F1 Winter Break
Mercedes appoints James Allison as F1 technical director
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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And the award for F1's worst kept secret goes to....


Interesting "management style" that fella at Ferrari seems to exhibit - and to the benefit of competitors, to boot. One wonders how many more good heads he will "off" before the Fiat BoD returns the favor, eh?


Garret, lots of heads rolling out the door, but no sign of any new ones rolling in. I guess going to Ferrari might not hold the same level of attraction that it once did for top tech staff. Restricting your hiring pool to just one country isn't smart either.


Seems like he's from the Donald Trump school of management...


How so? The Donald is widely known for seeking and employing top notch talent, irrespective of their place of origin. Just look at the board of his companies and even his cabinet.


I wasn't really talking about the country of origin point, but rather downsizing of the consultation pool, as well as the public threats and castigation's...


As for Mr Allison, very much a modern day Isaac Newton - he even went to the same Cambridge University as good old Isaac, reading mechanical engineering too (achieving a "Geoff" - a BEng double first class honours). If you always refer back to Newton's laws when designing - that a force equals mass times ACCELERATION (key word) and that acceleration equals force DIVIDED by mass, and that for every [downforce] action there is always an equal and opposite [drag] REACTION you can't go wrong really........

Designing and engineering - how hard can it be???


Actually, I don't think its that simple, as there are clever ways to achieve downforce without increasing in similar increments of drag, but I get your point.

After all, if it were that simple, Adrian Newey would be just be another mere mortal without the reverence for aero design.


Aero 101::
lift induced drag....
form drag...
more downforce = more drag... can't avoid (just physics dude - can't increase downforce/lift without increasing drag)
cunning design (form) = minimise drag... earn the big $$$
Just saying.......


I like!


Well then we should all be genius designers then.


So you are now going into pantomime dressing/up in "drag" GazBoy Newton's third law as nothing on you ? Keep waving that flag.👍👍


Bang on target, you've just proved that every action provokes a reaction........


Great catch for Mercedes - one of the best men around and will no doubt do great things. I still believe that Ferrari scored its most spectacular "own goal" in its history by letting him go - but time will tell.

An aside: I am really surprised that some of FIndia's excellent technical team and management are not in greater demand - and surely they are not that highly paid and so would not be too "costly" to prize away from FIndia ?


I would say Ferrari scored a bigger own goal by ousting Aldo Costa, the 14, 15 and 16 Mercedes cars could have been painted red. Those Italians do like repeating themselves though, I'm sure this move will have similar consequences to 2010's purge, much to Mercedes delight.


All the best. Good choice too.
Mercedes will be unstoppable.
Come on 👍


Is it just me, or does Allison have a passing similarity to a certain Hollywood director? Clue - Tim Roth, Mr pink, Mr brown........

Of course, nigel mansell and tom selleck were separated at birth, and jean Pierre jabouille is a danny Kaye lookalike. Is James tarrantino moonlighting as a film director?


Likewise Alonso and Ben stiller.


No GazBoy and NickH nothing like Tim Roth. Not in the slightest.
He looks more like John Shuttleworth the awesome comedian. Or an elder brother of Louis Thearoux.
For a start Tim Roth is about 5ft 6 inches tall. Allison is a May pole against Tim Roth. Facially nothing similar other than maybe the beak which are totally different shapes.
Whatever you do don't go anywhere near a police line out. You'd probably pick Water Melon with a cheese burger resting on top...instead Montoya at a buffet.😂


I think he means Tarantino...


Yes he does . I take it back. Q T the director indeed and also Freddie Kruger.


Haha funny you mention it, there is a small resemblance there.


Ouch, Ferrari, that's gor to hurt.....

Great move for James Allison, hope it goes well for you fella. Some nice succession planning going on down Mercedes way.


unless he was sent by Ferrari to throw a spanner in the works..


time for Aldo costa to comeback, he is stagnated in his role for far too long.


I wouldn't call 'Chief Designer of record breaking Formula 1 Cars,' stagnating. In fact I would call it the pinnacle, going to Ferrari, or anywhere else within F1, would be a backward step.


well its a german team so they probably have a good work/life balance


Very much looking forward his work at mercedes...Actually I am thinking that McLaren needed him much more than Mercedes...did you know if they tried to get him and why they could not convince him (considering he worked with boulier at lotus)?


May be they could out weigh Merc's offer.


As a Ferrari fan, this really upsets me. We should have kept him on, if for no other reason than to keep his expertise from other teams. Thank you very much to the Ferrari management.

There have been comments made that they want to have an all Italian lineup heading their technical departments. I would go the other way and hire anyone but Italians. Every decision they have made since 2006 has been a negative one. I actually think the titles we won in 07/08 were mainly down to the solid foundations laid by the ‘Dream Team’; rather than any development and innovation they may have made in consequent years.

There is even talk that they fear their pace for this year. With the amount of testing Vettel in particular has done on the prototype tyres, the team will have no one but themselves to blame – but of course, they’ll take it out on their drivers, who both have a hard working ethic and are dedicated to the team.


Agree, disaster letting him go. Common sense that if you want the best you don't limit yourself to picking from one country.


La historia se repeat - or words to that effect. When do you suppose the FIAT BoD will wake up to realize it ?


And the Engineering Director of Mercedes is .... Aldo Costa.


It's over for Ferrari for the next few years. The loss of James Allison was a sporting catastrophe for the Scuderia. You know when they threaten to pull out of F1 (which sadly is a regular and predictable occurrence) they are desperate. Commonly there seem to be two factors at play:

1) They know they're behind technically
2) They can see no way out

It could get ugly in 2017.

I'm not a Vettel fan particularly but he has proven he can win Championships in a leading car. Kimi has proven his class again in 2016. Clearly the car had limited potential last season. Vettels' ongoing vocal frustration was laughable, unheard of outbursts from a Champion, which suggest he spent most of the season wound very tight indeed. Entertaining, unless you're Charlie Whiting.

And I don't subscribe to the theory F1 needs Ferrari. They're just another race team, albeit it a very well funded one, with a long history which recently has been very short on results. If it left it F1 would be a sad day but the show would go on. I don't think they're going to provide much racing entertainment this year. Unless it's Vettel swearing loudly on TV.


Your last line is brutal, yet I can't stop laughing. Which makes me very concerned about my morals.



Vettels vocal frustrations were needed because the wonder box Max was getting away his on track antcis


where could vettel go if he left ferrari?


good question


Sorry, mate, you talk as if you are a Ferrari employee. It is not "we", but "they" in this case. But yes, Ferrari is back to its best!


It will be interesting to see whether Allison will risk introducing a new philosophy to the design process or simply try to continue in Paddy Lowe's wheel tracks. Either way it's a risk for Mercedes and almost certainly an unnecessary one given their current position...
...driven by what I wonder; Ego?
Allison is certainly very capable and certainly has a good chance of continuing the current level of achievement, it's rather difficult to see how he could improve upon it and far easier to see how he could lose some of it... unnecessary risk is a phrase usually not welcome in big business, particularly when coupled with an absence of potential reward.


I tend to agree with this. It almost seems they employed him just because they could. Maybe they wanted a big name to compensate their personnel losses...
Whatever the motivation, it's a no win situation for Allison. Changing the direction of a behemoth like Merc at full steam will take ALL his time and effort. There'll be little left to implement his own philosophy. And why would he? They're winning NOW.
So chances are, he'll just have to slot into the machine and go along with the flow. In that case, what's the point of being there? Merc could have easily promoted from in house a capable caretaker for the next few years.
It will be interesting to see what his role becomes.


@ Sir Tease....yes, i have had similar thoughts and maybe, just maybe, there is far more to this than we are seeing. Knowing that 2020 is somewhat of a watershed with the engines and the whole future of F1 with Liberty maybe mercedes are using allison as a stalking horse. He will keep an eye on what is happening ATM and for the short term and at the same time devoting much of his energies into developing possibilities for post 2020. That makes sense to me.


I think Merc knows that it's better to keep skilled people off their competition.


We wont know until next season


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.


What has he won?


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.


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.


Mercedes to Ferrari: " You fire 'em - we hire 'em!"


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


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


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


why can't someone else do a better job?


@ aveli

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

This is similar to owning the Coca Cola formular


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


@ aveli

Hahaha sure


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!


@ 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.


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


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?


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


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}.


Looking forward to helping Mercedes go from strength to strengh

Can Merc get any stronger??😄


@ 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.


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!


@ 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.


Kimi to Mercedes in 2018 then...

double Finns next year 😉


hahaha...yes, like a '58 chev impala hahaha


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.
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'.


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


@ DC we share the same sentiments apparently.


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


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)


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.


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.....


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.


How long did the front blowing exhaust last ?


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.


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.


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"?


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..


That is not necessarily so......


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.


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


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.

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.


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.


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


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


a testament to Ferrari's idiocy.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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!

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