Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport are to carry out a “planned transition” of its senior technical personnel ahead of the 2019 Formula 1 season.
The team says that the move will “see the baton handed on to the next generation of leaders” in the foreseeable future, as the reigning champions currently endure their hardest championship battle in the turbo hybrid era to date.
Aldo Costa, formerly of Scuderia Ferrari and Minardi, will move into the role of Technical Advisor from his current occupation of Engineering Director. The switch is reportedly down to Costa wanting the opportunity to spend more time with his family in his native Italy. Costa’s berth will be assumed by Chief Designer John Owen, who joined the team in its Honda guise 11 years ago. Owen will work under the leadership of Technical Director James Allison.
In a statement released today, Costa hailed his time with Mercedes as “an amazing experience” so far and thanked his colleagues for welcoming him into the organisation in 2011. The Italian has been seen as a key reason for the German marque’s dominance from 2014 onwards.
“The last seven years with Mercedes have been an amazing experience,” said Costa, before adding. “Not just successful professionally but also a life experience that has enriched me and my family, and given us a more open and international mind-set.
“It took just a few weeks to settle in the team and dedicate myself to this new challenge. The reason for the easy fit was the attitude of my colleagues, with their warm welcome, respect and collaborative approach all the way through the team.
“This has been especially true with Toto [Wolff, team principal]: we share a professional challenge and also a personal passion for racing, and I have been grateful for his trust and full support in what I have tried to achieve.”
Looking towards the future, Costa cited Mercedes’ next challenge as creating “an even stronger group” for the next decade, one that will see huge changes in Formula 1’s regulations starting with the 2021 season. The 57-year-old said that he is satisfied to shift his former department of control over to Allison and Owen.
“We have seen the team progress and achieve success, and now our next challenge is to create an even stronger group to meet the challenges of the next decade,” he added.
“Over the past year, I have worked with Toto and James to develop a long-term succession plan to help the next generation do the job in the best possible way.
“I am happy to leave the baton in the capable hands of John and James – and to continue to support the new organisation as a Technical Advisor to ensure it prospers in the future.”
Mercedes also announced that Mark Ellis will step down as Performance Director – a void filled by Chief Vehicle Dynamicist, Loic Serra – to embark on a sabbatical, beginning mid-2019. Ellis had previously been with BAR before joining Aston Martin Red Bull Racing for six years. The 54-year-old returned to Brackley in 2014 and will oversee Serra’s transition until his break officially starts. Serra has been with Mercedes since the team’s return to Formula 1 as a constructor in 2010.
The team noted that the reshuffling has been met with full approval of senior figures and “draws on the internal capability” that has been observed over the last few years.
For the first time since 2013, Mercedes do not top the Constructors’ Championship after ten rounds and stand 20 points behind leaders Ferrari. With just three victories to their name, the team has also recorded its lowest number of points after ten rounds in the modern era. Furthermore, the Austrian Grand Prix marked the first time since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix that two Mercedes cars have retired with technical faults.
Under the pressure of the occasion, Wolff, Allison and Lewis Hamilton have been criticised for suggesting that collisions between Ferrari and Mercedes cars have been deliberate, following Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen making contact with Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton on the first lap of the French and British races respectively.
Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene refuted the claims and retorted by saying that former employee Allison should be “ashamed”. Wolff later retracted his post-Silverstone words, admitting that they were “stupid”.