Ferrari have announced that Technical Director James Allison has left the Maranello based team with immediate effect, being replaced in the role by Mattia Binotto.
Having been at the Italian team since the beginning of 2014, Allison oversaw a massive up-turns in the team’s fortunes from that season to last season, where Sebastian Vettel rejuvenated the feeling with three victories.
Pressure was high coming into 2016, with team chairman Sergio Marchionne demanding the team take the fight to Mercedes for the World Championship, something that has eluded the most successful team in Formula One history since Kimi Raikkonen won the 2007 Drivers title – 2008 was the last Constructors.
Despite a positive season opener in Australia where only a strategy mistake cost Vettel a likely victory, the challenge from Ferrari has slowly been waning with Red Bull all set to usurp the 16-time constructor champions of the 'best of the rest' mantle. Ferrari currently hold a one-point lead over Red Bull in the standings.
Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene put on record his thanks to Allison, who abandoned Ferrari’s long-term strategy of having pull-rod front suspension by designing the SF16-H to incorporate push-rod, something both Vettel and Raikkonen are more comfortable with.
Arrivabene said “The team would like to thank James for his commitment and sacrifice during our time together”, before going onto add his wishes of future success for the highly rated Englishman. Allison himself said that he came to “appreciate the value of the team and of the people, women and men, which are part of it” over the course of his tenure at Maranello.
In what has been a terrible year for Allison personally, with the untimely passing of his wife, Rebecca, after the Australian Grand Prix in March, he has been spending more time in England, to look after the couple’s young children.
Return to Enstone most likely
Before his stint in Italy, Allison was the brain behind the competitive Lotus cars of 2012 and 2013, which were known for the kindness they showed to the sensitive Pirelli rubber of the time, and led to Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean scoring enough points for twin fourth place finishes in the constructors in the two years.
The Enstone based Renault team, who took over Lotus at the start of the 2016 season, is the most likely destination for Allison, once he is settled back in the UK.
Binotto steps up
Mattia Binotto has been at Ferrari since 1995, working his way up from a test engine engineer to the same role on the race team during the Michael Schumacher heyday of the late nineties, early noughties.
After the disaster of the 2014 Power Unit, in the major reshuffle that Ferrari undertook at the end of that season, Binotto was promoted to COO of the Power Unit, overseeing a massive improvement in 2015 and 2016 which, by some accounts puts the Ferrari ICE on more power than the Mercedes, although the Hybrid recovery systems of the latter still means that the German based team holds an advantage.