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Formula 1

Allison back as Mercedes F1 tech director in swap with Elliott

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Mercedes’ senior Formula 1 technical personnel have swapped jobs with James Allison returning to the role of technical director and Mike Elliott becoming chief technical officer.

Elliott replaced Allison as technical director in 2021 when Allison was moved into the newly created chief technical officer role. Those two have now swapped jobs as first reported by Autosport.

F1 has remained part of Allison’s remit over the past 18 months but the CTO job had much broader technical responsibilities for the Mercedes organisation including its non-F1 exploits, primarily the Americas Cup project.

Elliott was the natural successor to Allison as he worked with him at Lotus prior to joining Mercedes as head of aerodynamics in 2012, then when Allison joined Mercedes as well Elliott had risen to Mercedes’ technology director.

He was highly rated within the organisation but Mercedes has designed its two weakest cars of the V6 turbo-hybrid era under his technical leadership.

Mercedes had a poor start to the new ground effect technical rules in 2022 but persevered with its concept, which became symbolised by a unique minimal sidepod design that Elliott consistently defended.

At the start of 2023, after Mercedes kept faith with the fundamentals of its original concept but started with a significant deficit to Red Bull yet again, team principal Toto Wolff declared immediately after qualifying at the Bahrain season opener that it had made the wrong decision.

It became clear that Mercedes would pursue alternative design directions but Wolff never suggested Elliott would be moved aside to facilitate that.

However, in the final week of F1’s prolonged April calendar gap, it has been reported by Autosport that Allison will have a more hands-on role again by replacing Elliott as technical director.

The Race has approached the team for comment but while Mercedes has not confirmed the change, Wolff has been quoted confirming the job swap and claiming it was instigated by Elliott himself.

Wolff claims that Elliott felt his skills were more suited to the broader responsibilities of the CTO role, and Allison was a better choice for a single car project.

A Mercedes spokesperson told the BBC: “Mike has led a review of our technical organisation to ensure we have the right structure to deliver sustainable success in the future.

“We are focused on building the best racing car – and building the best team to develop that car, with everybody playing to their greatest strengths in the organisation.”

There is also a change in Mercedes’ designer responsibilities with the role of ‘engineering director’ – held by Aldo Costa until he left the team in 2018 – returning.

This will be held by Giacomo Tortora, partly to free up chief designer John Owen to free him up from more administrative tasks that had been assumed in the budget cap era.

The changes are not going to result in adjustments to the development direction that Mercedes had moved to in recent weeks, which will inform upgrades that should arrive on the car in the next month or two.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Race Day Melbourne, Australia

In a team Q&A published this week, Wolff said: “In terms of car development, it is encouraging to see that within three races, we understand the car much better, we have defined a clear direction where we need to go and I believe we are on the right trajectory.

“We need to consolidate our understanding and hopefully over the next few races we can make another step.

“It’s also important to keep on track and not oscillate too much between exuberance and depression; to stay rational and believe in our trajectory, believe in the capability of the team.

“There will be setbacks but there will also be upgrades and plenty of work that will help us get closer to the front.”

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