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James Allison

Mercedes technical director 'not massively' surprised at Hamilton exit

Mercedes technical director James Allison says the team was "prepared" to lose Lewis Hamilton, or otherwise it would not have allowed him to walk away from the second year of the contract extension he signed last season.

Hamilton Allison
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Mercedes technical director James Allison was "not massively" surprised that Lewis Hamilton decided to leave the team, but did admit the timing of decision did catch it off-guard.

The British engineer confirmed that as he knew about the structure of the seven-time drivers' champion's deal, he was aware the contract "permitted that to happen", with Hamilton opting to cut he extension he signed last year short and join Ferrari for the 2025 F1 season.

The 103-time grand prix winner told Mercedes he would be leaving the team during pre-season. After a day of speculation at the start of February that Hamilton would join the Scuderia, the Brackley-based outfit announced his impending departure. The Italian marque subsequently confirmed the veracity of those claims.

Because many believed Hamilton would end his F1 career with Mercedes, the seismic move took the world of motorsport by surprise. But to Allison, who was on the inside of the information curve, it was not "unpredictable" that it happened.

“Not massively," the 56-year-old replied to Tom Clarkson on the Beyond the Grid podcast, when asked if he was surprised upon being told. "I was surprised at the manner in which it happened, the timing of it, but I was aware of the nature of the contract we'd offered and the nature of the contract we'd offered permitted that to happen.”

“So if it then happened, we shouldn't be surprised because that was explicitly a thing that we were prepared to happen or else we wouldn't have put it as an option in the contract. So the precise timing and sequencing of when it happened, that I think caught everyone a bit on the hop, but that it did happen, I don't think was unpredictable."

Allison reflects on Hamilton 'magic'

Allison, who had previous won championships with Michael Schumacher at Ferrari and Fernando Alonso at Renault in a seven-year run of success with the two teams during the early 2000s, joined Mercedes in 2017.

Despite the relatively lean run the team has had since the contemporary ground-effects era began in 2022, Allison worked closely with Hamilton, as the British driver edged closer and closer to matching Schumacher's record of seven drivers' titles - which Allison had himself had a hand in helping the German achieve.

"The days where he would just produce total magic that would make you go, 'Oh, my goodness', Allison said, reflecting on his time working with Hamilton, when asked what he would miss the most about the 39-year-old.

"Putting a car on a road with such precision that just left all the other drivers around him with no option but to sort of surrender to what Lewis was doing on the road, the ability to make a tyre last and last and last, even while telling Bono [Hamilton's race engineer Peter Bonnington] it wouldn't - the drama that goes along with having him as a team-mate.

"But the just the delivery of brilliant, brilliant performance. I have said before I think he's the best racing car driver there's ever been, and I still believe it."

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