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Allison to leave Lotus? 8/5/13 GMT 00:15
I had a coded conversation with someone yesterday, who suggested there may be some ‘exciting’ Lotus news this weekend, however they were not prepared to reveal exactly what this news was.
So tonight when a secondary source suggested Lotus technical director James Allison was on the move, that was enough for this to be considered more than just one of many rumours that prevail in F1 each week – though this is still unconfirmed.
James Allison has real F1 pedigree. He graduated from Cambridge and went to work for Benetton in 1991. He left in 1993 and went to Larrousse as head of aero dynamics only to rejoin the Enstone team in the same role a few years later.
He joined Ferrari in 2000 and was their trackside aero guru during the most successful period in the team’s history. In 2005 he again returned to the Enstone Renault team and as deputy technical director and was a key player in their back to back world titles.
In 2009 James was appointed the technical director at Enstone and has plotted their rise from mediocrity to a team who are winning races and at present considered a serious title challenger for 2013.
To lose James would be a serious blow to the Lotus team, but is it surprising his talent is being sought by others after delivering a car that is challenging the establishment? On the other side of the coin, McLaren appear to be losing a technical director who has overseen the design and build of one of McLaren’s worst early season F1 cars for some time.
Around the time it was revealed Paddy Lowe was to resign from McLaren, there was media speculation about James being recruited as his replacement. James said at the launch of the E21 in January, “I have a pretty long contract with this team. I take contracts very seriously and I intend to honour that in every aspect. It is true that there is talk and chat and happily people do pay me some attention. But I have a contract with this team and that’s that.”
Now it seems there are two main options available to Allison, McLaren or Ferrari. McLaren appears the obvious choice having lost Paddy Lowe, though Tim Goss has been appointed as Paddy’s full time successor.
A return to Ferrari would see James resume his relationship with Rory Byrne and with the Maranello 2014 project growing by the week, Ferrari have split their senior personnel as follows. Pat Fry-head of chassis, head of production-Corrado Lanzone, head of engine/electronics-Luca Marmorini, head designer-Nicholas Tombazis. Where Allison fits in is not clear, but Mercedes are proving a factory full of chiefs is not impossible.
Of course any role James were to take with another team would require him to serve time on gardening leave, probably to the end of 2013. To this end he would have a negligible level of input into any 2014 car design for a competitor of Lotus.
This is still an unconfirmed rumour, but one that has some substance. TJ13 noted last week that James was unusually bullish about the Lotus team’s chances in 2013 when he suggested the car needed ‘little development’ to compete for titles this year.
With hindsight were these the words of a man about to jump ship? Could these have been phrases crafted to instill confidence in his current team members – to ‘keep on keeping on’? Or will we hear an announcement that James has just extended his contract in length and dramatically up the vertical pay scale?
UPDATE 08:55GMT: TJ13 has contacted the Lotus team, however no one is available for comment at present.
BlogF1.it are claiming this is now confirmed and that Nicholas Chester will take James Allison’s role at Lotus. James would then indeed take up some gardening with the British summer just around the corner his timing is impeccable.
Nicholas Chester is unknown to many but he graduated from Cambridge in 1991 with a degree in engineering. He spent 5 years at Arrrows as a race engineer and then joined the Renault F1 in 2000. He was promoted in 2005 to Head of Vehicle Performance Group and from 2010 spent a couple of years working for Renault following the sale of the works team to Genii.
In April 2012 Nicholas returned to Enstone and was appointed as Engineering Director which of course becomes the natural successor of the Technical Director.
UPDATE 09:50 GMT: Craig Scarborough now associated with Autosport tweets at 09:09 GMT, “Hearing of a shock announcement today”. 10 minutes later he adds, “senior personnel”.
At 09:47 GMT Scarbs suggests the announcement is imminent tweeting, “it will be made public shortly”.
Adam Cooper long standing F1 journalist tweets at 09:51 GMT, “Suggestions that James Allison is on way out of Lotus. He was quoted in press release on Friday so if true it’s happened quickly”. Then adds, “If confirmed it could hurt the team’s chances of hanging onto Kimi Raikkonen in 2014 as he has a lot of respect for Allison”.
UPDATE 10:02 GMT: This appears to have caught out the British F1 media. I spoke with Jonathan Ledgard and he was not aware of this – yet the Italian media has been reporting this for several hours.
UPDATE 10:11 GMT: BBC report Williams have made Allison an offer too. Mmm.
UPDATE 10:35 GMT: Autosport announce James Allison is leaving Lotus, although they say Lotus are unavailable for comment. They speculate Ferrari is where he is heading having been assured by McLaren he will not be joining them. By deduction Mercedes are excluded, however the way things have been going at Brackley you just never can rule them out 🙂
UPDATE 11:18 GMT: Martin Brundle tweets, “James Allison leaves Lotus F1, Kimi won’t be pleased. Key tech personnel changes as important as top driver moves,in many ways fewer of them”.
UPDATE 12:19 GMT: 1st ‘in print’ comment of the day from Lotus on twitter says, “We’re pleased to announce Nick Chester as the next Lotus F1 team Technical Director! More to follow…”
UPDATE 12:25 GMT: Statement from Lotus team principal Eric Boulier, ““We are pleased to announce Nick Chester as our next Technical Director. Nick is well known to everyone at Enstone, having been with the team for over twelve years. He is already directly involved with this and next year’s cars – ensuring a smooth transition which has been underway for some time.
It’s an illustration of the strength and breadth of talent at Enstone – that we can draw on staff of the caliber of Nick and it’s something of an Enstone tradition for new Technical Directors to be promoted from within. He assumes his new position at a tremendously exciting time for the sport.
The 2014 technical regulation changes present many challenges, while our current position of second place in both the Constructors ‘and Drivers’ World Championships mean in can not lose sight of this year’s development battle. Nick really has his work cut out, but we know he is more than capable of handling the tasks ahead.
As a team and individually, we would all like to thank James Allison for his efforts during his three stints at Enstone and wish him all the best in his future Endeavours. “
Nick Chester, Technical Director, Lotus F1 Team: “I have worked at Enstone for over twelve years and am delighted to take on the role of Technical Director. I am grateful to the management at Enstone for the faith they have in Promoting me to this position. I am very aware of our need to keep pushing the development of this year’s E21 whilst developing next year’s car is a very different set of regulations.There are some exciting times ahead for Enstone and I’m honored to be part of it. “
Where is James going? TJ13 comment.
The longer it takes for a team to declare their hand in the recruitment of James Allen would suggest that despite absolute denials, McLaren may well be in line to capture his services. James will probably have signed a confidentiality clause to allow the team the right to choose the time and place when his recruitment is declared.
Following the disastrous start to the 2013 season, McLaren have lost their Technical Director and replaced him with Tim Goss. They need Tim to focus on the job in hand and with James stuck on Garden leave for 6 months it serves no purpose upsetting matters by them declaring his appointment now.
Ferrari and Mercedes in the past have recruited with gay abandon and little thought to keeping matters secret. Yet, being burned by the Paddy Lowe leaks, Toto would be well advised to be more circumspect the next appointment he makes.
It is surely unlikely James has decided to join the massed ranks of the 2nd amongst equal chiefs in Brackley. However, were it to be that he has been engaged to become Mercedes team principal replacing Ross Brawn, then utter confidentiality would be obvious and essential unless Brawn was in the loop. But then what of Paddy Lowe?
If Ferrari were to be coy and secretive, then it could only be because they’d inferred to one of their many project leaders that they would be the ultimate Technical Director when the 2014 car was complete. This kind of behaviour is believable from Lauda and Wolff, but Ferrari? Surely Not.
“We are Ferrari – we bask in the glory of being Ferrari – whoever is called to Maranello will be honoured to be adorned in the Ferrari trackside overalls – for whatever task is deemed fitting”. If its Ferrari we’ll know soon.
According to the BBC, Williams are in the running for the services of Allison, however unless untold riches are on offer James Allison has a life of service with Ferrari and Renault/Lotus that has seen him involved in 6 championship winning years. It seems highly improbable he would join the Grove outfit which looks to be no better than an ‘also ran’ in F1 for years to come.
The problem for James and his new employers is that F1 is a village, and secrets don’t stay hidden for too long. The paranoia in ‘the village’ for the short term will be delicious to watch as without revealing their hands each team tries to work out who is offering the golden handcuffs and each technical ‘director’/team principal casts the odd glance or 2 over their shoulder.
It could be that James has not yet done a deal, and is still negotiating with more than 1 party. Though this is unlikely and more probable is that his future employment is already a fate accompli.
The difference between motorsports
Okay, any new James Allison news will go above here and be marked UPDATE with a GMT time. Onwards and upwards. If you wish to know the difference between F1 and Indy here it is.
Mercedes go more silver
Bilde are reporting there will be a visible difference to the W04 in Barcelona this weekend. Lauda says, “We wanted the car to look even more like the ‘Silver Arrow’ and we believe this is also good for the team because a new look brings new motivation.”
This won’t be the only change as the car will have a new exhaust layout and new look front and rear wings. Niki thoughts on the upgrades are that, “During the European season we want to increase our pace by one to two tenths per track. We did a good job for the beginning of the season, now it’s vital to develop the car faster than the competition.”
A number of commentators and analysts see Barcelona as a big opportunity for Mercedes to post their first win of the season. This view appears to be based upon the W04’s uber quick performance during the second test at the circuit de Catalunya.
Lauda is more cautious and states, “We’re not the favourites, Pirelli is bringing new tyres and no one knows yet how they work — the information we’ve had on the tyre is very thin.”
Weather for Barcelona
The big factor for this weekend will be the weather. The forecast at present is suggesting it will be about 10-15% cooler than average for this time of year and that on Sunday rain is forecast but towards the end of the race. So far this year we have seen that temperature fluctuations can change the pecking order of the cars’ race pace.
If the weather is cooler, this should play into Ferrari’s hands as their car appears to have a wider operating window with the 2013 tyres, but on a track known for high tyre wear as we saw last year Lotus may well be string come the end of the race.
Should the weather fronts change and the wind speed increase, we may be in for a wet race or a dry/wet race – and then its anyone’s guess what will happen.
The teams are meeting today in Barcelona to discuss testing. Under the RRA, as agreed with outgoing FIA president Max Mosely, the testing of F1 cars was restricted severely with in season testing pretty much outlawed.
The discussions are framed around extra test days due to the 2014 engine, but TJ13 believes wider discussions will in fact take place. Ferrari have long since objected to these restrictions, probably because they own a track outside the back door of the factory and so for them testing is cheaper and easier to organise than for other teams.
In 2012, one of the testing sessions was organised for early May in Mugello, another Ferrari owned circuit, yet the teams felt that they learned little due to the nature of the circuit being quite unlike those the F1 circus presently graces for races with its presence. It was dropped for 2013, though Mark Webber who had a morning of restricted running on day 1 tweeted that 10 laps in Mugello was better than 1,000 in Abu Dhabi.
Whether we hear today that some of the winter testing will take place in the middle east is uncertain, though this too is on the agenda. Following the extremely cold temperatures in Barcelona tests this year and the surface of the Jerez circuit being flakey, a number of the bigger teams have agreed pre-season testing in the middle east would be preferable.
Today may be a test of how seriously F1 is taking cost management. To travel to the middle east and regularly ship upgraded car parts for winter testing is expensive and drains the smaller teams’ budgets from other activities they deem preferable.
Yet there is a far graver danger afoot, in that one team in particular may abandon the testing agreement completely now that Todt has abdicated responsibility for the RRA. FOTA is weak now that 4 of the 11 F1 participants have withdrawn from the association so it’s not possible for FOTA to legislate for Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Ferrari.
The worst case scenario would be that with no agreement in place testing again becomes a weekly affair for the rich teams and the gulf in performance between them and the rest grows again.
Ferrari have nailed their colours to the mast stating that the almost singular focus in F1 on aero development is irrelevant for them as a car manufacturer. TJ13 believes it is not inconceivable that The Scuderia could declare that from 2014 they will abandon the embargo on testing with a view to bringing pressure on the others to regulate design away from the present aerodynamic obsession.
F1 Spain: Did you know?
Of course you know the Circuit de Catalunya (CDC) has become the main winter testing venue for F1 over the past few years – but did you know Jenson Button has completed the most testing kilometres here? How many km has he driven in testing?
There has been a lot of talk about Pirelli 2013 tyres making qualyfing less important or even irrelevent. Well in the 22 races at the CDC 18 have been won from pole. Who are the drivers who bucked the trend?
Do you know which circuits have had longer continuous runs on the F1 calendar than CDC? How many years each?
What was unique about Pastor Maldonado’s win at the CDC in 2012 – and particular to CDC history? So his first, first for a Venezuelan not correct.
What was unique in CDC history about Schumacher’s win in 1996?