Mercedes‘ bombshell announcement of chief technical director Mike Elliott‘s resignation brings to a close a turbulent two years for the Silver Arrows – but what did he achieve before overseeing the team’s machinery from 2021?
Elliott contributed to all of Mercedes‘ success with Lewis Hamilton, but will be remembered for being the hand on the helm for the team’s fall from grace under Formula 1‘s regulation change for 2022.
He said he’s taking a step back from F1 after 23 years in the sport, before deciding what the future holds, after James Allison had already returned to take back the role of technical director from Elliott.
“Mike has been one of the pillars of the team’s achievements over the past decade, and it’s with truly mixed feelings that we say goodbye to him today,” said Toto Wolff.
“Mike is a fiercely intelligent technical brain and a great team player; he has made a strong contribution not just to winning racing cars but also to building the culture of our team.
“But on the other side, it’s clear that he’s ready for new adventures beyond Mercedes – so I know this is the right step for him to take, too.
“He leaves the team today with our thanks for the effort, commitment, and expertise he has brought to the team over the past 11 years – and our very best wishes for the future.”
Early career of Mike Elliott
Elliott spent eight years at Imperial College London – regularly ranked as one of the 10 best universities in the world – completing his Masters in aeronautical engineering then progressing to his PhD in aerodynamics.
But despite such an impressive and extensive background, Elliott‘s decision to enter the world of F1 came down to a chance meeting.
“The guy I shared an office with during my PhD convinced me it would be an interesting career to pursue,” Elliott said, as reported by Paddock magazine. “Ironically, he is our Chief Designer now and we sit two desks apart!”
First steps into F1
For someone working in such a high-speed world as F1, Elliott‘s career appears to have progressed much more cautiously.
After nearly a decade of postgraduate study, Elliott spent another eight years at McLaren rising through the ranks of the aerodynamics department, from joining the team in 2000 to being appointed team leader in 2006.
There he contributed to Hamilton‘s maiden F1 world championship in 2008 – not the first time they’d combine for a title – but midway through that season he followed Fernando Alonso‘s lead and moved to Enstone and Renault.
He stayed at the team for four years, and even teamed up with Allison. But after Lotus fully took over for 2012, Elliott moved team for a third time, to begin his most successful stint in F1.
Glory days at Mercedes
Elliott began as Mercedes‘ principal aerodynamicist in July 2012, contributing to the car that again gave Hamilton his first win at the team – the W04.
In that role until 2017 as Mercedes swept all before them in the F1 world, Elliott was rewarded with a promotion to the role of technology director, which he held until 2021.
Mercedes won a stunning 102 races between 2014 and 2020, at a hit rate of almost 75%. They swept claimed every championship in the period, with Elliott‘s work helping to power Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to glory, in an unprecedented period of success in the sport.
The beginning of the end
Elliott‘s ascension at Mercedes appeared to be complete in 2021, when he took over from Allison as technical director. Devoting much of their efforts that season to the regulations revolution for 2022, the Mercedes juggernaut looked set to keep on steamrolling into a new era of F1 despite Verstappen‘s heartbreaking maiden championship win.
“On a personal level, it is an amazing opportunity to become technical director of a team like Mercedes, and I must thank Toto and our company for trusting me to make the step up to this new role,” Elliott said at the time.
“It is an incredible privilege to be part of this team and I know that the leadership strength at every level through the company will be vital to our future success. I can’t wait to get started and to tackle the many exciting technical challenges ahead of us in the next months and years.
“It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work for James earlier in my career at Renault, and at Mercedes. His track record in the sport speaks for itself, they are big shoes to fill.”
However, the dream role turned out to be a nightmare. With Allison off working on INEOS’ Americas Cup project, Mercedes looked rudderless in 2022.
The revolutionary ‘no sidepods’ concept was a disaster, but the team made it just enough of a success to stick with it for 2023, and condemn another season to failure.
It didn’t take long for the guillotine to spring into action though. Allison was recalled from the oceans to reprise his role as technical director in March 2023, with Elliott shuffled across to a less hands-on role.
With the writing on the wall, it took just seven more months for Elliott to officially leave the team, after more than ten years at Brackley.