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Do Mercedes troubles stretch back to departure of key personnel?

The troubles at Mercedes have been well documented as the team struggles to get a grip of the 2022 'new era' regulations. But was their fate sealed in the run up to this radical regulation change?

Between the 2021 and 2022 Formula 1 season's there was a massive change for Mercedes. As F1 ushered in new regulations, big changes were also underway behind the scenes at the eight-time Constructors' Champions. Numerous senior personnel have either departed or been reassigned to new roles within the wider Mercedes AMG Group, many of whom were responsible for their unstoppable dominance between 2014 and 2021. Given that F1 has undergone one of the most radical changes in regulations since 2017, is it any coincidence that these changes behind the scenes have had an impact on the teams ability to perform on track? RacingNews365.com takes a look at all the key personnel changes that have happened in the last four years at Mercedes.

James Allison

Midway through the 2021 in April is was announced that James Allison would be moved over to become Chief Technical Officer of the Mercedes AMG group. Allison's new role meant stepped away from his position as Technical Director, being replaced by his deputy Mike Elliott. Since 2021, Allison's involvement with their F1 operations has been minimal, as he has been the technical lead of Ben Ainslie's Ineos Team UK Britannia America's Cup team. Although the project for Mercedes 2022 car started under Allison in 2020, the team has still presided over a car concept that has nerfed their competitiveness back to their pre-2014 form. Elliott admitted how the team made a single 'mistake' that compromised their 2022 car , but now the team is left stumped as customer team Aston Martin outperform them on track with a car that was designed using their wind tunnel facilities.

Aldo Costa

One of the leading figures behind Mercedes success throughout the hybrid era, Aldo Costa, left his position as Engineering Director in 2019 to join Italian chassis-maker Dallara. Team boss Toto Wolff described him as a "pillar of the team" when he left, and although it was before work on the 2022 regulations began, Costa is known for being one of the most successful engineers prior to his time at Mercedes having worked at Ferrari during the Schumacher dominance era. He was replaced by John Owen, who currently leads the tech engineering group reporting to Mike Elliott. Owen has been with the team since 2007 when it was Honda, having previously worked at Sauber.

Andy Cowell

By all intents Mercedes power unit reliability has been bulletproof in the last couple of seasons. The team nearly had a 100% record in 2022 had it not been for Lewis Hamilton's retirement at the Belgium Grand Prix, after the team admitted the contact with Fernando Alonso on the opening lap destroyed his power unit. One of the key figures behind their power unit success was Andy Cowell, who left the team in June 2020 and was succeeded by his deputy Hywel Thomas. But while their power units have been the most reliable on the grid, it appears both Honda and Ferrari have overtaken them in performance. The changeover to E10 fuels in 2022 had a significant impact on how engine-makers approached the year, given that they are also limited to only making changes that are for reliability purposes. The performance of Mercedes engine customers Williams and Aston Martin in Bahrain suggest they has got back on top of their performance deficit, but it was a worrying sign for a team that has been unstoppable in the hybrid era.

James Vowles

The most recent high profile departure at Mercedes was former Chief Strategist James Vowles, who Wolff admitted would have had to unseat him as team boss to progress further up in the organisation. Instead Vowles has taken up the role as a rival to Wolff on the grid by joining Mercedes power unit customer Williams as Team Principal. Vowles role at Mercedes went beyond sorting the strategy for the races, he was also a key member that helped out with identifying their young driver talent and other strategical areas of the business. He was also one of the original 'Brackley Boys' having joined them in 2001, seeing the team through the various incarnations including BAR, Honda, and Brawn. Wolff said he was "comfortable" that Vowles departure will not leave a "big weakness" in the team having created a revised strategy structure, however his experience will be valuable through this turbulent time.

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