- Date of Birth: 21 February 1968
James Allison is Technical Director of the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team. Why did James want to work in Formula One? “It was a great alternative to growing up and getting a proper job.” With that answer, it seems inevitable that James would end up in motorsport.
His motorsport career started in 1991, when he joined the Benetton F1 Team as a Junior Aerodynamic Designer immediately after graduating from the University of Cambridge.
Just two years later, James was appointed Head of Aerodynamics for the small Larrouse F1 squad. Sadly, the cash-strapped team struggled for results and James returned to Benetton as an Aerodynamic Designer. Success soon followed though, as James celebrated Michael Schumacher’s Drivers’ Championship success in 1994, with Schumacher and Benetton claiming the Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles the following year.
James was promoted to Head of Aerodynamics in 1997 and, just two years later, swapped Enstone for Maranello and the new position of Trackside Aerodynamicist with Scuderia Ferrari, playing an important role in a period of unprecedented success, as the team won six Constructors’ Championships between 1999 and 2004.
After six years in Italy, James returned to the United Kingdom and a familiar home at Enstone, now under the Renault name, taking on the role of Deputy Technical Director. With young Spaniard Fernando Alonso at the wheel, Renault were the team to beat – taking top honours in the Constructors’ Championship in 2005 and 2006.
James was promoted to Technical Director in 2009 and remained with the team as it transitioned to Lotus Renault and later Lotus F1 Team, fighting back to the top step of the podium in 2012 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Kimi Räikkonen scoring the team’s first win in four years.
In 2013, James headed back to Ferrari, this time as Technical Director. After a fruitless year for the team in 2014, James’ influence was crucial as Sebastian Vettel claimed three wins the following year, when the Scuderia emerged as the closest challenger to the title-winning Mercedes team. James departed Ferrari midway through the 2016 season and returned to the Formula One grid in 2017 as Technical Director of the Mercedes AMG-PETRONAS Formula One Team, playing a crucial part in taking the team to five Constructors’ Championships and four Drivers’ titles.
When asked what he loves about Formula One, here’s James’ full, non-abridged answer: “I love the fight. I love that it is grindingly, desperately difficult because that is what makes any success so meaningful. I love that nothing about it is vanilla; technology, skill, cunning, personality, humour – everything is extreme. But above all, I love the sense of shared purpose and belonging that comes from being in an F1 Team. It is not a mere job, it is a brilliant, exciting, challenging and deeply fulfilling way of life. All of us who have experienced it are deeply fortunate.”
Mid-way through 2021, James began a newly created role as Chief Technical Officer, with Mike Elliott taking on the role of Technical Director. James then returned to the role of Technical Director in April 2023.