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What SHOCK Mercedes switch means for Hamilton and team

What SHOCK Mercedes switch means for Hamilton and team

What SHOCK Mercedes switch means for Hamilton and team

What SHOCK Mercedes switch means for Hamilton and team

Mercedes knew from the very start of the 2023 Formula 1 campaign that they needed to make big changes.

Their ‘zeropod’ design was way off the pace of Red Bull in pre-season testing in Bahrain, and the team had no choice but to accept that its concept was deeply flawed. Team principal Toto Wolff admitted as much in public and promised a shift in approach was coming early in the year.

Now, during F1’s unexpected spring break, Mercedes have made their move. As well as continuing to work on their revamped version of their W14 car, an internal structural review has led to a switch of positions for a couple of key staff members. James Allison, a senior figure in the team during its 2014-2021 glory years, returns to his previous role as technical director, while Mike Elliott vacates that position in order to replace Allison as chief technical officer.

The job title jargon may sound similar, but the change will mean that Allison has more of a hands-on role in the design of Mercedes’ race car, as he used to, and will step away from other projects the company runs in order to concentrate solely on F1.

Mercedes have been off the pace of Red Bull in both 2022 and 2023.

Elliott himself conducted the process during which the need for the job swap was identified, and Mercedes’ announcement offered an intriguing insight into how they feel they can gain from the change.

“Mike has led a review of our technical organisation to ensure we have the right structure to deliver sustainable success in the future,” the team said in a statement on Friday. “We are focused on building the best racing car – and building the best team to develop that car, with everybody playing to their greatest strengths in the organisation.”

The key line here is the last one: Mercedes makes clear that it feels it has very talented people working in its organisation, but that it hasn’t been getting the best out of two of them because of the confines of the roles they previously occupied. In an interview with Motorsport Network, Wolff himself added extra context about the value of having Allison back in a more immediate role.

“Mike’s assessment was, and the introspection is really admirable, that with James we have a gladiator on the field and the troops are going to go through the fire for him and with him,” Wolff explained.

READ MORE: Why Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff could be the big winners from F1’s early break

Here, Wolff underlines a key behind-the-scenes F1 concept which fans can often ignore – the collective belief a team’s workforce has in one of their technical leaders.

Make no mistake, Mercedes’ on-track woes run so deep that they are in the process of essentially destroying their current car and building it again from the very beginning. That is tough enough during a winter break, but doing so while the season is live puts significant strain on a team’s staff, as well as huge pressure to deliver quick and significant results.

Bringing back the man who oversaw such huge success in the past to lead that personnel can give them a figurehead to believe in, somebody they trust to guide development in the right direction, and to ultimately deliver them to glory once again. That uplift in spirit can make a big difference during all of the overtime, the nightshifts and the sheer graft some workers are no doubt undertaking.

Like in any business, if the people putting the work in believe that the person at the top knows what they are the doing, it is much easier for everybody to pull in the same direction.

Lewis Hamilton is fourth in the drivers' standings after the opening three rounds of the 2023 season.

Modern technology and the breadth of impressive broadcast coverage means that F1 fans are given huge insight into the performance of drivers and cars on any given weekend, far more so than in any other major sport.

But there are plenty of factors which contribute to success, or lack thereof, that remain hidden from the view of those watching at home. Data and video analysis of aerodynamics can give us all strong understanding of the technical aspects of how the cars work, but not of the processes and working relationships that go into building them.

The impact that the men and women working at the team factories have on the finishing position of their team’s cars is crucial but intangible, meaning they typically forgo the credit they deserve for race wins, podiums, points finishes and championships.

If Mercedes are challenging for race wins by the end of the season, Wolff, plus Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will have played a huge role, clearly. But so will plenty of men and women we never even know the names of.

The big change Mercedes have made may not be visible on the car in the cockpit by the time Formula 1 finally gets back underway in Baku next weekend, then, but don’t underestimate just how much of an impact it could have across the course of the season and beyond.

READ MORE: Marko reveals his CAREER-CHANGING Hamilton mistake

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