Mercedes confirm Allison to arrive as technical director

2017 F1 season

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Mercedes has confirmed the signing of highly-rated designer James Allison following his departure from Ferrari last year.

Allison will occupy the role of technical director at the team from the beginning of March. His arrival is announced in the wake of the departure of former executive director of technical Paddy Lowe.

“Our technical team is extremely skilled at every level and at the top of its game after delivering three world championships in a row,” said executive director Toto Wolff.

“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.”

Allison left Ferrari last year following the sudden death of his wife after she contracted meningitis.

“I am very excited to be getting back to work after this time away from the sport,” said Allison.

“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.”

Allison previously worked for Ferrari and Renault during their championship-winning spells in the early 2000s and the latter was reported to have attempted to re-sign him last year. He is considered one of Formula One’s top aerodynamics experts.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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45 comments on “Mercedes confirm Allison to arrive as technical director”

  1. A very good signing by Mercedes, Allison is clearly very talented.

    I always find it interesting when a designer or management-level employee joins such a dominant team… surely the only way is down? Not to sound too negative as I’m sure the money and location works for him, but reputation-wise, would he not be better joining a team like Renault or McLaren who can only improve and have the budget to do so (assuming Allison has his pick of the teams, as I would imagine he does).

    It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on!

    1. @ben-n, this is a very interesting perspective and good point you make regarding his career trajectory after MB. Not discounting Allison’s talents as he is clearly one of brightest in the industry today, however you have to wonder if MB made the deal so sweet for him in order to gain whatever intellectual capital he could provide from his tenure at Ferrari.

    2. By working with Hamilton does that mean he would have worked with all the Champions on the grid? That’s quite a resumé. In any case @ben-n one area I can think of that he can make immediate contributions/input towards is the suspension. Remember how good those Lotuses were? I think he will fit right in!

      1. Well, anybody that has joined Ferrari since 2014 will have worked with 3 out of the 4 champions already, so not that impressive. Although it must be said that he worked with the 4 with 4 different teams.

        1. @mashiat Not that impressive? Maybe you could share your résumé, it must be absolutely stunning!

  2. Paddy will not be missed!

    1. I can believe that @phylyp I was one who also believed Merc soul spiral downward after Brawn left and he was of more significance than Lowe so yeah, it will make minimal impact.

      1. @blackmamba – yep – I was curious to see how Mercedes would fare in 2017 after Paddy’s departure, they have got that quite capably covered.

  3. 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.

    1. Ferrari is a very incompetent and toxic team at the moment. This is the punishment that Ferrari deserves.

    2. Hire only non-Italians? I would hite whoever is best irrespective of nationality. To pick only on nationality is narrowing the talent pool somewhat. An Italian only policy is stupid as is a non-Italian policy. Elite business and sports teams are a mix as talent does not recognise made up lines on a map.

      1. I would hite whoever is best irrespective of nationality.

        That’s the way to go!

      2. remind me again, where was Aldo Costa born? :D

    3. I dont think Ferrari fired him. He left because he wanted to be in the UK with his kids since his wife passed.

      1. @grippgoat, I agree that, whilst there have been a number of individuals painting the situation as one of Ferrari sacking Allison, the indication coming from a wider range of reports suggested that it was more of a case of a mutual breakdown in the relationship.

        It does seem that, for a while, Ferrari did try to accommodate Allison’s desire to spend more time in the UK, which eventually began to be to the detriment of the team as decisions could not be made in Allison’s absence and began to cause a logjam in development work. Ultimately, both parties were moving in a different direction and wanted different things, such that I think that to place the sole responsibility for the breakdown of the relationship solely on Ferrari is wrong – rather, things came to be in a situation where both parties wanted to part ways.

  4. A good sign that Mercedes are investing in F1 for the long term. If they sign Vettel for 2018 to partner Hamilton they might just be the most imposing and dominant squad the sport has ever seen. I feel sorry for their rivals…

    1. @william-brierty hate to break It to you but they already are by a Country Mile

      1. @mrboerns Some likely deluded individuals think Red Bull will be in the fight this year. I will believe it when I see it.

        1. Red Bull got the second highest TV rights payout last year. There would be something seriously wrong with their management if they can’t produce a race winning car.

          1. petebaldwin (@)
            16th February 2017, 17:12

            Unless they have a works Mercedes engine next year, they aren’t even going to be close to catching Mercedes.

          2. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
            16th February 2017, 19:40

            Never underestimate a motivated Adrian Newey!

          3. @drycrust All I can say to that is “Ferrari”. Money is only part of the picture. Although a very import part of the picture.

        2. Red Bull should be closer to Mercedes than Ferrari.

          As an outside chance i think Torro Rosso could be top 3 in constructors Championship. Ferrari may find themselves out of top 3.

  5. Good for James. Good for Mercedes. Bad for those competing against them.

  6. I am a huge Ferrari fan and this is a crunching punch in the gut for me. It’s another reminder that we are being left behind as the management seem to be more interested in nationalistic pride than creating a winning team.

    As long as Ferrari continue embracing this ideology, we will never win anything. You can have all the passion in the world but it means nothing without having anything to be passionate about.

  7. why did he leave ferrari?

    1. Because he lost his wife and his Kids need him at home rather than in italy

      1. so mercedes is closer to home?

        i find this a very strange story, that reeks of strong infighting and internal struggle at Ferrari.
        i remember an interview with a very upbeat and optimistic Allison after Vettel won the first race for Ferrari.
        seems strange that one year later he leaves for the competition.

        i hope he does well at mercedes, can’t have been an easy year for him, he always seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

        1. @michel

          Mercedes (based in Brackley, in the UK), is closer than Ferrari (based in Maranello, Italy). He’ll be working in a different city, rather than a different country, week-to-week.

        2. I would say the unforseen death of his wife was a bit of a game changer so all of a sudden he had to have a UK based job. This seems the most plausable explanation to me. He will be joining Aldo Costa who Ferrari did fire and appears to have done a good job at Merc. They did not fire Aldo Costa based on this unfounded Italian team theory.

        3. Mercedes F1 are based at Brackley about 8 miles from Silverstone.

        4. @ Michel – If I’m not mistaken, Ferrari are the only team who don’t have a base in the UK for the aero department and integration of the car. Every other team have a UK base, which makes their operations easier (and makes poaching easier too!). I vaguely recall that Haas have some factory in the US (not too sure on this point, though).

          On that basis, it was expected that Allison would join a non-Ferrari team, the only unknown was which one, until now.

          On the engine front, all the engine manufacturers do their development in their home country. Renault and Honda have their engine departments in Viry, France and Japan respectively; and I think Mercedes’ powertrains are also at the AMG, Germany base.

          1. I think Sauber also makes their aero outside of the UK @phylyp. Haas has some factory in the UK but is mainly based in the US.

          2. @x303 – Cheers, I didn’t know that about Sauber. Thank you for clearing up the Haas point too.

          3. You’re welcome my friend, cheers!

          4. @phylyp
            Mercedes AMG high performance powertrains (ex Ilmor) is based at Brixworth (UK), they included the AMG in the name for marketing reasons. Most of the engineers working there are British.

          5. Cheers @tifoso1989 and thank you for correcting me!

        5. Err yes they are closer to home since they are based in England not Italy..? The guy has been through a lot but he is far too young to just retire from what he has made a career off, I would have thought it would just make perfect sense to move your work closer to your family.

        6. michel, as others have noted, yes, the headquarters of Mercedes are a lot closer to where his family lived – I believe that his family were in Banbury (given that it is also very close to Enstone where Lotus, now Renault, are based), which is only around 12 miles from Brackley.

          @phylyp, as @x303 notes, Sauber are entirely based outside of the UK (their wind tunnel is in Hinwil, along with the rest of their production facilities). As for Haas, the development work is partially done in the US and partially in Italy (Haas has mentioned that he set up a dedicated team in Italy to work with Dallara), although some preparation work on the cars also takes place in the UK.

          Furthermore, it should be pointed out that a lot of UK teams do also use facilities abroad – pretty much every single team on the grid has used Toyota’s facilities in Cologne (in the case of Force India, they pretty much exclusively use the TMG Cologne wind tunnel), for example. The UK might have one of the larger motorsport technical hubs for now, but there are also other major centres of expertise in southern Germany, northern Italy and central France that are tapped as well.

          1. Thanks for that info, anon, very useful to know.

  8. :D I find most technical F1 people incredibly pleasant and intriguing. James Allison is no exception. I rate him and Adrian Neway Top F1 Blokes, when it comes to technical stuff. They are both excellent to listen to, as they explain F1 stuff, usually in a passionate matter.

    I first encountered him during Peter Winsdor – The Flying Lap episodes, where he used to take part regularly, then working at Lotus, explaining latest developments, with so much insight and closeness for a fan.

    From than on I am his firm fan. Technical director like that, I can appreciate and respect.

    Good thing Mercedes signed him, He seemed to nice for Ferrari, or god forbid McLaren…

  9. I’m happy to see James back and wish him well.

    Disappointed though that one of the smaller UK based outfits hasn’t snared him (Williams, Force India etc) as they are the ones with the potential to do better.

    His joining Mercedes just strengthens an already top team which is their right, but it would have been far more interesting for him to have brought another team up the ladder rather than keeping one at the top.

  10. wahh, I want my old technical director back, wahhh.. why did they switch… wahh.

  11. I do wonder how Aldo Costa feels about yet another technical director signing slotting in above him while he’s quietly giving Mercedes winning cars. Perhaps he’s a hands-on guy who’s happy in his role, but if he has any aspirations of advancement this has got to be a bitter pill.

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