Sky F1 reporter speculates over Lewis Hamilton involvement in Mike Elliott swap

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton with his head down.

Lewis Hamilton looking down in his Mercedes gear.

Sky F1 reporter Craig Slater pondered whether Lewis Hamilton, who drove Mercedes development in a difficult F1 2022, put the wheel in motion for the Mike Elliott-James Allison role swap.

Elliott became Mercedes’ technical director in 2021, a role switch which saw Allison become chief technical officer.

However, with Mercedes having failed to challenge for further title glory across the 2022 and 2023 campaigns, Red Bull so far mastering Formula 1’s return to ground effect aerodynamics, Mercedes reversed that switch in 2023, following a review led by Elliott, as Allison returned to the technical director role, Elliott moving back over to chief technical officer.

Did Lewis Hamilton influence Mercedes role reversal?

That proved to be a short-term return to the role, as Elliott announced his exit from Mercedes in the week following the Mexican Grand Prix.

Questions were raised over Hamilton’s future in Formula 1 when after the controversial defeat to Max Verstappen in the 2021 Abu Dhabi title-decider, 2022 saw Mercedes off the pace and Hamilton seemingly below his best.

However, Hamilton maintained faith in Mercedes, recently signing a new deal until the end of F1 2025, though he has not been afraid to say it how it is for his team in this baron spell, claiming following the F1 2023 season-opener in Bahrain that Mercedes had not listened to his input for the W14.

So, did Hamilton play a part in Mercedes putting Allison back into the technical director role?

“It’s quite a significant movement bringing Allison back,” said Slater on the Sky F1 podcast before Elliott’s departure was confirmed. “Especially when you have promoted someone to a theoretically higher role.

“The rearrangement at Mercedes over the last two years, not saying Lewis was negative in any way in 2022, but there was a kind sobriety and restraint about the way he would speak.

“And I sense now, he’s much more on the front foot again. I think he feels that yes, the building blocks and the right people are in place, in terms of where the car development is going.

“That little quote I made was almost, was that in reference to Mike Elliott, or the engineers who want to go a different way from the kind of Red Bull path that Mercedes have now adopted?

“But you just get the sense, Lewis feels that at least the right personnel are in the right spots with Allison in the lead.

“It’s just can they set the targets and parameters right now and are Red Bull just a little bit too far ahead? Is [Adrian] Newey beatable on aero over this winter? That’s a big question.”

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Lewis Hamilton versus George Russell does matter

Adding to the disappointment of Mercedes’ 2022 campaign for Hamilton, the seven-time World Champion also finished the season behind new team-mate George Russell in the standings.

Hamilton made the point of being the one searching deep into setups for answers to get Mercedes out of the rut, and in F1 2023 the momentum has swung, Hamilton now hunting down Red Bull’s Sergio Perez for the Drivers’ Championship runner-up spot, 69 points ahead of Russell.

But, if Russell had have gained the upper hand on Hamilton again this season, then Slater said there would have been a “different public narrative” at play.

“Lewis spent a lot of 2022 wrestling with the Mercedes, taking on the burden of development,” said Slater.

“But had he been outscored for a second successive season by George Russell, there would have been a different public narrative.

“And you can say yes, this has been another year of rebuilding from Mercedes, so where they finish doesn’t necessarily matter, or how many points Lewis scores vis-à-vis George doesn’t necessarily matter either.

“But the public narrative would have had an impact. Instead of that, he’s a master. A huge gulf in points between himself and George and is now ahead in terms of head-to-head qualifying as well, which we all know is one of George Russell’s strong points. So I think some of these things do matter.”

With three rounds of F1 2023 to go, only 20 points separate Perez and Hamilton, as the Mercedes driver looks to deny Red Bull their first one-two finish in the Drivers’ standings.

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