Autosport says Allison’s return “is a big moment in the story of Formula 1 2023”

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After it was announced that James Allison will reassume his old technical director role, Autosport took a closer look at what the move means for Mercedes.

James Allison’s return to his former position of Mercedes Technical Director might turn out to be one of the biggest Formula 1 stories of 2023. At least that’s what Autosport’s Alex Kalinauckas believes.

“James Allison returning as technical director at Mercedes is a big moment in the story of Formula 1 2023, but also overall at one of the championship’s superteams,” Kalinauckas wrote in his analysis of the situation.

“On Friday morning, Autosport revealed that Allison is going back to the previous position he held at the team, with his successor Mike Elliott swapping roles in the other direction and becoming the team’s chief technical officer.

“In several ways, this is starkly new ground for the modern Mercedes squad, i that it finds itself in such dire straits compared to its years as F1’s dominator that a major change to its technical staff has been felt necessary and that it hasn’t been able to close a gap to a competitor with an initial car design update plan, as it did successfully, for example, in 2021.”

Kalinauckas further analyzed Mercedes’ decision not to announce the change with a press release, but instead via an exclusive interview with Autosport’s Jonathan Noble.

“Wolff says it was at Elliott’s urging that the change was made. That Elliott felt ‘with James we have a gladiator on the field and the troops are going to go through the fire for him and with him’.

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“There has so far been no official press release message from Mercedes that the change has been made and that is understood to be remaining as the case, which softens the impact for both Elliott and its organisation overall. But the team wanted the news out there in its own way, giving F1 editor Jonathan Noble an exclusive interview with Wolff to discuss the development.

“This is both an attempt at preserving its much-vaunted united team culture and also, apparently, a bid to stoke its fire and revitalise its fortunes in F1 competition.

“What cannot be fully known right now is how much Elliott’s decision was reached in reaction to the internal pressure at Mercedes that had been building – to recover from being so significantly knocked off its perch at the head of the F1 field by the 2022 rules reset and the return to running ground-effect cars.”

Kalinauckas goes on to say that Mercedes decided not to make a big deal out of Elliott’s ‘removal’, instead his move to the Chief Technical Officer role shows that his work is appreciated.

“The axe has not swung for Elliott in the traditional F1 sense as it has for Mattia Binotto at Ferrari and James Key at McLaren. Instead, Wolff has kept Elliott onboard, and his position as a full-time CTO reflects the worth he clearly has to the organisation.

“Elliott will now address how best to deploy Mercedes’ technical resources from an overarching organisation development perspective, with Allison directly working on how to make the W14 and W15 into winning packages.”

Kalinauckas then analysed what the move tells us about how much Allison means to the team.

“Mercedes is shifting the responsibility that comes with the pressure to return to winning ways to Allison, but it has done this precisely because of his value to the team.

“It’s worth remembering that Allison expected to be ‘stepping away to my sofa to cheer the team from the sidelines as a punter’, when he stood down as technical director, wanting to avoid ‘becoming an old embarrassment’.

“But instead, Wolff created the part-time CTO for him and kept it in-fold, a decision which appears to be paying off significantly right now in that Mercedes has a proven technical director to try and revitalise its fortunes.

“At the same time, the major role swap reflects that a key moment in Wolff’s Mercedes leadership – its second technical director change – was ultimately unsuccessful.

“But Wolff’s explanation of Allison’s ‘gladiator’ worth via Elliott reflects that Mercedes thinks this third technical director appointment will be a well-received reshuffle internally.

“Allison is a popular and respected figure amongst Mercedes’ staff, while his amiable and detailed persona chimes with its fans too.

“Allison bringing that back to F1 also restores what Mercedes had lost on this front by losing the very polished and comprehensive James Vowles to Williams,” Kalinauckas concluded.

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