Mercedes technical director James Allison said the team “moving in a better direction” will give him the reward for sacrificing his “self-indulgent time” by returning to the role.
One of the most successful F1 designers of all-time, Allison moved to the Mercedes chief technical officer role in 2021, this coinciding with a move away from full F1 focus by taking on the same position with Ineos Team UK Britannia’s America’s Cup team.
Allison had swaped roles with Mike Elliott, though this was reversed during 2023, Allison returning to the technical director position as Mercedes strive to escape an alarming slump in form, having gone winless in F1 2023 for the first time since 2011.
James Allison chasing fulfillment from Mercedes progress
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is promising a new-look challenger for their F1 2024 creation, the W15, which should it take Mercedes forward as hoped, will make working more than he wants to after returning to the technical director role worth it for Allison.
“I do love tinkering. I could amuse myself forever doing stuff in my garage and on airfields and just general larking around,” said Allison on the Performance People podcast.
“But it’s not work related and the role that I do in the team doesn’t leave much space for that type of self-indulgence.
“But, what it does do, is it gives an incredibly rewarding, challenging, yes, but incredibly rewarding emotionally job. And so although I spend maybe more time at work working than I would wish, that time is nevertheless extremely enjoyable and exciting.
“And if things are moving in a better direction, then incredibly fulfilling and makes your sort of sense of purpose feel pretty energised.
“So, what persuaded me to step back into it? I’d spent a year-and-a-half or so being half-retired, working three days a week, which did allow me an awful lot of tinkering around time and playing time and it was great, but the downside of it was that I was away from the hurly burly and the fight.
“Cliches I know, but that’s sort of what Formula 1 feels like to me. And I like the fight and the struggle and being alongside my team-mates in the thick of that fight. And to be still in the company, but slightly displaced from what was going on, especially in a period where it was clear that the team was suffering, it didn’t feel particularly good.
“And so when I was asked to consider whether I would come back and take it back on, although I was a little sorrowful that would mean sort of curtailing my self-indulgent time, it was with a glad heart from the point of view of tucking into the work alongside my team-mates and enjoying the fight together, to try to get things moving forward together once more.”
Eight-time Constructors’ Champions Mercedes are searching for the route to title glory in F1’s ground effect era, which so far has been dominated by Red Bull, who scored 21 grand prix wins from 22 outings in F1 2023.