Mercedes' James Allison on Hamilton and how the team took a gamble on a 'grieving' man

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James Allison. Image: Mercedes-AMG F1
James Allison. Image: Mercedes-AMG F1

Mercedes-Benz's Formula 1 team technical director James Allison opens up what gives Lewis Hamilton the edge and discusses how hard it was to return to the sport after the death of his wife in 2016. 

Allison was a guest on the team's in-house Youtube channel, and the 30-minute long chat uncovered some valuable insight from one of the sport's great engineers. 

"The season gives a sense of structure, purpose and discipline to the lives of anyone who's lucky enough to be in a F1 team, the 52-year-old, qualified pilot said. 

Allison shared about how he has been keeping busy in isolation, how his job has evolved over the years, on joining Mercedes, working alongside Toto, the great champions who have raced his cars, and how after 29 years he still loves F1 as much as ever. 

Dealing with death

Allison opens up about the tragic loss of his wife Rebecca who died suddenly of meningitis in March 2016, and how team boss Toto Wolff took a gamble on a 'grieving' man to join Mercedes from rivals Ferrari only a year later. 

“I am still grieving today four years on, but then I was crying in the car on my way into work and crying on the way home,” Allison said.

It's really interesting to hear someone in the sport speak openly about their private life. 

On Hamilton, Allison says: "He’s one of the oldest drivers on the grid now, still drives like one of the youngest but in a career of multiple championships and countless wins, you’ll struggle to find a moment on the track where you’ll see Lewis doing something ugly."

Hamilton has scored three of his six world drivers' championships and three constructors' titles under Allison. For those Hamilton-skeptics, Allison says the 35-year-old driver has not lost his one-lap intensity.

"I do think there comes a time where the driver’s racecraft is still incredibly strong but that last little extra special something that gives them the qualifying genius starts to slip through their fingers,” he said.  

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