James Allison is “in his element” back in the Formula 1 paddock.
That is the view not only of 55-year-old Allison himself, who has returned to the top technical job at Mercedes after an absence, but also team driver George Russell.
“Mike (Elliot) is absolutely in his element in his new role,” Russell said at Baku. “And James is also in his element in his new role.”
He said the fact that Allison has returned to replace Elliot, who moves into a more future-focused role, should not reflect poorly on Elliot.
“He’s one of the smartest engineers I know,” Russell said of Elliot.
“However, in any team, for example football, the right players have to be in the right position to achieve the best results.”
Allison has wasted no time reacquainting with Formula 1, as he is also back in the paddock this weekend in Azerbaijan.
“Just being back at the racetrack is a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve not been here for ages and it is a place that is always fun to be at.”
But in reality, the move is less about “fun” and more the serious business of getting Mercedes back on track after two fundamentally flawed ‘no sidepod’ cars in 2022 and now 2023.
The car is simply too slow,” team boss Toto Wolff said on Friday. “Things will get better after Imola.”
Imola is when a major car upgrade will be forthcoming, and Allison is not even ruling out a return to race wins.
“Yeah, why not?” he said on Friday.
However, he ruled out the interpretation that simply by returning to the top technical job, Mercedes will now return to its old position of dominance.
“You don’t have one person’s hand on a car,” Allison insisted. “It’s just not how it works at all.
“Even the great Adrian Newey would probably tell you that if you pinned him down hard enough.”
He said the Allison-Elliot role swap was simply a “sober reflection of what we’re both good at”.