until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Why Allison is back despite his prior ‘shelf life’ admission

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Mercedes’ reshuffle of senior Formula 1 technical personnel reappoints someone – James Allison – who was already wary of reaching his “shelf life” two years ago.

Allison is back in command of the F1 technical team on a day-by-day basis after fewer than two years in the role of chief technical officer.

That position was created by Mercedes for Allison to keep him within the organisation, and with F1 as part of a much broader remit, as he reached a point he wanted to step back.

“I firmly believe that people have a shelf life in senior roles in this sport, 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,” Allison said back in 2021.

Now Allison is technical director again, swapping jobs with Mike Elliott, who became his successor in July 2021.

This can be viewed a few different ways, including appearing like a strange backwards step for someone who had climbed so high that Mercedes needed to make an all-new position and adjust its structure for him.

But that very structure is part of what makes being a technical director viable for Allison again, even if it only ends up being a short-term move.

The CTO role was set up to free Allison from the pressure and intensity of managing the current project and ultimately being in charge of longer-term planning and essentially every major technical demand the F1 team had.

It handed control of the immediate, short-term technical operations over to Elliott and allowed Allison to focus on how to “help the team meet the strategic challenges of the sport’s next era”.

With Elliott remaining part of Mercedes within this restructuring, and taking Allison’s CTO role, that longer-term work is in capable hands and is not a burden Allison has to worry about.

And not needing to worry about spreading himself too thin focusing on organisational and strategic matters makes the notion of resuming the hands-on work associated with being technical director much more palatable.

It also coincides with Allison having had time away from the coalface, both in terms of day-to-day intensity and total workload, as his CTO role reduced his working time to three days a week.

It may not have been done with the explicit intent of giving him a chance to recharge, and reassess, but that is exactly what it has facilitated.

When Allison decided he wanted to relinquish the job before, it came after a very intense time at Mercedes.

He joined in 2017 and oversaw Mercedes’ response to the challenge of his former employer Ferrari – such as the in-season development races of 2017 and 2018, or the controversial Ferrari engine of 2019 that pushed Mercedes to breaking point in response.

The might of Mercedes’ technical organisation under Allison was demonstrated by the W11 of 2020, a stunningly effective and innovative car that is one of the greatest designs ever and certainly the best Mercedes of its run of V6 turbo-hybrid era title winners.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Steiermark Grand Prix Race Day Spielberg, Austria

But it came at a cost and for Allison that meant a desire to scale back and slow down.

Now, instigated by Elliott, the opportunity to return to a more involved role has arisen and Allison found himself open to the idea in a way he would almost certainly not have been two years ago.

He is technical director again, but not in the same circumstances. He’s rejuvenated, with a different remit, and facing the unfamiliar but surely enticing challenge of helping to restore Mercedes to its title-challenging pomp.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks