Allison returns to Mercedes as Tech director; swapping with Elliott
Written By Hugh Waring, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
In a surprising move, Mercedes has announced James Allison’s return to his former role, as technical director for the team, while Mike Elliott will take on the role of Chief Technical Officer. This swap between the team's senior Formula 1 technical personnel was first reported by Autosport.
Allison had previously held the position of technical director, but was moved to the newly created role of CTO in 2021. In this position, he was responsible for overseeing not only the team's F1 efforts, but also its non-F1 projects, such as that of the Americas Cup.
Elliott had taken over from Allison as technical director in 2021, but is now being replaced due to the team's recent struggles with car design. Despite being highly rated within the team, Mercedes had designed two of its weakest cars of the V6 turbo-hybrid era under Elliott's technical leadership.
Mercedes had a poor start to the new ground effect technical rules in 2022, but persisted with its concept, symbolised by a unique minimal sidepod design defended by Elliot. However, after starting the 2023 season with a significant deficit to Red Bull, team principal Toto Wolff declared that the team had made the wrong decision.
Wolff has been quoted as confirming the job swap, and claiming that it was instigated by Elliott himself. Wolff claims that Elliott felt his skills were more suited to the broader responsibilities of the CTO role, while Allison was a better choice for a single car project.
Image: Motorsport Images
In addition to the change in technical personnel, there is also a change in Mercedes' designer responsibilities, with the role of 'engineering director' returning to the team. This role, previously held by Aldo Costa until 2018, will be taken on by Giacomo Tortora. This also gives greater freedom to Chief Designer John Owen.
Despite the changes, Mercedes has stated that they will not result in adjustments to the development direction the team had moved to in recent weeks. Upgrades expected to arrive on the car in the next month or two will still be informed by this development direction.
Wolff has remained optimistic about the team's prospects, stating that they’d defined a clear direction for car development, and his belief that they were on the right trajectory. He emphasised the importance of staying rational, and believing in the team’s capabilities, despite setbacks that may occur.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff recently made a comment about this reshuffle: “This was very much driven by Mike Elliott owning the process. So, we have reversed the roles.
“Mike has moved up to CTO, as he has a brilliant switched-on scientific mind. And James Allison has returned to his Technical Director position, reporting to Mike.
“What Mike’s assessment was, and the introspection is really admirable, is 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.
“Mike came to the conclusion that the way he approaches things, his skill set, is best utilised in developing the organisation going forward: from technical capabilities to human capabilities and putting together the structure that can be successful for many years to come. The Austrian said.
"It's about creating a structure that can be sustainably successful going into the next generation.
"We're seeing huge changes in the technical developments, artificial intelligence and machine learning. And at the same time, looking at how is a modern Formula 1 team going to be organised and structured: what kind of innovation can be brought in.
"Mike sees himself very much in his sweet spot there and obviously he's a super capable engineer, very credible and respected in the organisation. He is going to be a coach and sparring partner for the most senior people.
"And I'm actually very happy that Mike took this decision by himself to put himself in this role, with both him and James coming to this conclusion, as we are having both of them in their genius."