Upon hearing the news, I immediately told my friend sat next to me that James Allison was leaving Lotus. His response? A mere shrug. When I explained that Kimi Raikkonen may therefore leave the Enstone outfit to seek glory elsewhere in 2014, his attitude changed.
Perhaps this reaction is not surprising?After all, a team is judged based on the drivers they can lure to their championship contender. The return of Kimi Raikkonen in 2012 signalled a change for a team who lost a great talent in Robert Kubica.
James Allison was largely held responsible for the Finn’s career revival. Having been unceremoniously dumped by Ferrari in favour of Fernando Alonso, an incentive was needed in order to find the bravery to return.
I can still remember the moment that James Allison stood alongside his most recent brainchild, the E21, for the first time since its January 2013 launch. The event was largely corporate in nature and welcomed a flurry of media activity. Despite this formal setting, the ice cold exterior of Kimi Raikkonen faded momentarily as Allison referenced the sometimes frosty relationship between the Finn and his mechanics. The foundations of this professional relationship were clear, it is one based on respect.
Allison will be replaced by Nick Chester who has been promoted from Head of Vehicle Performance following several years with the Enstone outfit. Team principal Eric Boullier, has confirmed that work on the 2014 model has already begun. They hope this will be enough to ensure that Kimi Raikkonen stays for another year.
The rumour mill continues to spin wildly out of control making the dissecting and analysing of rumours very difficult. There are no Technical Director roles publicly available. Therefore rumours linking him to Ferrari, Red Bull or McLaren may fade quickly. Mercedes too admit they may be interested in the Brit as their internals core continues to adapt and evolve with Lewis Hamilton’s arrival.
Previously an employee at Bentteon, working under a well-respected Pat Fry, a return could be possible, though perhaps unlikely as Ferrari refuse to confirm rumours of another partnership between the two. A move to Williams may also be possible, Adrian Newey was the laughing stock of the paddock when he moved from McLaren to join a newly formed Red Bull in 2005.
The opportunity to rebuild a team may well entice one of the industry’s most respected Motorsport minds. A mixture of science with creativity can often, in the words of Newey, force a designer to become “stale” if forced into long spouts of employment. Therefore, his decision to leave may not come as a shock.
Only Lotus have had their say. They diplomatically wish Allison the best with his latest venture and quickly assure fans that the performance of the Allison-designed Lotus E21, will be enough to keep Kimi Raikkonen at the team’s helm.
Contractually, Allison cannot yet reveal the identity of his new employer but a team shift as large as this may hamper team performance this weekend as the focus returns to the internal political system. Hopefully next time I tell my friend such news, the value of a team personnel, will not be overlooked.