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Formula 1

Who is Mercedes’ ‘fearsomely good’ Allison replacement?

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Mercedes technical director James Allison is one of Formula 1’s most popular and well-respected team members, which makes succeeding him an unenviable task.

Mike Elliott, who will take over Allison’s job on July 1, is the man to whom that challenge falls.

It’s become common practice for Mercedes to promote from within and the strategy has worked well for the world champion team, proving that a lower public profile tends to have little correlation with an individual’s qualities.

So it is with Elliott, who has been a crucial part of the Mercedes technical structure for many years and risen to the rank of technology director.

Mike Elliott Mercedes F1

He is a “fearsomely good engineer” according to Allison, and his career in grand prix racing was inspired by a man he now shares a desk area with: Mercedes’ chief designer John Owen.

The two first met when Elliott was on his PHD placement and Owen advised him to pursue opportunities in F1. They have now worked together closely at Mercedes for nine years and are part of the same leadership cluster at Brackley.

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Elliott would not have risen to his imminent rank without the necessary credentials as an engineer but he is also touted as one of the founding members of Mercedes’ ultra-successful culture of working.

That is an important element of his appointment as the new technical director because in addition to commanding the respect of his peers he can also be trusted to lead by example.

“He works as one of the group of people that really have built the foundation on which these championships have been won,” says Allison.

Mercedes F1 garage Imola

“One of the things I noticed, as soon as I joined this team, was there is a layer of people in the team of extraordinary quality, who have been working together with each other for a number of years, and who enjoy working together, who have formed the core of our performance development.

“Each of whom knows that they bring a lot to the table. But collectively, they bring something absolutely magical to the table.

“Those people are still very much there and doing the things they did before. Mike is one of them, and Mike works very well with that group.”

Elliott has a background in aerodynamics and started work in F1 with McLaren, moving to Renault/Lotus where he became the Enstone team’s principle aerodynamicist, and joined Mercedes in 2012 as head of aero.

He has what Mercedes calls a “rounded understanding of car performance” because of roles on the race team and understanding the impact of aero on vehicle dynamics, and since becoming technology director in 2017 has taken on a much broader set of responsibilities.

As technology director he has been in charge of ensuring the team’s equipment and practices – principally the windtunnel but also dyno and CFD facilities – are at the highest possible quality.

Mike Elliott Mercedes F1

Incidentally, his knowledge has also made Elliott a worthy addition to Mercedes’ roster of in-house technical videos.

Allison sets a high bar and few in F1 can match him for charisma or turn-of-phrase, but Elliott has played his own part and put his background to good use in videos explaining how certain parts of an F1 car work to a wider audience.

More importantly for Mercedes he has gained the experience and understanding required to slot into a vital role as seamlessly as possible, to the point Allison expects no awkwardness around the handover.

Elliott has worked alongside Allison in his current position and spent time in recent months assisting with some aspects of the technical director role, as he transitions to assuming the job full-time from July.

“I have had such a great relationship with him over all these years,” says team boss Toto Wolff, who became a Mercedes managing partner in January 2013 shortly after Elliott’s arrival.

“He’s a hugely competent, intelligent and intellectual engineer, someone who has been a fundamental pillar in the team’s success and recognised from the whole organisation.

“That’s why I’m really happy that he’s become the technical director.

“We have such a solid group and he’s one of a group that will lead the team in the future.”

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