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Allison’s Return as Technical Director: Can Mercedes Reclaim F1 Supremacy?



Allison Mercedes F1

In a surprising turn of events, the senior technical staff at Mercedes’ Formula 1 team has undergone a role swap. James Allison is stepping back into the position of technical director, while Mike Elliott takes on the title of chief technical officer.

This change comes amid Mercedes’ struggle with the new ground effect technical regulations, and it aims to put the team back on track in their pursuit of championship contention. Both Allison and Elliott have a rich history at Mercedes and were involved in the team’s era of dominance, making this shuffle an attempt to capitalize on their individual strengths.

The senior technical staff at Mercedes’ Formula 1 team have undergone a role swap, with James Allison stepping back into the position of technical director, while Mike Elliott takes on the title of chief technical officer.

Elliott initially succeeded Allison as technical director in 2021, when Allison transitioned to the newly established role of CTO.

Allison’s responsibilities have included F1 over the past 18 months, but his CTO role also encompassed broader technical duties for the Mercedes organization, including non-F1 ventures, primarily the Americas Cup project.

Before joining Mercedes as head of aerodynamics in 2012, Elliott worked alongside Allison at Lotus, making him a natural successor. By the time Allison joined Mercedes, Elliott had become the technology director. Despite his high regard within the organization, the two weakest cars of the V6 turbo-hybrid era were produced under his technical leadership.

Allison Mercedes F1

Mercedes struggled with the new ground effect technical regulations in 2022, but continued with its concept, exemplified by a distinctive minimal sidepod design that Elliott persistently defended.


In 2023, after maintaining the core of its original concept but still lagging behind Red Bull, team principal Toto Wolff admitted that the team had made the wrong decision following the Bahrain season opener. Although it was apparent that Mercedes would explore alternative design approaches, Wolff never indicated that Elliott would be replaced to facilitate this change.

During the final week of F1’s extended April calendar break, Autosport reported that Allison would take on a more active role by succeeding Elliott as technical director. Mercedes has yet to confirm the change, but Wolff has been quoted acknowledging the role swap and stating that it was Elliott’s own initiative.

According to Wolff, Elliott believed his talents were better suited for the wider responsibilities of the CTO role, while Allison was a more fitting choice for a single car project.

According to a statement from a Mercedes spokesperson given to the BBC, Mike, who is presumably a member of the team, has overseen a comprehensive evaluation of the technical aspects of their organization to ensure they are structured in a way that can deliver long-lasting success. The team’s primary objective is to create the finest racing car possible, and they aim to achieve this by constructing a top-tier team that leverages everyone’s individual strengths to the fullest.

Mercedes’ designer roles are also changing, with the ‘engineering director’ title – last held by Aldo Costa until his departure in 2018 – making a comeback. Giacomo Tortora will assume this position, allowing chief designer John Owen to be relieved of some administrative tasks that had emerged during the budget cap era.

Allison Mercedes F1

The recent changes in Mercedes’ team roles will not affect the new development direction that the team has taken in the past few weeks, which will shape the upgrades expected to be implemented on the car within the next month or two.

Wolff, in a recent team Q&A, expressed optimism about the progress made in car development, indicating that after three races, the team has gained a much better understanding of the vehicle and established a clear direction for improvement. He believes they are currently on the right track and hopes to build upon this progress in upcoming races. It’s important, however, for the team to maintain a steady and rational approach, avoiding drastic swings between overconfidence and pessimism and retaining faith in their trajectory and team capabilities.


The Ripple Effect: How Mercedes’ F1 Team Adapts to Realign Technical Leadership.

Following Mercedes’ announcement that it would abandon its current Formula 1 car design concept, James Allison is returning to the role of technical director, replacing Mike Elliott. Autosport reported on Friday morning that the change was due to Elliott feeling unsuited for the role, although he will remain with the team as CTO.

Allison’s return comes as Mercedes is heavily involved in the first round of upgrades for its troubled 2023 car, set to debut at next month’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Despite a more promising race in Australia, the team is far from being in championship-contending form.

Mike Elliott was a staunch supporter and defender of the car designs that have proven to be flawed under the new ruleset. However, his perception of the situation and the potential he saw did not match reality.

Mercedes never undermined Elliott or set him up for failure, but as technical director, he became inevitably associated with the often-misrepresented ‘car concept.’ Elliott was adept at addressing questions about the concept and the sidepod design that came to symbolize it. He, along with team boss Toto Wolff and the drivers, defended the team’s choices publicly for an extended period.

This continued until 24 hours before the season’s first qualifying session in Bahrain, when Wolff swiftly and emphatically (and perhaps a bit too emotionally) declared the car concept as wrong.

Gradually, more comments surfaced about alternative design directions already being explored for some time. It is understood that these alternatives reflected the true reality, with Bahrain serving as validation for this different direction.


Elliott may have appeared to be increasingly in the minority regarding his belief in the concept Mercedes is now abandoning, but this was mainly because he had to speak about it publicly so frequently.

In reality, Elliott had the team’s support and authority to continue down the chosen path until it became evident that it was indeed the wrong direction. When Mercedes decided to change its design approach weeks ago, Elliott would have been involved in that process.

Elliott didn’t stubbornly insist he was right in the face of contrary evidence. His shortcomings, if they can be called that, are more about a broader incompatibility with the role than a single design choice.

His technical leadership had one more opportunity with the W14 to demonstrate the potential of this design direction. However, the 2023 season quickly provided enough evidence to the contrary.

Perhaps Elliott could have avoided backing the wrong design direction, and maybe that’s why he suggested swapping roles with James Allison.

It would be both incorrect and unfair to assume that Elliott’s perceived failure as technical director is evidence of him merely riding the coattails of Mercedes’ success. However, this situation does highlight the challenges of succession planning.

Elliott joined Mercedes as head of aerodynamics in July 2012 and played critical technical roles during the team’s unprecedented dominance. This made him the logical successor when Allison decided to step back from the F1 frontline. After all, Elliott had earned it.


Different roles demand different skillsets. Elliott has much to offer, which is why Mercedes initially appointed him as technical director and now as CTO. This position is still crucial, but it doesn’t require him to be the day-to-day technical lead of F1 car projects.

The focus now is on aligning highly accomplished individuals with roles that best match their specific strengths. Elliott’s abilities will now be directed at the bigger picture, which includes the F1 team.

An intriguing, unanswerable question is whether Mercedes’ success made succession planning more challenging in this case. The team was essentially committed to giving Elliott a chance because everything had worked so well before with him involved. The paradox is that a less successful environment might have allowed this misstep, if it can be called that, to be avoided.

This situation highlights the difficulty organizations face in implementing succession plans, as something that seemed logical on paper did not work as hoped. It demonstrates that sometimes, even when both the wider organization and the individuals involved do everything right, the desired outcome may not be achieved.

The present situation at Mercedes bears a striking similarity to Red Bull’s situation in the mid-2010s. During that period, there were frequent reports about Adrian Newey, the team’s chief technical officer, seeking to reduce his involvement in Formula One and explore other ventures. However, whenever Red Bull encountered difficulties with their car, Newey would be called upon to take a more active role in resolving the problems.

Although the situation at Mercedes is more formalized, with Allison given a new job title and an official change occurring, the similarities are evident. A successful team attempts to usher in a new era of technical leadership, encounters difficulties, and must revert to the previous technical leader who had led the team to success in the past.

This situation seems to be a genuine stress test for the management culture that Mercedes has carefully cultivated during its dominant seasons.


Mercedes has had to dig deep on several occasions since becoming an F1-winning powerhouse, such as during 2017-19 and in 2021. However, the team’s stuttering start to F1’s new ground effect era has raised concerns that this could be the first real test Mercedes might actually fail.

Toto Wolff emphasizes the importance of not freezing a successful organization and maintaining fluidity, allowing people to move within the team. At the same time, he takes pride in the fact that many key Mercedes figures, including Mike Elliott, have remained with the organization for an extended period. Some even predate Mercedes as a team!

Mike Elliott Allison Mercedes F1

Striking a balance between keeping work fresh and engaging for team members to prevent them from seeking other opportunities and ensuring everyone is in the role best suited to their skills is challenging. For instance, the way Mercedes managed the collaboration between John Owen and Aldo Costa on car design during the 2010s appeared to work exceptionally well.

Mercedes has indeed faced more challenges recently in managing its key personnel. While Wolff has wanted to reduce his hands-on involvement as team principal, James Vowles left for Williams instead of stepping into that role. James Allison tried substituting for Wolff in Brazil 2019 and later moved to a higher position in the technical side of the organization, but his return now indicates the team is feeling the loss of his day-to-day technical leadership. On the engine side, Brixworth seems to be a slightly waning F1 force without Andy Cowell leading the charge since mid-2020.

However, it is to Mercedes’ credit that they have amicably swapped Allison and Elliott for the betterment of the team, rather than resorting to a Ferrari-style sacrifice. Allison’s return highlights the dependence of F1 teams on key individuals. If Allison, Rory Byrne, and Adrian Newey followed Cowell out of F1 entirely, it is doubtful that clever restructuring and dynamic working culture could easily fill the void.

In an era of frequent football manager-style sackings in F1, it is commendable to see a technical director, whose tenure may be considered a ‘failure,’ not being entirely cast aside. Elliott, by his own admission, may not be the right person for the technical director role at Mercedes right now, but he still has a valuable contribution to make to the team.

Mercedes’ decision to reassign Elliott rather than letting him go demonstrates the team’s commitment to a no-blame culture and its ability to recognize the value Elliott has previously shown. This approach is refreshing in the face of constant team boss and technical director sackings and also helps prevent Mercedes from losing a knowledgeable and effective operator to a rival.


The Real Impact of James Allison’s Return to Mercedes F1 Technical Director Role in 2024 and Beyond.

The impact of James Allison’s return to the Mercedes technical director position will be more significant in the 2024 Formula 1 season rather than the current one. The development plan for the current car is already established and would proceed regardless of Allison’s return. The challenges faced by the W13 and W14 cars in 2022 and 2023, respectively, are due to both the new regulations and Mike Elliott’s skillset not being a good match for the technical director role. The technical director must combine innovative ideas with practical racing demands to make them robust enough for competition. Elliott seemed to fall short in this regard. However, it was unfortunate that he took over the technical directorship during a time of entirely new aero regulations, making nothing relevant from the previous generation of title-winning Mercs.

The Real Impact of James Allison's Return to Mercedes F1 Technical Director Role in 2024 and Beyond.

When the new regulations were introduced, Mike Elliott and his team at Mercedes came up with an innovative solution for the W13 car, but their simulations were misleading. Moreover, the unforeseen issue of porpoising and bouncing delayed the team’s understanding of the limitations of the zero sidepods concept. It was assumed that fixing the bouncing issue would solve the problem with the concept altogether, but there were underlying aerodynamic limitations that the team realized before the W14 was even run, but it was too late. The team’s belief in the concept and its promises in simulation took precedence over immediate competitiveness.

Mercedes is now starting afresh with its 2024 car, which will likely adopt a Red Bull-like concept. James Allison will lead this project while Elliott focuses on longer-term research and technical resource allocation, with a particular focus on 2026.

The team had already planned a new sidepod design before the car was launched because the original concept’s gains in the wind tunnel had dried up in February. The new geometry is expected to move away from the zero-pod concept.

Multiple routine adjustments to the car’s aerodynamics are expected as it has been realized that the vehicle can operate at much lower heights than previously believed. The team was over-conservative with the range of ride heights in simulation during the development of the W14 car, which was optimized around a certain range of ride heights. However, the regulation-prescribed floor changes of 2023 allowed the team to be more tolerant of very low ride heights. The recalibrated aero map will involve many new floor parts.

These changes were already underway and are not connected with the switch of James Allison and Mike Elliott. The full impact of that switch will not be seen until next year.


James Allison Mercedes F1 A Technical Leadership James Allison Mercedes F1 A Technical Leadership James Allison Mercedes F1 A Technical Leadership James Allison Mercedes F1 A Technical Leadership James Allison Mercedes F1 A Technical Leadership James Allison Mercedes F1 A Technical Leadership James Allison Mercedes F1 A Technical Leadership James Allison Mercedes F1 A Technical Leadership



  1. Prince

    21/04/2023 at 23:07

    Exactly..RB have shown that they can win even without the best engine on the grid…
    Ferrari can make good engines but Aerodynamics is not their core strength…

    Think about it Mercedes in 2021 still went back to their engine to beat RB they had to “spicy” Lewis engine to beat max..

    AM is already looking for Honda for 2026 engine deal…I heard Zak Brown went to RB powertrains…If worse comes to worse Mercedes will only be left with Williams…

    For me that speaks volumes….

  2. Hughesy01

    21/04/2023 at 23:06

    While the article mainly focuses on organizational and succession planning, some of the claims made in it are debatable.

    For example, the assertion that Elliot is clueless about ground effect is a matter of opinion and is not supported by concrete evidence. It is also worth noting that Newey’s comments about the lack of value in a concept do not necessarily mean that the idea is without merit, as different engineers may have varying opinions on the matter.

    Regarding MB’s potential irreparable lag behind the competition, it is difficult to predict the future, and it is possible that the team could make significant progress in a relatively short period of time. The cost cap and time constraints may pose challenges, but they do not necessarily guarantee failure.

    As for Elliot’s technical leadership, it is unclear whether subordinates will question his competency, and it is possible that he has other valuable leadership skills that are not related to ground effect.

    Regarding Allison’s competency in ground effect, it is difficult to assess without more information about his expertise in the field.

    Overall, it is clear that MB is facing significant challenges, but it is important to approach the situation with caution and avoid making definitive claims without concrete evidence to support them.

  3. Sixtytwo

    21/04/2023 at 23:05

    Mercedes has dedicated significant resources to a certain concept, but in my opinion, we have yet to see its fully realized version. Despite being subjected to relentless criticism, the focus remains on the aero package, whereas the true issue lay with the suspension failure that caught them off guard. Fortunately, this problem seems to have been resolved with the introduction of a new gearbox casing, enabling the implementation of an entirely new rear suspension and floor. The original plan was sound, with the W13B designed to suffice until the actual W14 arrived, had the RB19 evolved as expected. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

    Had the primary penalty for RBR been starting the season with the 2022 car, the competition would have been much closer, and the Imola W14 could have been a significant breakthrough. However, the RB19 is so fast that it has caused Mercedes to worry as they do not believe they can match its pace at Imola. But what if they can? Maybe James Allison will be able to see the potential of the original concept from a different perspective and use its innovations in a creative manner rather than merely copying another team.

  4. Christ

    21/04/2023 at 19:01

    The FIA’s decision to use full passive suspension systems in modern F1 cars, instead of utilizing hydraulic assistance in the suspension systems as the previous generation of race cars did, doesn’t make sense given the differences in ground effects race cars and the previous era of dominant overbody aero stepped flat bottom cars. These passive suspension systems are even less capable than before, despite the current F1 race cars being even more sensitive to ride height than the previous generation. Mercedes and Ferrari have both struggled as a result, with Mercedes wasting two years of competitive racing and Ferrari facing similar difficulties. Balancing ride height aerodynamics with proper stability and compliance is too difficult with full passive suspension systems, and it’s time to reconsider this decision by the FIA. While two giants of F1 with decades of experience haven’t been made to look like idiots, the ones who pushed for these passive suspension systems should reconsider their decision. The current situation is insane and requires a change.

  5. Ida

    21/04/2023 at 18:58

    In 2026 and beyond, Mercedes and Aston Martin are expected to be competitive challengers to Red Bull, and even if Mercedes doesn’t immediately challenge in 2026, they won’t be in the completely hopeless position that Ferrari currently finds themselves in. While Red Bull is predicted to win at least 15-20 Grand Prix’s per season until 2026, Mercedes has the potential to get it right beyond that point. Initially, McLaren was expected to be a top team in 2026, but it’s uncertain now. Nonetheless, no other team is expected to challenge Red Bull besides Mercedes and Aston Martin. Therefore, while Ferrari may not win another race, Mercedes has a future where championships are likely to happen.

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