I am hearing whispers from Enstone that there are changes afoot in the technical department of Lotus F1 Team, with the word being that Technical Director James Allison is finally going to leave the team. There has been much interest in James from other teams for the last couple of years and he has rejected all offers – but obviously he has now been made an offer he cannot refuse. This would seem to suggest that the offer is from Mercedes-Benz. I heard rumours that he was on the move a few weeks ago and asked around but Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes have all denied that he is joining them. What really set the alarm bells going was when Kimi Raikkonen won in Australia and Allison was not on the podium, as it was the first race which he had attended as Technical Director which the team had won and he had clearly played a major role in the success.
Whatever his destination, it seems that Allison has signed a non-disclosure agreement with someone in F1 and is on the move. The word from my spies in Enstone is that he will be replaced by Yorkshireman Nick Chester, a very smart 43-year-old engineer who has been with the team since 2000. Chester started his career after graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in mechanical engineering. His first job was at Nick Wirth’s Simtek Research, where he developed simulation software for secret BMW F1 project that never happened. This ultimately became the Simtek F1 team and after that closed down in 1995 Chester moved on to TWR Arrows to work in research and development and extended the team’s simulation capabilities before becoming a chassis performance engineer with Pedro Diniz in 1997.
I remember at the time being told that I should keep an eye on him as he would be going places.
In 1998 he became Mika Salo’s race engineer. The team was soon running out of cash and when it closed down he moved to the Benetton team where he engineered Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella before becoming head of vehicle performance in 2005. He later moved up to being head of Performance Systems and in April last year was appointed Engineering Director.