| Source: autosport.com |
Lotus has suffered a shock early-season loss with technical director James Allison electing to leave the outfit, AUTOSPORT has learned.
Allison, one of the most highly rated designers in the Formula 1 paddock, was viewed as a key asset for Lotus as it pushed to challenge Red Bull for title glory this year.
But just months after initial speculation that other outfits were trying to lure him away, high level sources at the outfit have revealed that Allison has handed in his notice at the Enstone-based team.
Although Lotus was unavailable for comment when contacted, it is understood that an official announcement confirming the news – and the appointment of Nick Chester as the team’s replacement technical director – is imminent.
It is not known where Allison is heading, but the most obvious destinations would be McLaren, Mercedes or Ferrari.
However, McLaren has ruled out the possibility, and Mercedes already has a wealth of technical directors. That leaves Ferrari – which has been on a recruitment drive over recent seasons – as clear favourite.
Sources suggest that Allison has signed a contract forbidding him from revealing his new employer until it makes the announcement.
If confirmed it could hurt the team’s chances of hanging onto Kimi Raikkonen in 2014 as he has a lot of respect for Allison
James Allison leaves Lotus F1, Kimi won’t be pleased. Key tech personnel changes as important as top driver moves,in many ways fewer of them
Team boss Eric Boullier said promoting Chester from his current role as engineering director would minimise the ripples caused by Allison’s exit.
“Nick is well known to everyone at Enstone having been with the team for over 12 years,” said Boullier.
“He is already directly involved with this and next year’s cars, ensuring a smooth transition which has been underway for some time.
“It’s an illustration of the strength and breadth of talent at Enstone that we can draw on personnel of the calibre of Nick and it’s something of an Enstone tradition for new technical directors to be promoted from within.
“He assumes his new position at a tremendously exciting time for the sport. The 2014 technical regulation changes present many challenges, while our current position of second place in both the constructors’ and drivers’ world championships mean we cannot lose sight of this year’s development battle.
“Nick really has his work cut out, but we know he is more than capable of handling the tasks ahead.”
Boullier also paid tribute to Allison’s contribution to the team.
“As a team and individually, we would all like to thank James Allison for his efforts during his three stints at Enstone and wish him all the best in his future endeavours,” he said.
Nick Chester, Technical Director, Lotus F1 Team: “I have worked at Enstone for over twelve years and am delighted to take on the role of Technical Director. I am grateful to the management at Enstone for the faith they have in promoting me to this position. I am very aware of our need to keep pushing development of this year’s E21 whilst developing next year’s car to a set of very different regulations. There are some exciting times ahead for Enstone and I’m honoured to be part of it.”