Skip to content

James Allison on his life in Formula 1

Our Technical Director, James Allison, speaks to Georgie Ainslie for the Performance People podcast to discuss all things Mercedes F1, as well as his work-life balance and why it was “brilliant” being sacked from a job in his early 20s.

With the 2023 F1 season over and attentions turning to the new year, broadcaster and podcast host Georgie Ainslie caught up with James to discuss what his and the team’s mindset is moving forward.

While we’ve not been where James or any of us would have wanted in the past two years, he believes it’s important to have a forward-looking mentality and “not lamenting what you once were”.

“If you have that sort of backward-looking mentality it can be quite depressing and likely to prolong the downturn,” he says.

“The sooner, on the other hand, you’re able to say ‘we are where we are, let’s not pretend we are deserving of winning at the moment. Let’s figure out what we need to do so we are deserving of winning and let’s enjoy that transition from what we deserve to be right now and what we’re going to be in the future.’

“The sooner everyone can be on that page, A the shorter the slump is and B the more fun it is, because the sense of growing momentum is deeply joyful and the idea that you’re building the things that are going to allow you to walk around the paddock with your chest out at some point in the future, that’s a really energising thing.

“As much as maybe the outside world might imagine this is deeply painful internally, and on one level it is, it’s also really exciting.”

'Being sacked was a brilliant experience'

James also describes how he was very ambitious early on in his career and that he would “always choose the work path” over things outside of work, but that being sacked from a job in his late 20s was “brilliant” because it helped provide him with such valuable perspective at a young age.

“And that [being sacked] was a very, very brilliant experience – it didn’t feel like it at the time, but if you gave it about six months or a year of perspective, it was really helpful because it brought home to me the nature of what work is compared with what life is.”

He adds: “And by pulling back from it [work], having a more balanced relationship with it, still having a really hard-working relationship with it, but not ambitious anymore, just enjoy what you’re doing, work hard at it, try to be a good team-mate to the people around you and just have fun doing it and, weirdly, that is actually way more effective than being ambitious.”

My game face is cheerfulness


And what of 2024?

Asked whether we will be back to winning ways in 2024, James says: “I don’t know”.

“If you look at the long march of F1 history, then the stats are against us,” he adds.

“Teams do not bounce back from slipping from their previous peak in the length of time we have set ourselves but we have nevertheless set a pretty ambitious programme.

“We have quite a lot of strength in depth here and we’ve made quite a lot of progress with next year’s car.

“Whether it proves sufficient enough, only time will tell, but that’s what I’m hoping for us and I know that all my colleagues and team-mates around me will be hoping for the same.”

Performance tip

And James’ one performance tip for everybody?

“Every time I come to work and I drive through the factory gates, it’s not like I make a conscious deal with myself but my game face is cheerfulness,” he says.

You can listen to the full conversation with Georgie and James on the Performance People podcast