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Elliott's departure is just the latest exit in Mercedes 'brain-drain'

Chief Technical Officer Mike Elliott recently quit Mercedes - with his departure being the latest in a line of exits of senior management - just when the team needs stability.

Hamilton Russell Japan
To news overview © XPBimages

There comes a time in the life cycle of elite sports when a team must reinvent itself to stay ahead of the competition and stay fresh.

Those who have guided you to unprecedented success take their leave while the next generation step up to take their places, but more often than not, suffer teething troubles.

In turn, this allows rivals who have been biding their time to take their place at the head of the order as 'their' cycle and time at the top begins. This is a situation Mercedes finds itself in at the moment.

Some of the architects of its great success between 2014 and 2021 have moved on, with the team trying to find its footing in the ground-effects era as Red Bull sweep all before it.

The so-called 'brain-drain' from Mercedes continued recently with the departure of Chief Technical Officer and long-time stalwart Mike Elliott from Brackley.

Elliott will inextricably be linked to the doomed zero sidepod concept of the W13, which the team doubled down on for the launch of the W14. He swapped jobs with James Allison in the spring, who resumed the technical director role, before formally leaving on October 31st, of his own accord and was not forced out.

But Elliott's departure is the latest in a string of departures from Mercedes over recent times, as the team looks to bridge the gap from one era to the next.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Costa, Cowell and Vowles

In 2018, Aldo Costa quit as Engineering Director, stepping down for family reasons, with Mercedes losing the single most successful designer in F1 history.

Costa has 12 Drivers' and 14 Constructors' titles on his CV following a spell with Ferrari during the Michael Schumacher heyday before joining Mercedes at the start of its before he went onto join chassis constructor Dallara.

Engine guru Andy Cowell stepped down in mid-2020 from his role as managing director of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains for new challenges, being succeeded by Hywel Thomas.

Cowell was responsible for the creation of the class-leading Mercedes power units of the early turbo-hybrid era, an area Mercedes has since been arguably overhauled by Honda/Red Bull Powertrains.

The drain continued this year with the departure of strategy chief James Vowles, who took up the Team Principal role at Williams.

Vowles had run Mercedes on the ground at races Toto Wolff had skipped, and with a ceiling in place, elected to leave Brackley having been there through its BAR, Honda, and Brawn days.

In addition, Allison stepped down as technical director in late 2020 to be replaced by Elliiott.

For any team to lose its engineering director, managing director of powertrains, and strategy director, have two technical directors and chief technical officers in two years in a handful of years is not the environment in which titles can be won.

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	© XPBimages
			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages
			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

What next for Wolff and Mercedes?

"Mike was my number one employee for many, many years in terms of how he performed. We’re going to miss one of the most clever people in the industry," Wolff reflected on the departure of Elliott to Sky Sports.

"It was just a hard toll on him over those many years, and I find it very remarkable that someone can say: 'You know what, I need to do something else,' rather than holding on to this.

"Formula 1 anyway is an incestuous environment, if somebody is strong and says: 'I’m done with it for the time being,' that’s good.”

"[The development of the car is] never the decision of a single person. I think, as a group, we’re trying to build the quickest race car, and obviously we were so far down the route with that concept of the car that we thought maybe we got on top of it.

"We didn’t, that’s why we changed it. We put lots of plasters on the car in order to be more competitive like we see now, but that hasn’t got any correlation.

"It’s no single person’s fault if a car doesn’t perform.

"It’s also not only one single person that makes the car faster, and I think we have such a strength in the organisation that you can take one out and everybody else is going to cover that, and the other way around, so I don’t think that’s going to change anything for next year."


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