Mercedes has undergone a major reshuffle within its technical staff, as the team seeks to recover from being significantly knocked off its perch at the head of the F1 field. On Friday, F1 Initiative reported that previous technical director James Allison is returning to his former position, with his successor Mike Elliott becoming the team’s chief technical officer. This is a significant development for Mercedes, which has struggled to close the gap to competitors this season. While there has been no official press release from Mercedes, the team wanted the news out there in its own way, giving F1 Initiative an exclusive interview with team boss Toto Wolff to discuss the changes.
The reshuffle reflects an attempt to preserve Mercedes‘ united team culture and revitalise its fortunes in F1 competition. There is some speculation that it was a reaction to the internal pressure that had been building within Mercedes to recover from the 2022 rules reset and the return to running ground-effect cars. With the team having fallen so dramatically with the W13, there is now significant pressure on Mercedes to recover its place at the sharp end of the field. The aerodynamic concept employed by Red Bull has proved to be the best in the new era, and Aston Martin has leapt up the order by implementing evolutions of their very different ‘zeropod’ and inwash-sidepoded cars at the start of 2023.
There are several reasons to believe that this latest reshuffle will be successful. First, the decision to move Allison back into a more hands-on role reflects his value to the team. Allison, who expected to be stepping away from his technical director role, instead became a part-time CTO for Mercedes. His amiable, detailed persona chimes with Mercedes‘ fans and he is respected and popular amongst the staff. Allison has an impressive F1 track record, having won multiple title doubles with both Ferrari and Renault.
Second, Wolff‘s careful curation of the change reflects the much-vaunted united team culture that Mercedes seeks to preserve. By keeping Elliott onboard and his position as full-time CTO, Wolff has reflected his worth to the organisation while also addressing how best to deploy Mercedes‘ technical resources from an overarching organisation development perspective. This will allow Allison to concentrate on how to make the W14 and W15 into winning packages.
Finally, the changes at Mercedes have focused attention on the critical inner structure of the team. Rather than replace the top of the pyramid, the team has made critical changes within its technical department. While this may initially appear weaker than the structure in place when Allison handed over Mercedes‘ technical director reins, it reflects a strategic decision to shift the responsibility of returning to winning ways to Allison.
Overall, the reshuffle at Mercedes reflects an attempt to rediscover its winning formula in F1 competition. While the team faces significant pressure to recover its place at the head of the field, it is clear that Mercedes is placing its trust in Allison and Elliott to lead the team to success once again.