James Allison makes shock return to Mercedes technical role after major reshuffle

Thomas Maher
James Allison, Mercedes, in the F1 paddock. Montreal, June 2022.

James Allison, Mercedes, arrives for the Canadian Grand Prix. Montreal, June 2022.

Mercedes have re-appointed James Allison as their technical director, with a major reshuffle taking place at the team following a poor start to 2023.

PlanetF1.com can confirm that Mike Elliott and James Allison are set to swap roles at Mercedes, with Allison leaving his role as Chief Technical Officer to return to his role as Technical Director for the Brackley-based team.

Elliott will move in the opposite direction, taking over Allison’s current role as CTO – the position Allison moved to after stepping aside from day-to-day involvement in the race team during 2021.

According to Mercedes, the changes have come about as a result of Elliott’s own review into their technical organisation, with a Mercedes spokesperson confirming to PlanetF1.com that “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.”

In an interview with the Motorsport Network, as quoted by the BBC, team boss Toto Wolff has confirmed the changes after a period of introspection at Brackley.

“Mike’s assessment was, and the introspection is really admirable, that with James we have a gladiator on the field and the troops are going to go through the fire for him and with him,” he said.

Elliott’s role will see him focusing on “developing the organisation going forward.”

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Why are Mercedes making the change?

Mercedes’ form has taken a big dip over the past two seasons, coinciding with the changes to their technical structure that saw Allison leave his role as Technical Director during 2021 as part of a transition period to future-proof the eight-time World Champions’ structure.

Allison’s day-to-day involvement in the design of the team’s F1 cars ceased, with the British engineer moving to a more strategic-based role as well as other projects such as the America’s Cup, in collaboration with Mercedes’ shareholder and sponsor INEOS.

But the major changes to the F1 regulations for 2022, introducing ground-effect-based downforce, has topped Mercedes from the pinnacle of F1, with the Red Bull outfit taking over at the top of the sport and Mercedes playing catch-up.

With the team going down a path of a completely different aerodynamic philosophy to the rest of the field, with the most egregious element being the ‘no-sidepods’ design, the W13, and W14 have not been capable of challenging Red Bull and, usually, Ferrari.

However, after sticking with the philosophy for 2023, Toto Wolff sensationally admitted in Bahrain that the philosophy was the wrong choice, and admitted his team had “got it wrong” by sticking with the concept. Lewis Hamilton also made his feelings clear on the subject, saying that the Mercedes engineers had not listened to his opinion about what he wanted done with the car for 2023.

Mercedes confirmed that, as part of the internal review, chief designer John Owen’s role will see him refocused on car design after being distracted by budget cap compliance, with his deputy, Giacomo Tortora named as engineering director.

Allison will hit the ground running by attending next week’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Mercedes are the second team to have carried out a major restructuring of their technical personnel after a poor start to 2023, with McLaren dropping technical director James Key to replace him with a technical triumvirate focusing on three different areas of engineering.