I’m a huge James Allison fan, I have to confess. He’s literate, lucid, intelligent, very knowledgable about a lot of subjects – and he’s creative, too, as we’ve seen over the years in F1. At “Lotus” he gave us the forward-facing exhausts; and in recent months we’ve seen the intriguing steering/camber system on the 2020 Merc F1 car. I’m sure James will say that this most recent idea should be credited to someone else – but then that is his way. The point is that he engenders the sort of empirical engineering we see only rarely in a template-driven era of F1.
He was on my flight to Australia and I was struck then by his courtesy and humility, too. You could argue pretty comprehensively that James is one of the most successful and sought-after people in the F1 pit lane, yet James had no qualms about turning right when he stepped into the long-haul Airbus, away from the first-class section. Other, less significant F1 people, from other teams, burned their money at the sharp end. James has no such delusions.
And so I welcome every chance that arises to hear what James has to say. This video not only provides a nice insight into the way he thinks and enunciates his words but also into the sort of structure and discipline involved in designing and building a new F1 car. So enjoy. There aren’t many engineers in the world – let alone F1 engineers – who can create word pictures like, “we fool the car into thinking it’s on the track” or “it looks like Arnie Schwarzenegger when you pull his skin off and it’s The Terminator underneath”. Or, “the drivers are physically absent but ever-present; their voices are built into our programmes and designs.” Or, finally, in summation: “Hopefully there’s still time to reflect on the beautiful thing that’s been created…”
With special thanks to AMG-Mercedes Petronas Motorsport.