Allison at Ferrari: Conquering the title with an “excellent” Todt

After witnessing an eventful debut in Formula 1 benetton James Allison joined in the 1990s Ferrari been as aerodynamicist for the 2000 season “constructively dismissed” from the Oxfordshire Stables. The Cavallino Rampante brand, enhanced by the arrival of Michael sSchumacherRoss Brawn and Rory Byrne (among others) from Enstone, would dominate Formula 1 head and shoulders for five consecutive campaigns.

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Allison does not hide his amazement when he discovers the barn, built by Jean Todt, who took over management in 1993. “Ferrari was a well organized team and Ross was a very talented technical director. But it wasn’t just the technical side.”emphasizes the Briton. “A successful team is strong and organized in all areas. Jean Todt was an excellent team manager. He recruited the best rider and technical director, he got the best budget and he worked very hard to maintain stability in an environment for which it is notorious is its instability.”

“He was ruthless about bad apples and as a result it was a good environment where people knew they were moving in unison. Maybe it wasn’t tenths of a second, it was hundredths, but every human could do hundredths. It was also the first time I spent at the circuit, which may seem unusual for people outside of Formula 1.”

Jean Todt brilliantly led Scuderia Ferrari from 1993 to 2007

“Ferrari were the most adventurous team and the first to see the opportunity to ensure the track staff were getting the most out of the car’s aerodynamics. There used to be no systematic connection between the race team and the aero team, no systematic effort to find out if the car was performing as well as it should according to the wind tunnel. And getting the instruments good enough to take air measurements on the track was something that had just begun.”

“As Santa Claus [Tombazis, chef de l’aérodynamique et de la CFD, arrivé quelques années plus tôt en provenance de Benetton, ndlr] hired me, he offered me a lot of opportunities, wind tunnel work or this job, and anything would have been fun, but this one was innovative. And it was a great experience, not only because I was put in charge of a new project, but also because at the time, the racing teams treated the factory with a certain contempt. I had to show a bit of human skill to have a relationship strong enough for people to be willing to listen to me – and when they did and showed tangible results to get to the stopwatch, it was Well. “

Although he decided to return to Enstone as associate technical director in 2005, James Allison says he wasn’t looking for more responsibility. “People don’t often believe me when I say that, but I’ve never had a thought like that and I think that’s a mistake. [de voir les choses ainsi]”assures the Englishman. “Get fired [par Benetton] showed me very well that personal ambition is something dangerous. What you must seek is to find joy in the life you have. If, because we work hard and are a good colleague, we are offered other things, all the better.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault R25, in front of Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F2005

Fernando Alonso’s Renault beats Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari at Imola, in a season that saw James Allison join the Franco-British team from Maranello

Then why did you join? Renault ? Because his children were old enough to go to school and he didn’t want to risk sending them to school in Italy without securing his future at Ferrari – and that of Formula 1 – for them – 13 years later , indicates the person concerned. That didn’t stop Allison from finding his way back to Maranello as Chassis Technical Director in late 2013, but things didn’t go as planned. A far cry from the successes of the 2000s, Ferrari hadn’t won a single world title in five years and was even set to have three different team bosses in 2014.

“That was something!” Allison calls. “I loved Italy and Ferrari is a great place to work in many ways, so I wasn’t overly concerned when I went back there. But I also knew that I would be on the front line, that the team had a technical ‘debt’ that would have to be compensated through work and that wouldn’t be easy.”

“I got good advice from Ross [Brawn]. He said to me, “It’s an environment that’s inherently difficult to succeed in. You will probably fail. It’s not against you. It’s just that once you get there, people will start pulling you in this direction or that. You have to make sure you miss your way if you fail. Make sure the decisions you make are the right ones and not ones you make because someone else bullied you. If you end up in a coffin (sic), make sure it’s up to your choices.”

“I’ve been more or less like that my entire career, but this reminder that I need to be myself was very current. And I don’t think there’s any doubt about the fact that the three years I spent there ended in failure because we didn’t win a world title during my time as Technical Director, but I’m still very proud to what we have achieved together. They were very nice years.”

James Allison, Technical Director Chassis, Ferrari

James Allison at Ferrari in 2016

“We ended up breaking up at the circusVery sad moments after suddenly losing my wife, a victim of meningitis. At the start of the season [2016], it didn’t look as promising on the track as my bosses and I had hoped. It was deeply tragic. I think I’ve been treated fairly all along; that it didn’t end in a world title is a source of regret.”

“I arrived at the end of 2013 and basically had to live with what was created for 2014, I knew it was very far from the mark. But in 2015 the drive and the team were in better shape, the aerodynamics were semi-believable and progressive. Mercedes Hit hard in 2016, I think they surprised themselves.”

It was at Brackley that Allison found refuge after experiencing personal drama, a career choice that led to four Drivers’ titles and five Constructors’ titles, but most importantly a well-being within a team he believes is the supreme human.

“I am very grateful to Toto [Wolff, directeur de Mercedes AMG F1] for the way he approached me, the kindness he showed because I was in bad shape. He was aware that there was opportunity, not pressure. to At that time I didn’t feel like doing anything, I hardly wanted to get out of bed. There was a small optimistic voice inside me that said, “I know you feel like you’ll never be able to do anything again, but maybe you can.” Otherwise, all of your ability to do things in the future might disappear, so it’s worth seeing if you can. It was a very difficult dialogue for me.”

“I could have floundered and gone under when I had these problems, but this team is incredibly warm. When they realized how bad I was, they were too polite to say. Mercedes is really exceptional, with a group of people at heart, those who have done it have been around for a long time, and they’re not gruff old folks past their sell-by date: they’re cornerstones of the team who stay because they love it.”concludes Allison.

James Allison, Technical Director Mercedes AMG F1, Matt Deane, Chief Mechanic Mercedes AMG F1 and Toto Wolff, Executive Director Mercedes AMG F1

James Allison along with Matt Deane (Chief Engineer) and Toto Wolff (Executive Director) at Mercedes in 2018

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