Mercedes Grand Prix is up and running, the third time in the company’s history that it has had its own team at the highest level of the sport.
At a ceremony today in Stuttgart the all German driver line up of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg was unveiled along with the distinctive colour scheme.
The legendary Silver Arrows were a powerful force in Grand Prix racing before the war and then dominated it when they returned in the mid 1950s. They won everything because their investment was huge and the technology was superior to the opposition and in Juan Manuel Fangio they had the best driver available, with Stirling Moss as his young understudy.
Fangio was 42 when he started with Mercedes in F1 and Moss was 25. The echoes are uncanny; going into this season Schumacher is 41 and Rosberg is 24.
Moss was happy to follow in the master’s wheel tracks in 1955, whereas Rosberg has his own agenda, having signed up before Schumacher’s name was connected to the team. The situation will need managing carefully. It is up to Ross Brawn and his team to ensure that things run smoothly and that their technology allows them to dominate the sport as their predecessors did, but it will not be easy. The Resource Restriction Agreement now controls F1 spending, so it is all about efficiency, rather than an arms race now.
The car revealed today was last year’s championship winning Brawn car repainted in Mercedes colours, showing the level that the team is coming in at and the expectations which inevitably follow. The new car will be called the W01 – in the same tradition as the great cars of the past like the W125 and the W196. The W stands simply for “Wagen”, meaning “car”.
What is striking and unusual about this event is that the sport now has another established front running team. Brawn, in its previous guises as Honda and BAR never established itself as a top team, but Mercedes’ intervention coupled with Brawn’s success puts this team on a level with Ferrari and McLaren. With Mercedes’ proud heritage in the sport it is a powerful combination.
Ross Brawn is the architect for all of this, having taken the plunge almost a year ago and saved the team after Honda pulled out. Mercedes have both rewarded him handsomely for his initiative and invested their trust in him. He no longer has the stress of having his name above the door and the responsibility of paying the bills each month, which is a big relief to him, but he has a lot of pressure to deliver, as he had at Ferrari. He was overjoyed by the way things have worked out,
“It is a great thing, working with Michael again is a very special treat and something I didn’t think would happen again, ” he said. “It’s so exciting and so motivational for me and the team to be involved. Nico is a very exciting prospect who will make a wonderful partner for Michael. Nico has been in a racing for a number of years but he will enjoy working with Michael and seeing how a seven-time champion operates.”
Schumacher’s return is an extraordinary development for the sport, “For sure for me it is very, very special, a dream come true to be able to drive the first silver arrow for more than 50 years. It is a great emotion and it is a great feeling that I am getting from the outside, so a big compliment to all fans that see it like this,” he said. “It gives me a greater feel and a greater push. We have a very exciting combination here. We have a world champion team in every sense of the word, and I cannot wait to get into the car for the first time in Valencia. I am convinced the team will be in a very good position to fight for the championships this season and I will definitely give it a go.”
The team is backed by Petronas, the Malaysian oil company in a deal worth €30 million per season. There has not been any mention yet of Nick Heidfeld as test and reserve driver, despite reports over the weekend that he had agreed a deal.