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Formula 1

Allison predicts ‘explosion of creativity’ from Mercedes

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

Mercedes technical director James Allison suspects there will be an “explosion of creative effort” in the Formula 1 team once the crisis-enforced shutdown ends.

The 2020 season has yet to begin and has been suspended until July because of the COVID-19 outbreak, with the summer shutdown brought forward and extended to cover March, April and May.

Though Mercedes and the other UK-based F1 teams have lent their expertise to technological projects to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, any work relating to their 2020 cars is forbidden.

Allison thinks that through the team, which stunned rivals with its innovative dual-axis steering system in pre-season testing, there will be creative thinking ready to be unleashed when the shutdown is over.

“If we can’t race we can’t earn, if we can’t earn we shouldn’t spend,” Allison said in an in-house Mercedes interview published on YouTube. “And so shutdown is the most sensible way for us to traverse this difficult period.

“But it doesn’t mean that your brain shuts off completely and up and down our company there will be many an engineer who is sitting there pondering how to put themselves to making the car faster when we do eventually return to work.

“I think this break will prompt all sorts of creative ideas in our team because quite often the best ideas come when you’re faced with a different challenge, when your mind is running free and doing different things.

“So I suspect when we get back having had our creativity and our efforts stymied by this virus, we’ll have an explosion of creative effort amongst the whole team.”

Allison joined Mercedes at the start of 2017, taking over the technical operation of a team that had won three consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship doubles.

Though Mercedes’ 2017 car for the new aerodynamic regulations was designed prior to his arrival, the team has remained on top under his technical leadership through another aero change in 2019 and headed to Australia, prior to its cancellation, as the 2020 pre-season favourite.

Allison was an aerodynamics expert at Larrouse, Benetton and Ferrari before moving into leadership roles at Lotus, Ferrari (for a second time) and now Mercedes.

He said he misses the direct day-to-day creative work in the way “a married couple who’ve had children missed the days when they used to go out partying and living things up, but I’ve got the pleasure of different things now just as the married couple have the pleasure of their children”.

“If you’re lucky enough as you move through a career in this sport, you get different challenges put in front of you at different times of your career,” he said.

“Where I don’t any longer have a drawing board, and I don’t have a CAD screen to play with anymore, I get put lots of other things in front of me instead.

“Those are richly rewarding things, being involved in a leadership role in an F1 team is really exciting. And a great privilege and proper pleasure.

“When things go well, and you know that you played some small part in bringing that about, and you see the pleasure written across the face of the whole team, that is a very, very rare pleasure and something which I take a lot of joy from.”

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