I must admit when I saw the story in the Telegraph this morning suggesting that Mercedes might be buying into the Brawn team I wasn’t sure. On the face of it, why would they need to do that, when they already have a 40% stake in McLaren?
It seems all the more intriguing that they should be doing this at a time when other manufacturers like Honda and now BMW are pulling out and Toyota are dramatically reducing their spend on the sport. Who knows what Renault’s next move will be after the judgement is made on the Singapore race-fixing allegations.
And yet the more you look into it, the more substance there appears to be to this story and this looks to me like a classic case of a company zagging, while everyone else zigs, which is a great attitude when dealing with an economic downturn; look for opportunity, not excuses.
Mercedes may be choosing this moment to pile into F1 in a bigger way than ever because the opportunity is there like never before to make a real impression on the sport. Up to now they have had the three pointed star on the McLaren, had some great wins, (but not as many as they should have had) and survived some painful scandals with their partner.
But this year, with Brawn, they have spread the net wider, gained a significant secondary benefit in terms of wins and positive image – and they’ve been making money from the deal to boot.
Unlike the other manufacturers in F1, Mercedes has always been happy not to pay for the whole team, instead using the team’s ability to find decent sponsors. Mercedes concentrate on funding a really good engine programme and contributing to team funds, but not underwriting them.
Now with F1 contracting and the manufacturers in retreat comes an opportunity to grab more of the sport’s real estate at low cost. The Brawn buy-in, if it happens, is part of that and it makes real sense, leaving Mercedes as a major player in F1, while still paying out a fraction of what it has cost Toyota to achieve very little. Timing is everything. It also strengthens a key FOTA member. Brawn is a team of the future, with a structure and business model, which is the blueprint for post-Mosley, post credit crunch F1.
They zig, we zag; it’s set to become one of the winners’ catch-phrases of the Great Recession.