Leading tech bosses set to swap sides for 2017
Senior technical figures James Allison, Paddy Lowe and James Key could be on the move among the top teams next season
Formula 1 could be poised for a major reshufe of leading technical staff, as speculation mounts about the futures of James Allison, Paddy Lowe and James Key.
After splitting from Ferrari at the end of July, Allison, 48, is a free agent. He is arguably the most highly regarded aerodynamics leader in F1 after Red Bull’s Adrian Newey, and his reputation has not been harmed by his departure from Ferrari. Seasoned Ferrari-watchers believe Allison to have been on the wrong side of a questionable decision by Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne, who sought to restructure the team.
Allison is on a year’s gardening leave, so would not be allowed to start work in a new role until summer 2017. Renault have made him an offer to return to the team whose technical arm he ran from 2005-12, but he has turned them down.
McLaren are also interested in Allison, having tried to recruit him in 2012 before he chose Ferrari instead, but sources say he will not contemplate going to McLaren if Ron Dennis remains on board (see page 14). Allison has also been linked with a move to Mercedes, where the future of executive director (technical) Paddy Lowe is in doubt, and to Red Bull. At Red Bull, design chief Adrian Newey’s presence complicates matters. His position is sacrosanct, but he isn’t committed to the F1 programme full time as a result of the soon-to-be-launched Red Bull-Aston Martin supercar, a project he is working on at the same time.
The contract Paddy Lowe signed when he joined Mercedes in 2013 is now believed to be coming to an end. Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff refused to comment on any potential interest in Allison, or on Lowe’s future. Lowe has said publicly that he enjoys working at Mercedes and sees no reason to leave, but there are rumours that he has been offered a double-your-money deal from Ferrari.
Sources close to Lowe believe he will probably stay where he is. It is clear he has not already made a decision to leave Mercedes, since he is continuing to operate and attend all races in his current role. If he were moving, this would almost certainly not be allowed to happen.
Meanwhile, Toro Rosso technical director James Key is said to be set to join Williams in a similar role at the end of 2017, according to sources close to the team. Key, 44, formerly of Sauber and Force India, is one of the most highly regarded of the new generation of technical leaders and it’s believed his presence would help strengthen the engineering team based at Grove.