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F1 | “I wanted to make sure I could stay true to this team” says James Allison as he moves roles

James Allison, Mercedes technical director, says he stepped back and changed roles because he did not want to stay beyond the point he felt he was at his best. 

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F1 | “I wanted to make sure I could stay true to this team” says James Allison as he moves roles
Fuente imagen: Mercedes AMG Petronas

Allison declared that the decisive point that made him decide to step back from his role, which started at the beginning of 2017, was that he did not want to become an "old embarrassment" for his F1 team and stay beyond where he felt at his best.

During his contract deliberation back in 2019, James was already planning to step back from his technical director post as he wanted to make sure things were in the best shape possible when he handed them over.

"I wanted to make sure that I could be true to this team, to make sure that I commited to being a technical dorector over a period where I could earn my salt but not to outstay my welcome, and to know when the right time to step away was," Allison said.

"I would much rather that was done while I was still useful than becoming an old embarrassment, and that was what was playing on my mind at the time."

James Allison made the move and handed over the technical director duty to Mike Elliott, while he starts a new position as chief technical officer in July

"During the period I was really comfortable and confident to commit to as technical director, we have been collectively working to make sure that the transition from me to Mike would be a success, and would give the company all the benefits that woild come from the vigour of a new set of hands in charge."

Allison explained that at the beginning he thought that stepping away from the role meant that his links to the Mercedes team were done. He thought that he would be stepping away to his sofa to cheer on the team as a punter from the sidelines.

Nonetheless, Toto Wolff, team boss, felt that it was important to keep Allison in close ties, which is why James was elected to a new CTO position.

“I didn’t imagine there would be a space in the team having relinquished this brilliant job. Happily, Toto saw it a little differently and, between us, we worked to save the manner in which I could contribute to the team but with the absolute backstop that my future role could not in any way undermine the crucial importance of the technical director having the real proper responsibility that the technical director should have for the challenge beneath him. 

“The new role had to be one that was not in the front line, was not part of the day-to-day, was not part of the current car or indeed next year’s car.

“It had to be a role where I could focus on longer wavelength stuff than that, and looking at what challenges the entire company might face and how could we best equip ourselves technically to make sure we are well set to face them."

Allison does admit that his time at the Mercedes F1 team has been the most fun be has had in his career, he is also convinced stepping back is the right thing to do.

“I’m sure it is the right thing to do but a huge part of me is screaming at me saying ‘what on earth are you doing?’” he said.

“It is definitely the right thing for me and it is definitely the right thing for the team. The second of those two is the more important.

“I’m pretty sure that I will be able to look back at this golden period that I have been lucky enough to have late in my F1 career, and think how lucky I was to fall in with this group of people at this time and be part of what is arguably the most successful and amazing Formula 1 team that there has ever been.”

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