James Allison’s name has become one of the most renowned in the Formula 1 world. James joined Mercedes in 2017 as the Technical Director. The Technical Director has a HUGE role in how the team works. They oversee how the team designs and fabricates the car. There is a more detailed explanation of the role later in the post. James Allison has spent 4 years as the Mercedes Technical Director but is now stepping down from this demanding role. Mercedes formed a new role, called Chief Technical Officer, which Allison will be taking up. Mercedes’ current Technology Director, Mike Elliott, has now taken over the Technical Director role.
Over the next few months, Elliott will be integrated into his new role, as Allison’s focusses will be realigned. The Technical Director is usually very busy every day. James Allison once explained what the Technical Director does. For every team, the answer would be different, but Allison provided a general idea of what the role holds.
“In general terms, the technical director is responsible for making sure the car is legal, safe, fast and reliable. He or she tries to marshal all of the technical resources the company is able to provide. They try to maximise the possibility that you’ll win a championship in any given year. Or, if you’re a smaller team, to get the maximum amount of points conceivable with the resources available. However, no single person can be responsible for those things, except in a titular sense, because the scope is massive. You just can’t have the breadth of professional knowledge to be an expert in every field of what is a famously complicated sport.”
“And so, the task is divided across many willing shoulders. My role – I guess – is to coordinate with those folk to try and find consensus among them where it’s not self-evident what the path forward should be. On occasion, I make single decisions because they just require somebody to make a decision. That job is like many managerial jobs, in that it requires the setting of objectives, and putting in place the resources to follow those objectives.”
“Of course, when I put it like that it sounds like the worst job in the world – and yet it’s the most brilliant, thrilling, rush of a job,” he continues. “More than anything else, an F1 team is a team. It’s the team part of it that you revel in every single day of your working life. The technical director has the privilege of sitting in an influential part of that team and having the pleasure of seeing things working well – or having the responsibility of trying to turn the corner if things aren’t working well. It’s an amazing, fortunate, demanding, fun job.”
In 2021, Mike Elliott will be taking over that role. The Technical Director is certainly a very important figure with a massive, yet exciting role. But it demands a lot from a person and James feels it’s time to “hand over the baton” to Elliott.
“I firmly believe that people have a shelf life in senior roles in this sport,” he said. “And I have chosen to step away from my role as Technical Director in order to pass on the baton at the right time for the organisation and myself.
“I have enjoyed four and a half wonderful years as Technical Director, and it has been a special privilege to lead the technical effort of the team in that time. It is a great pleasure to be succeeded by Mike, an exceptional engineer in a tremendously strong group of senior leaders in the team.
“We will benefit from the freshness that he will bring to the role – and I hope I can continue to make a useful contribution across a new sphere of activity in my role as CTO, with a focus on increasing our capability across the board and supporting Toto [Wolff] with the major strategic challenges we face in the near future.”
“Since joining Mercedes in 2017 James has been an exceptional technical leader for our team and he has made an enormous contribution to our performance,” said Wolff. “He combines huge passion and determination with detailed expertise and exceptional moral character.
“We have known for a while that his time as Technical Director would be coming to an end this year. I am delighted that we have been able to shape this new role to keep him within our motorsport family. He will be an important sparring partner for me in the next years and I know that we still have much to achieve together.”
“We often say that the organisation is a dynamic organism and that we need to adapt continuously if we want to truly thrive. Effective succession planning has been a strength of our team. So I am delighted to announce Mike in his new role as Technical Director. We first met at the beginning of 2013 when I joined the team. We have spent many hours talking about the team and its evolution since then.
“Mike has developed from our Head of Aerodynamics to now being ready to take the step up to become Technical Director. Together with an exceptional group of senior technical leaders, this puts us in the best possible position for the sport’s next era.”
As Toto Wolff said, Allison’s focuses will now be on the upcoming major regulation changes. These changes will see major changes to the F1 cars’ aerodynamics, chassis, and engines. Obviously, this is a major challenge for Mercedes and for all of the teams in general. Mercedes have to find a way to stay ahead of the rest of the field coming into this new era. So, to give them their best chance of remaining on top in 2022 and beyond, Mercedes have given James Allison the responsibility to take care of the future challenges. It makes sense, given the fact that Allison is one of, if not the best technical personnel currently in F1.
Besides, Mike Elliott is a great successor to James Allison. In his career, Allison has worked for many teams and has achieved 12 Constructors’ Titles while working for certain teams. 5 with Ferrari, 4 with Mercedes, 2 with Renault and 1 with Benetton. Mike Elliott has achieved 8, with 7 of them being with Mercedes, and 1 with McLaren in 2008. Elliott achieved a Master of Engineering in Aeronautical Engineering, He then achieved a PhD in Aerodynamics from Imperial College London before starting his career in F1. He was working for McLaren from 2000 – 2008, for Renault/Lotus from 2008 – 2012, and then in 2012, he joined Mercedes.
It’s safe to say he’s going to do really well as the Technical Director for Mercedes. I think that although Allison stepping down is a MASSIVE change, it’s a good change. Mercedes knew a few months ago that Allison wanted to step down. They’ve been trying to work out how Allison could stay in the team while not being the Technical Director. It’s great to see that this has worked out for Mercedes, and we’ll see how Elliott does in his new role!