberg brought Ross over from Williams I believe one season after joining Mercedes.

51

It makes sense when you look at the roles each management position are responsible for. It is very well thought out for the forward thinking requirements of F1.

52

WOW…now there’s a bolt from the blue!!! Is he really as good as some people make out? I guess that we won’t know until mid ’18. Things have changed since he was handling winners. mercedes are top drawer so he’ll need to be up to snuff as they say.

53

What has he won?

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