Lead­ing tech bosses set to swap sides for 2017

F1 Racing - - F1 INSIDER -

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 reshufe 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.

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