Allison: F1 Job swap with Elliott is about “maximising” Mercedes’ strengths moving forward

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Last week, Mercedes announced James Allison would be its F1 Technical Director once again, with current TD Mike Elliott set to be promoted to Chief Technical Officer in what was effectively a job swap with Allison. Despite the team’s difficult start to the season, Allison explained this was a move that “maximised” the strengths of the pair in their respective skill sets.

Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

Allison was Technical Director at Mercedes from 2017 to 2021 replacing the departing Paddy Lowe, and moved to a less actively involved role of Chief Technical Officer (CTO), for personal reasons, at the end of the 2021 season, being replaced then by Mike Elliott, the team’s Technology Director.

But after a very difficult 2022 season which saw the team plummet from its championship winning glory of the past seasons down to third place in the constructors’ championship, and a similarly difficult start to 2023 with a car that is off the leading pace – both cars overseen by the leadership of Elliott – the team decided to change its structure around once again.

Speaking on the F1Nation podcast, Allison explained that the change was made to better accommodate and utilize the strengths of each individual, as the team concluded that Elliott would be a better fit for long-term projects, with Alisson being more involved in the current car and how to develop it:

“We just had a bit of an examining of our own navels here in Brackley, and between Mike and I concluded that the pair of us can cover the ground reasonably well,” he said. “But perhaps I was better suited to the short-term fighting of a championship with a car, and he was the much better chess player of the pair of us, and that he would be better suited to doing the job I was doing as a CTO previously.

“So we jiggled it about and came up with something that we think is a better fighting machine overall.”

The change came after Mercedes’ strongest performance of 2023 so far, when it claimed P2 and P3 in qualifying in Australia, and went on to finish in second place with Lewis Hamilton. Allison explained the decision is not based on short-term vision or results, but rather about maximising the team’s “fighting strength” and the results should come as a consequence:

“I don’t think that this decision is particularly dependent on the fortune of the car at a given race weekend,” he said.

“It was based on a sober assessment of what the pair of us are best suited to. And we think that the overall fighting strength of this team is maximised by this role swap.

“Let’s hope that Melbourne is just the first step in a general pick-up and recovery that allows us to get more competitive by the weekend.

“But Mike and I are convinced that with the jobs that we’re setting out to do, that we’ll be playing our best part in that recovery in the time ahead of us.”

The 55-year-old said he didn’t have much input on the current W14 machine, as he was more involved in the long-term 2026 project on his role as CTO. He believes it will be a challenge to “get up to speed” with the current championship, but one that he is relishing to embark on:

“I was much less involved than I had been as a technical director,” he said. “I was more manoeuvring around in the sort of 2026 space than in the here and now of the current car.

“It certainly is a fair chunk of effort to get up to speed with everything. Not merely the regulations, but the full engine of the factory and the race team and all the things that are currently in play in the championship fight.

“But it’s exciting and fun and interesting, and a pleasure to be back up to my neck in it.”

Allison stressed that the W14 is a car that is “better than most” but is adamant that the Brackley squad will not be satisfied until it is the fastest car on the circuit. He pointed out some of the positives of the current car and what needs to be worked on as he takes the role of Technical Director:

“It’s reliable, that’s a definite strength,” he said. “It has got a very quick pair of punters pedalling it around, and it’s better than most of the grid out there, but until it is the quickest one, it will always feel like a weak car to all of us.

“It’s adequately kind on its tyres, but not as good as some of the cars that we’ve made in the past. It’s got more downforce than most of the cars on the grid, but not sufficient. Its handling characteristics leave a little to be desired, and need to be worked on for sure.

“But none of this stuff is revelatory, we’ve been talking about it [on] most weekends and is part of what this team needs to address to get winning material back in our hands.”