New Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff has denied speculation that he plans to replace Ross Brawn as team principal of the Mercedes F1 team, but refused to be drawn on stories that he plans to hire McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe,
Speaking in a Mercedes organised teleconference, in which JA on F1 participated, Wolff (41) said,
“It would be foolish to talk about replacing anyone… That is speculation in the media, I think I would be aware of that. Ross is there and he is part of the team and I hope Ross is going to stay as long as possible.
“Paddy is a recognised person in the paddock, he has been with McLaren for 15 or 20 years. I’ve read it in the paper, that’s all I can tell you. Obviously in F1 there is always a lot of speculation about personalities joining or not joining, but there’s nothing I can tell you at this stage.”
He denied that there had been a plan in place for Lowe to join Williams and this has been converted into a move with Wolff to Mercedes, “there is no truth in it,” he said.
Wolff only took on his new job yesterday, but already there is rife speculation, most of it originating in Germany with Bild newspaper. However BBC Sport website ran a story today with insight from Eddie Jordan, who broke the Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes story last September, that Wolff and Niki Lauda planned to replace Brawn and run the team themselves.
Jordan’s theory is as follows: “”Paddy Lowe is going to Mercedes and it would appear that Brawn and Fry are on their way out, and Lowe will be there in a very senior capacity. Lowe won’t be technical director; he’ll be more senior than that. But he won’t be called team principal either,” Jordan said, “because that will be Wolff. But Lowe will effectively be running the team on a day-to-day basis.”
Sources in Germany have indicated that Lowe’s future is under discussion in Woking and Brackley, but the 50 year old engineer has a contract at McLaren to the end of 2013 and will not be released sooner.
Wolff clarified that Lauda’s role is as non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team, reporting to the Daimler board but without executive day to day functions, whereas Brawn will be responsible for the technical side of the team and Wolff will represent Mercedes’ interests. As for the future of the CEO of the team, Nick Fry, Wolff said only “we are looking into that situation”.
Wolff will drop all his other activities and focus on his new role with Mercedes, which involves him being a 30% shareholder in the Mercedes F1 team. He confirmed that there are no silent partners in his shareholding and that he is doing it alone. He has stepped back from the management of Valtteri Bottas, who will now be handled by Mika Hakkinen’s former manager Didier Coton, who also has a hand in managing Lewis Hamilton.
Clearly having a partner like Wolff who is also a shareholder, gives Mercedes options going forward in case the project of team ownership does not work out. And clearly as shareholders Wolff and Lauda will have more clout than Brawn. It was interesting to note Wolff’s comment that he had not yet spoken to Brawn, which seems odd given how closely the pair will be working and considering that the deal to bring Wolff to Mercedes has been in discussion for a couple of weeks, according to the Austrian.
“Mercedes is committed to F1 and to doing it for many years from now,” Wolff said. “I’m very proud to have the possibility to be a partner and a kind of managing partner of Mercedes in F1. This is what they were looking for someone who is a co-shareholder and a partner and who is looking after their interests in F1.”
Asked what his brief is from the Daimler board, Wolff said, “Daimler (owner of Mercedes) is one of the best brands in the world. They came into F1 to be successful and to be perceived as being successful, being a top team. This is what the board is expecting and this is the goal. We will be working flat out.”
Wolff also confirmed that former F1 driver Robert Kubica in a DTM car shortly and will be closely monitoring his progress and rehabilitation.
Asked again by JA on F1 at the end of the conference if he could clarify that replacing Brawn is not his objective he said,
“I haven’t been in Brackley and had conversations with Ross. I admire what Ross has done. I need to sit down and understand the structure….Ross’ track record is fantastic…I need some time to understand the situation and to take time and analyse. It would be foolish to speak about replacing anyone. They are good people and that’s where I am right now.”