James Allison could be moving closer to a surprise move to Mercedes, sources have suggested.
The former would have been an obvious choice, especially given Allison’s good relationship with McLaren chief Eric Boullier from their Lotus days.
However, both teams have assured Motorsport.com that there is no fit for him within their established technical structures. At first glance the same applies to Mercedes, where Paddy Lowe is clearly in charge of technical matters.
However, Lowe’s long-term future at the team has been the subject of much debate, amid discussions about his future remuneration. Inevitably he has been linked with a possible move to Ferrari.
If Lowe does leave Mercedes it would be logical to assume that Allison would be an ideal replacement, and that in effect the team has a succession plan in place.
One possibility could be that the team has secured an option on his services, and is ready to hire him should a key vacancy arise. That would also give Toto Wolff extra bargaining power in his negotiations with Lowe.
At the same time such an arrangement would ensure that one of the most highly respected men in the paddock does not join a rival in the near future.
Allison is in any case still subject to gardening leave, and is not in a position to join another team until early next year – unless that team has some negotiating power with Ferrari.
Another possibility is that Wolff is confident that Mercedes will find a role for Allison within the current structure, alongside Lowe. The team has a track record of employing multiple “big names,” and finding jobs for all of them, having done so under Ross Brawn in the build-up to the hybrid era.
However, at that stage there was a specific reason to bolster its resources, and Bob Bell, one of the key players, subsequently left. Asked about a possible future at Brackley for Allison both Toto Wolff and Lowe declined to comment.