It is normally the Formula One driver market that dominates the headlines over the winter break. This year, the driver line up was pretty much decided when the chequered flag dropped in Abu Dhabi. Instead, it has been the inside team changes that have stood out over the winter.
Only thanks to Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement did we had any news at all. The shock announcement sent shockwaves throughout the grid, as Mercedes set off a chain of events that brought Felipe Massa out of his short-lived retirement.
Engineers are as precious as drivers
There has been plenty of other news surrounding the movements of other team members however. Paddy Lowe left Mercedes, Jost Capito was sacked barely months after arriving at McLaren and Fred Vasseur walked from Renault.
Pat Symonds left Williams, seemingly to create space for the rumoured arrival of Lowe. The latest recruitment news comes with James Allison preparing to join Mercedes on March 1st.
A team needs a leader
As the structure of Formula One team management has evolved, the line between roles like team principal and technical director have become increasingly blurred. Gone are the days when the team principal would take control over the entire running of the team. That structure is now extremely rare.
Nowadays, it is much more common to find a sporting director, a commercial director, a managing director, a CEO and a racing director all running different areas of a team.
Mercedes pioneered this kind of structure in order to spread the authority away from a single head. At that time, Ross Brawn was an opponent to the idea, seeing the lack of overall leadership as a potential problem.
Mercedes made it work, and three World titles later, remain the team to beat. Although, the resignation of Paddy Lowe indicates that not all was well within the team.
A return to the old ways?
Renault appear to have endured a similar situation. Their multi-faceted leadership structure causing huge frustration for Vasseur. With such a cumbersome set-up, and an apparent lack of progress, you have to wonder whether the team are working at all effectively. The team have not replaced Vasseur as yet, so perhaps they have realised their need for a more direct approach.
Mercedes too, look to have taken a step away from the free for all approach that they have perfected for three successful years. The appointment of James Allison as a straight-up technical director is interesting. He will report directly to the now singular team principal, Toto Wolff. Clearly, Paddy Lowe had a problem with that prospect.
While it is a fantastic move by Mercedes to seal the services of the ex-Ferrari man, the return to a simpler management structure positive. The team’s daily running is bound to be simplified.
Consistency is key
Ferrari is one team that has held on tightly to the old ways. Mauricio Arrivabene continues to hang on to his job for now and they have promoted Mattia Binotto to replace Allison. The team have been epitomised by tradition, and they continue to be so. Will Ferrari be able to build something on the back of their solid leadership foundation?
Christian Horner’s Red Bull team are another that have remained constant. Can the team which Horner has built around the expertise of Adrian Newey build on their solid improvements last year? In a team sport, it is going to come down to which group of people can do the best job as a whole.
(chdphd CC BY-SA 2.0)
(chdphd CC BY-SA 2.0)