Mercedes GP has announced today that both Geoff Willis and Aldo Costa have joined the team, beefing up a technical staff which is already well stocked. This is part of a process in which Mercedes are adding a significant number of people to their team, which was slimmed down in the Brawn GP era of 2009.
The signs are clear; Mercedes are going for it. The board has signed off on an expansion plan to take the team up to the limits imposed by the Resource Restriction Agreement and enable Ross Brawn’s team to challenge Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren for the top honours. Crictics might argue that it looks like a case of “too many chiefs” but – to extend the metaphor – there are plenty of talented “indians” at Brackley and technical director Bob Bell has clearly seen some areas where more leadership expertise is required. To have people of this calibre joining in these roles is impressive.
Willis, who specified the wind tunnel at Brackley during his time there, is in charge of aerodynanics, research and development and getting the most out of tools like the tunnel, CFD and others to feed into the design and development process. Costa will oversee the design and development of the cars, as he did at Ferrari under Ross Brawn. Both men will report to technical director Bob Bell.
Costa is on the rebound from Ferrari; he was dropped earlier this year in favour of his understudy Pat Fry after presiding over the building of a car not capable of fighting for the title. Insiders say that, as a leader, Costa had got himself into a mentality of not wanting to take risks for fear of failure. When he was working for Ross Brawn in Ferrari’s all conquering years, he had Ross there to decide what risks were worth taking. Now Fry has his head on that particular block and he has the responsibility of producing a car for 2012 in which the drivers can take on Red Bull.
But Costa’s record at Brawn’s side speaks for itself with eight world titles won and now he slots in as engineering director.
Meanwhile Willis is an interesting appointment as he has been around the block a bit recently, leaving BAR Honda to join Red Bull, getting dropped by them and then ending up at HRT until walking out a few months ago. Willis is like Brawn and the man he and Costa will report to, technical director Bob Bell; a very practical and experienced technical manager of men and of resources. He slots in as technology director in the new set up. Willis joins the team next month, returning to the Brackley factory where he spent six years in the early 2000s when it was BAR Honda. Costa will join in December, when his Ferrari gardening leave, so will have limited input into design of the 2012 car.
From Mercedes’ point of view 2012 is the third season since buying the team from Brawn and his management group. I’m not sure how long Brawn is tied in on a “key man” clause, nor how long he intends to carry on as Team Principal, but there is no doubt that the management looks in pretty good shape long term with these appointments.
Coming on the back of McLaren signing former Williams technical director Sam Michael, the pattern seems to be of consolidation of experienced senior people at the top teams as they struggle to get on terms with Red Bull. This should make for an epic battle over the coming seasons.
“I am delighted to announce that Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis will be joining the MERCEDES GP PETRONAS team,” said Brawn. “Geoff is a highly respected engineer with over twenty years of Formula One experience, and we look forward to his arrival next month. Having worked closely with Aldo for many years, I know that he will bring dedication and championship-winning expertise to the team when he joins
in December. Building a winning team is an exciting challenge for us all as we work towards the competitiveness and standards that we aspire to as the Mercedes-Benz works team. With a strong technical structure led by Bob Bell, we are moving ourselves into the best possible position to achieve our ambitions.”