James Allison officially left Ferrari this week after rumoured disagreements with group president Sergio Marchionne. Hot news flying around the paddock suggests that Allison’s next destination could in fact be McLaren-Honda, as opposed to Enstone and Renault.
The split from Maranello came amidst Ferrari and James himself, claiming the decision was a mutual one. Neither party however went into details, or gave any reason for the split.
Allison said in a statement: “During the years I spent at Ferrari, at two different stages and covering different roles, I could get to know and appreciate the value of the team and of the people, women and men, which are part of it.
“I want to thank them all for the great professional and human experience we shared. I wish everybody a happy future with lots of success.”
Straight after the Australian grand prix this year Allison’s wife passed away, and there have been rumours for a long time now stating that Allison wanted a full-time return to the UK because of his 3 children.
Auto Motor und Sport claim that since his wife’s passing, James was only at Maranello 3.5 days a week, and rarely attended races. Now paddock rumours suggest that a potential move to McLaren Honda is on the cards.
McLaren were keen to sign him at the start of 2013 when Allison was to leave Lotus, but he turned them down as a romantic return to Ferrari was too strong to resist. Ron Dennis might find Allison and his experience too hard to resist, arriving to form a strong pairing with Peter Prodromou in Woking.
Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt reports: “Returning to England is certainly one of the reasons for the separation.
“But there are also claims that Marchionne could not cope with Allison, because the Briton spoke his mind and refused to be dictated unreasonable targets in contrast to his (Allison’s) 25 years of motor sport experience,” he added.
Ferrari moved quickly and replaced Allison with engine chief Mattia Binotto, but Schmidt feels that this is just an “interim” solution.
There are reports Ferrari’s former technical director Ross Brawn is en route to Hockenheim. One thing is for certain though, Ross certainly wont put up with Marchionne and his meddling into the technical side if this were to be true.
Watch this space.
If this turns out to be true, then McLaren might have one of the strongest teams on the grid by next year. Once Honda gets their new concept to run reliably (which most likely they will), Mclaren will have all the resources in place to perform near the top again.
I do feel bad for Ferrari though. The second time in 2 years that their management will get the axe. I cannot help but think that a team which is being run by a businessman first (Marchionne) and a racer second, will always be at a disadvantage as the pressure will be both internal and external from the Italian media. It reminds me of the early 90s when Ferrari was facing a massive power struggle and the results suffered from it. All the best to the team and their drivers, but I would pick Mercedes, Red Bull and now McLaren over Ferrari for being 2017 title contenders.
I can’t feel too bad about them, as they deliberately shoot themselves in the feet.
The untimely and unfortunate death of Allison’s wife, and the ensuing shift in his priorities, resulting in his being unable to dedicate his time to developing and optimising the 2016 package, in turn leading to a reappraisal of his position, can hardly be construed to be Ferrari deliberately shooting themselves in the foot.
Rather, it is more of a damning indictment of how much work they have to do strengthening their structure and having clear and focused leadership when the loss of a single, admittedly important, member of the team can throw the team into ‘chaos’.