Returning Mercedes technical director, James Allison, has highlighted what he believes are the strengths and weaknesses of the W14 car and explained why he has come back to the F1 fold.
Allison initially left the technical director role in 2021 as part of a Mercedes reshuffle but, as the struggles with the Mercedes car concept continued from 2022 and into 2023, so too did the rumours that Allison was going to come back in a more hands-on role to try and help turn the Silver Arrows’ fortunes around.
Mercedes had denied that changes were afoot, yet another internal review led by Mike Elliott has led to the two key figureheads swapping roles. Elliott becomes chief technical officer with Allison taking his place as technical director once more.
Speaking on the latest edition of the F1 Nation podcast, Allison opened up on why the changes have been made now and whether he needed much persuading to return to what is a very demanding role within the Mercedes F1 garage.
“I’m missing it!” Allison said.
“No, it’s we just had a bit of a examining of our own navels here in Brackley, and between Mike and I we concluded that the pair of us can cover the ground reasonably well.
“But perhaps I was better suited to the short term fighting of a championship with a car and and that he was the much better chess player of the pair of us and he would be better suited to doing the job I was doing as a CTO previously.
“We jiggled it about and came up with something that we think is a better fighting machine overall.”
Allison had previously cited that one of the main reasons he wanted to step away from the technical director role was to spend more time at home and has explained the heartbreaking circumstances which led to that decision.
“A lot of that goes back to the very, very long and tragic shadow cast by my wife dying and, and being lucky enough a few years later to meet somebody else, who, at the time was living in France, and working in France and had all her life in France and had done for 20 years or so.
“And when she kindly, some would say foolishly, agreed for us to live together, she was giving up an awful lot.
“It was a little unfair from my point of view to cast her drift and ‘say thanks for coming over to England, I’ll see you five minutes a week!’
“The stepping back from the frontline role of technical director allowed some space for our relationship to flourish in a way that would have been tough otherwise, but that was over two years ago since Clemmie moved over and, and she has roots in this country now doing her own thing that doesn’t depend on my face!
“So it’s much more believable, much more possible now to do this than it would have been two and a bit years ago.”
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Allison’s true influence on the Mercedes F1 challenger will not be felt again until next year at the very earliest, but the W14 will be the initial canvas he has to work with this season.
Asked what the W14’s strengths and weaknesses are, Allison replied: Well it’s reliable, touch wood. So that’s a definite strength.
“It’s got a very quick pair of punters pedalling it round [in Lewis Hamilton and George Russell].
“It’s better than most of the grid out there but until it’s the quickest one, it will always feel like a weak car to all of us.
“It’s adequately kind to its tires, but not as good as some of the cars that we’ve made in the past.
“It’s got more downforce than most of the cars on the grid, but not sufficient.
“Its handling characteristics leave a little to be desired and need to be worked on, for sure. But, you know, none of this stuff is revelatory.
“We’ve been talking about it most weekends and, and it’s part of what this team needs to address to get winning material back in our hands.”