Seismic change could be afoot in the near future as the latest rumours from Italy has it that we could see one of the very highest in Mercedes make a shock move to Renault.
Following this change might also see one of the chief reasons behind Ferrari’s resurgence in performance, technical director Mattia Binotto, could also be moving to the UK based Mercedes AMG F1 team.
It must be said immediately that this is rumour and in no way confirmed, but with Renault’s push to join the top 3 with significant works team investment over the last couple of years, it certainly isn’t beyond the realms of impossibility that such a move might occur. No smoke without fire as they say.
Whispers are circulating in Maranello about alleged contrasts with Maurizio Arrivabene and Mattia Binotto, and with the recent confirmation from the Italian team that the ex Philip Morris ‘Marlboro Man’ Maurizio is indeed staying put at Ferrari, then perhaps Binotto ought to be looking for a change.
It is alleged that Binotto has been hampered in recent times at Ferrari as Arrivabene further cements his place within the marque.
That being said, much of Ferrari’s recent success has been hailed as success from Binotto’s direction, after taking over from the ill fated James Allison era in Maranello. Binotto had previously headed up the team’s power unit division but was earmarked by former Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne, who died in July, as a potential leader for the development of the entire car.
Following his appointment, Binotto set about restructuring the team to encourage more creative thinking among its workforce. The idea was to promote ideas within the individual engineering departments and move away from a system of top-down management that Binotto felt had taken the team down the wrong development path.
“I’m certainly not an expert in all the areas,” he said. “I have 25 years of experience in F1; great time with Ferrari at the racetrack in the time of Michael Schumacher but always as a power unit man.
“When I grew up in that final role, I think what was important for me was not to set the objectives but to make sure that the people were comfortable in their role, understood the internal process and work better not only as individuals but as a team.”
Kudos for Mercedes should they have snared Binotto and very possible as the team are suffering internal turmoil after the death of Marchionne.
The main issue with moving to Mercedes is that of former Ferrari design head James Allison. The board would not want the combination of both personalities within the team after the obvious car issues that blighted Ferrari from 2014 to 2016, the last occasion both men worked together.
The only way for the move to happen is for Allison to leave the German marque.
There have been doubts within Mercedes about Allison, and indeed many fans agree that it’s hard to tell if the relatively recently appointed design chief has been the reason for the car winning, or in fact been the reason that the 2017 car was described by Wolff and Hamilton as a ‘Diva’, then there’s the obvious fact that this years car isn’t anywhere near dominant as previous generations of Silver Arrow in the Hybrid ERS era.
But still, the designer does have a proven track record of success and has respect amongst the teams and drivers within the paddock. Enter the Renault works F1 team.
Buoyed by the success of snatching Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, the team continues to try and reinforce it’s ranks by targeting high profile individuals such as James Allison.
For Allison, who actually found the most success as an technical boss at Enstone based Lotus (now Renault), would be a kind of homecoming and a re-establishment of a long and successful relationship.
Should Allison take the rumoured offer on the table from Renault, then the interested parties would need to move fast as rules dictate 6 months of ‘gardening leave’ for personnel transferring from one team to the next.
That being said, if Allison did move soon, he would be at the head of the Renault design team sooner rather than later (May 2019), and might begin to have an impact on the 2019 car’s in season developments.
The obvious countermove by Mercedes for the interest in Allison is the approach to Ferrari for Binotto.
Interesting times ahead and perhaps Ricciardo knew something we all didn’t after all?