Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are depending on the return of James Allison, to the role of Mercedes technical director, to get their Formula 1 team out of the rut they have been in for the past two seasons.
With one podium in the first four races (Hamilton in Melbourne), stats are looking bleak for Mercedes. With four races done and dusted, out of a record F1 23 rounds, they already trail pace-setters Red Bull by 104 points in the 2023 F1 Constructors standings, and of course, neither Russell nor Hamilton is even close on points to leader Max Verstappen.
Talking of his ‘comeback’ during an F1 Nation podcast, Allison distanced himself from the problematic and enigmatic W14: “I was much less involved than I had been as a technical director. I was more manoeuvring around in the sort of 2026 space than in the here and now of the current car.
“It certainly is a fair old chunk of effort to get up to speed with everything. Not merely the regulations, but the full engine of the factory and the race team and all the things that are currently in play in the championship fight. But it’s exciting and fun and interesting and a pleasure to be back up to my neck in it,” revealed Allison in an earlier report.
Hamilton: James’s obviously got an amazing amount of experience
Speaking of the return of Allison, who oversaw the unprecedented eight-year-long, 15 F1 titles winning streak, Hamilton told Sky F1: “James has always been a part of the team, obviously he was focused a little bit on another area before. Having him step back in to support, and work alongside Mike, I think is only going to strengthen the team moving forwards.”
“I think moving forward it’s just going to be great for the team. Particularly with all the things we want to achieve, not only on-track but off-track, I think it’s going to be good. James is massively competitive. He has got amazing experience in the position he’s in, he is really great at making sharp and strong decisions.
“Just the experience he had, back at Ferrari, he’s worked with great drivers and great teams. He’s just very approachable and really great at pulling together people and saying this is the direction we’re going. I think he’s going to work really well with Mike; Mike is incredibly talented and this only strengthens the package we already have,” declared Hamilton; a seven-time F1 World Champion, four of them with Allison in his corner since 2017.
Worth noting as Mercedes look to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix for upgrades to reignite their season and set them on a proper development trajectory, it is unlikely that Allison had any influence on what will be unloaded in the Imola paddock. So don’t blame him if nothing happens, and they stay
Russell: Toto’s managing 2,000 people
Hamilton’s younger Mercedes teammate Russell shared his view on the reshuffle: “It’s really good news. Obviously, Mike was the technical director and James was sort of overseeing a few different projects and now effectively we’ve got both of them full-time. Mike is one of, if not the most, intelligent blokes I’ve ever come across in my life, but I think placing him in this new role will really put him in his element.
“When it comes to a team sport, it’s not just drivers, we’re managing, well Toto’s managing 2,000 people. Or if you talk about a football team you need to get your best players in the right positions to get the overall team result and effectively that’s what this change has been. In both regards, we’ve swapped around and put both where they belong,” explained Russell.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend will have been a stark wake-up call for Allison, as the team has slumped to a previously unheard-of fourth in the race pecking order, no matter who it is spun – behind customers Aston Martin!
In Baku GP Qualifying Q3, Charles Leclerc’s pole-winning time, in the Ferrari, was a massive 0.974s faster than what the fabled ‘Hammertime’ had to offer; with Russell not even making it into the final stanza of the session. A day later, at the end of the Sprint Qualy, George was half a second adrift of Charles; Hamilton eight-tenths down.
Thus Allison has work to do, starting with making sure the Imola upgrades prove to be the tonic needed to at least close the gap to Mercedes and, once and for all trashcan the aero concept that broke cover last year, as the Mercedes’ ill-fated solution to the new F1 aero era – aka the W13 – which morphed into an equally inadequate and problematic W14, a couple of shitboxes that turned the once serial winners into also-rans, and with it ruining the fine legacy of great tri-star badged F1 mean machines that their eight predecessors were.
In other words, an Allison-inspired F1 miracle cannot come soon enough for Mercedes, and although he can’t be blamed or credited for what emerges out of the goodie bag at Imola, thereafter the ball is firmly in his court to turn things around. Fast.