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What kind of Mercedes challenge can we expect in F1 this year?
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Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Jan 2013   |  11:14 am GMT  |  166 comments

It is already clear that we will be hearing a lot about Mercedes in 2013, much of it from in and around the team. But what kind of Mercedes challenge can we expect this year?

Niki Lauda, the new non-executive chairman of the team, said before Christmas that there is a big job to be done to improve the way the Brackley based team operates and noted that, “While everyone else is on (Christmas) vacation, I will use the time to do everything to bring Mercedes to the front again — because that’s where we belong,”

Meanwhile Michael Schumacher, who left the team after three seasons to make way for Hamilton, told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport that Mercedes’ budget is one of the key reasons why the team lags behind the big spenders like Red Bull,

“It’s a factor,” he said. “Over the years, Red Bull built an infrastructure and has a budget giving them the possibility to respond to anything in the best possible way.

“It is nothing more or less than what we had at Ferrari.”

Mercedes’ F1 team ownership adventure was predicated on the Resource Restriction Agreement being more effective.

When they bought the Brawn team in 2009, for €123 million, the then motorsport director Norbert Haug spoke openly about how the Brackley team was well set for the new-look post credit crunch F1, regulated by an effective cost control mechanism between the teams.

According to Bild, Mercedes-Benz puts €60-80 million into the team annually, roughly half the €150m annual budget, but team sources suggest that this figure refers to the total cost of the F1 programme to the company, in other words the net cost of the F1 engine division in Brixworth (after engine lease payments from teams offset expenditure) plus the personnel at Mercedes in Stuttgart working on motorsport.

The problem is that in the intervening period the RRA has not been policed effectively; Red Bull did not want to pay ball with the other teams and they and Ferrari withdrew from the F1 Teams Association a year ago. Some effective RRA controls are in place on wind tunnel and CFD usage, but it’s clear that Red Bull in particular has been spending more. This is one of the reasons why Haug’s vision failed, leading to his dismissal last month.


So where does Mercedes go from here? This is one of the key subjects Lauda will have been assessing over the winter. With Haug out of the way, it will be his job to advise the board of Daimler (Mercedes’ parent company) about what budget level the team will require to succeed.

He may or may not be aligned in his view with the two men running the team, team principal Ross Brawn and CEO Nick Fry, and we will discover more about how aligned they are as the next few months go on.

The sense among experienced observers in Germany is that there are likely to be tensions between the two factions. Lauda has multiple media channels to get his message out, like his friend and opposite number Helmut Marko at Red Bull.

But the disappointment so far isn’t all down to budget; the technical team has not performed effectively to produced a consistent front-running car.

Lewis Hamilton has said that he wants to turn the team into a winning force, while both Brawn and Lauda have called for expectations to be managed. Mercedes is coming from quite a long way back.

That said, they went through quite a few upheavals on the wind tunnel and other infrastructure projects last year, the team now has many state-of-the-art facilities.

Above all, it needs its aerodynamics team to raise its game and design a more competitive car from the outset. Operationally Mercedes are at a good level, if they have the car to work with. If they can prove that, then perhaps a bigger budget will follow.

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166 Comments
  1. Guillermo says:

    I’ve been following F1 for around 25 years and in that time, virtually every race and all championships – except 2009 – have been won by Ferrari, McLaren, Newey cars and Enstone cars.

    In that time I’ve also seen Toyota, BMW, Jaguar/Ford and Honda spend billions trying to change the status quo, only to decide that the odd win is not sufficient to justify the massive investment.

    I really do not understand why Mercedes want to follow in the path of the other big manufacturers… (Especially when Renault have set an excellent example of how to succeed in F1)

    1. Sami says:

      Do you really think those companies represent the same in the history of Formula 1? Especially if we speak of works teams?
      Had Honda not left by the end of 2008, its 2009 season might have been a blatant defeat of your theory, would that have been an “odd” title?
      Mercedes should not look up to anyone, they set up the standard in 1954-55, they were already a legend in the 1930s, when Ferrari did not even exist as a constructor!
      May be in this cut-throat market they just want to make the point that they are the best in the field as they once were.
      Why blame them?

      1. means says:

        Sorry but I can’t see how the teams historical success can have any relevance today at all. Different formula, different technology, different people.
        So yes, they should be looking at the successful teams of today. I bet that not a single person at mercedes gp today, from the garage to the boardroom, would ever claim credit for 1950s mercedes success. History has its place, but its not relevant to how a team operates or races.

      2. Sami says:

        That is very true, however what is still the same is the company. Mercedes-Benz is the same company of the thirties and fifties. Of course technology has changed, of course people are different (and the team is based in the UK), but the name is still there. My point is that when you are Mercedes-Benz, there is a case for doing things your own way.
        I assume I may be wrong but when Jean Todt brought back all the departments of Ferrari to Italy, many claimed he was crazy. 2000-2004 and a certain Michael Schumacher proved him right.

      3. JEZ Playense says:

        Red Bull have effectively proved that historical success is not necessary when you have the right mix of talent from drivers, designers and money.

        Brawn did a fair job a few seasons ago as well!

      4. Alexyoong says:

        Honda would have won ’09 title had they stayed, so it is possible in modern D
        F1.

        And Bennetton/Renault have shown that too. There is no reason Mercedes can’t do it if they get the right people.

      5. **Paul** says:

        The Honda engine was no where near on a par with the Mercedes engine which Brawn used. Some reports suggest as much as a 50hp deficit, and if that’s true I assure you Honda would not have won in 2009.

      6. Alexyoong says:

        In reply to Paul:

        Hey, thanks for your reply.

        I take on board your point, of course though whilst I can’t say with a certainty that had Honda been on board they would have gone on to win it, equally it can’t be said with certainty that they wouldn’t have done it.

        For example, in response to your point, the car was originally designed around a Honda unit, which one can presume would have been a more suited fit (re car balance, for example).

        I don’t think it can be said that Honda wouldn’t have had a proper go at the title that year. Whether they would have in fact won it I accept would be open to debate.

        Finally, look at Red Bull, apparently under power Renault engines didn’t particularly stop them in the last few years.

    2. Chromatic says:

      you’ve singled out 2009, and I think that may hold a clue…
      let us speculate that Ross and his engineers have looked carefully at the 2o14 rule book and as in 2009, they hit on a loop hole to exploit, and they have another title winner on the cards. That could be how they have kept Merc on board, because as you say, history has not smiled on manufacturers or their cash.
      That’s pure speculation, of course, and may be pure wrong.

      As to Lauda, still I can’t work out what he’s there for.
      “it will be his job to advise the board of Daimler (Mercedes’ parent company) about what budget level the team will require to succeed.”

      Why don’t they trust the man in charge, Ross Brawn??
      It’s a bit like paying someone to advise you how much you need to stomp up for a new pair of jeans

      1. Wheels says:

        Hey Chromatic!

        Perhaps you are to young to really know anything about the F1 career of Niki Lauda.

        However, during his time as a driver and World Champion with Ferrari, Brabham/Alfa Romeo and McLaren he stood head and shoulders over all drivers of that period (late 70′s early-mid 80′s as highly-skilled and knowledgeable on the technical side of overall set-up and how an F1 car really worked–suspension, chassis, engine development etc….

        His insight into race strategy was also superior to everyone in Grand Prix racing. No driver came close to Lauda in these areas of race craft except for, perhaps, Mario Andretti.

        Furthermore Lauda has stayed involved with Grand prix racing over all these decades and will do a superb job with Mercedes. Mark my words….

      2. robinvictoriabc says:

        While I have enormous respect for ‘King Rat’, Niki Lauda, I only hope he does better as ‘Non-executive chaiman of the team’, than he ever did as Team Principal of Jaguar.

      3. Jonzo says:

        Lauda didn’t achieve much in the two seasons he was at Jaguar though, did he?

      4. Rich B says:

        prost was a great driver and so was his technical development skills and he failed as a team principal.

        wasn’t lauda a consultant to ferrari in the early 90′s when they were useless? he was dropped by Jaguar for achieving little

        if mercedes improve, I doubt any input niki brings will be the reason

      5. Cliff says:

        I hope he performs better at Mercedes than he did at Jaguar!

      6. CJD says:

        he even was very politcal, organising the driver strike in kyalami

        greetings

      7. Paul says:

        Niki Lauda also advised Ferrari during one of their less successful periods, and well Jaguar was rolling in trophies too. I’m not sure why he’s there other than to complicate an already complicated hierarchy

      8. spyke says:

        HE failed at owning an airline. I think he will just sow seeds of division. he will be a distraction

      9. Ayan says:

        You mentioned how technically sound and skilled lauda was in his days. I quote ” he stood head and shoulders over all drivers of that period (late 70′s early-mid 80′s as highly-skilled and knowledgeable on the technical side of overall set-up and how an F1 car really worked–suspension, chassis, engine development etc”
        Well first of all…. there is another driver who MORE THAN matches that description. He is a cartain Michael Schumacher. And he has all those skills and knowledge about an f1 car and certainly is more up to date with the technology and working of an f1 organistaion considering he has been in f1 from 1991 to 2012.
        Coming to strategy, well we all know how cunning he was when it came to that. he often won his races via pit strategies rather than going all out for a win on the race track, though mind you he would have won that ways as well.

        The ferrari team always accept that no driver ever worked as hard for the team as michael schumacher.(Niki Lauda also drove for ferrari, didnt he?) FOr god sake. that man used to live on the fiorano race track, in enzo ferrari’s house during testing days. That’s committment.

        I dont see how on earth is Schumacher less equipped than lauda in the role he is going to play.
        And with all due respect to Niki Lauda, having schumacher on the pit wall will serve greater inspiration than having lauda. When Michael will look down on lewis with that look in the eye, lewis will simply know he could have extracted a couple of tenths more perhaps. just like michael could in his heydays. :) In the end. Lauda is a great of f1. But michael is arguably the greatest when it comes to skills, knowledge and understanding of the sport.

      10. Wheels says:

        To all of the above!

        It’s a known fact that The Ford Motor Company’s racing dept. was calling the shots at Jaguar and completely wasted the, rather, vast resources at it’s disposal.

        There’s, absolutely, no comparison with what is going on at Mercedes F1, these days, and the nonsense that transpired at Jaguar F1. The presence of Ross Brawn on Merc’s pit wall should clue you misinformed to that reality.

        In fact, Lauda’s role at Ferrari was very limited as an adviser and is nothing on the scale of what, for instance, Norbert Haug’s position was at Mercedes (the position that Lauda will hold).

        However, Lauda did bring Ferrari from the deep wilderness of nine mediocre seasons 66′-74 during the 75′ season with his technical expertise and driving talent in developing the 312 T championship winning racer.

        Furthermore, Niki has just freed himself from previous commitments to completely immerse himself in overseeing operations at Mercedes.

        Again, mark my words, Niki Lauda will be just the guiding force that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes needed all along…. (no offense to Denis/Whitmarsh) An ex-F1 World Champion, who like Hamilton, was the fastest racer of his era and will be a great asset to Lewis’ race craft.

        Lastly, Niko Rosberg will also benefit, no small amount, to Lauda’s wisdom. Driving alongside Hamilton, Rosberg will up his game immensely, creating a scenario similar to that of Hamilton and Button at McLaren–in due time!

        In reality, you youngun’s on this website know nothing about the true greatness of Niki Lauda “the fastest”! Do your homework lads….

      11. Bobster says:

        Lauda was part of the set up at Jag and was also an advisor to Ferrari in the early 90s, so his presence now at Merc is no guarantee of success.

      12. Rich B says:

        you seem to think lauda’s success as a driver means he’ll be great as a manager which is nonsense

        and what makes you think we’re all younguns because i’m not.

        it’s good to see niki taking this seriously by leaving his other duties but i still doubt he’ll be of any big help to the team, mark my words.
        i do hope he proves me wrong though

      13. Wheels says:

        I hear you Rich B!

        I don’t understand where all this doubt flows from concerning Niki Lauda’s capabilities as an F1 principal/administrator etc…

        Listen, the man happens to be a very intelligent human being, besides a highly skilled manager (he founded a successful international airlne [Lauda Air]which he managed as CEO for, well, over a decade.

        All this crap about Jaguar and his advising Ferrari is where the real non-sense lies. Jaguar’s failures were far beyond Lauda’s contributions to that team, while his responsibilities at Ferrari (in the early 90′s were minimal.

        As far as his F1 career is concerned, that’s all about insight/experience-”the man’s been there” and he was great! And it’s too bad your not a youngun’! I certainly am….

    3. Gudien says:

      Great point. Why would Daimler attempt to follow in the well worn path of Toyota, BMW, etc.? Perhaps more to the point; will the board of Daimler continue to follow this path?

    4. Tim says:

      Daimler signed-off on the F1 deal because of, at least, the following, in no particular order:

      1. A USGP (maybe 2)
      2. Hamilton (appealing to a key/young U.S. demographic.
      3. Favorable reg changes for ’14.

      Daimler sells cars. The U.S. is a critical market for them. Hamilton will be spending his own time/money marketing himself in the U.S., which will nicely dovetail with the advertisng by Daimler (saving their own advertising budget a few bucks) for Mercedes cars, in the U.S.

      There was, once upon a time, a very attractive female tennis player who never won a tournament but made lotsa $$$. The GP team does not, necessarily, need to win a championship in order for Daimler to rake in a supertanker full of $$$.

      Daimler has lined up their ducks.

      Tim

      1. Philadelphian says:

        Very astute observation.

        If I were Donald Draper writing a commercial for a young demographic in the US, I would be thinking:
        LH in stylish street clothes with hot girl.
        LH in trackside tantrum of frustration.
        LH Mugshot, Australia 2010 (?)
        LH, in car camera around Monte Carlo.
        LH walking to winners podium past all the grid girls in Texas.
        Copy: This is the man developing your car.

      2. Tim says:

        Daimler’s target demographic would, and will, eat that up.

        They’ve done their homework. In 2012 the Merc brand had their best year ever, due almost exclusively to a 11.8% rise in sales in the U.S.

        Tim

      3. Hi Tim

        You completely discount their enormous China sales?!?

      4. Tim says:

        Hi F1addicted.com -

        No I don’t, just didn’t want to rehash what I’d posted earlier (please see my Post at #35).
        China sales – 1.5% gain.

        Tim

  2. Pulkit Tripathi says:

    Hi James,

    In your opinion will it be Lotus vs Mercedes in 2013 or Both the team will give challenge to top 3 teams???

  3. goferet says:

    To be honest, am not overly concerned when it comes to Mercedes because whenever I glance at this team’s employee sheet, I only see winners

    Lauda >>> Multiple champion

    Brawn >>> Multiple champion

    Lewis >>> Multiple race winner

    Rosberg >>> Potential to be a multiple race winner plus son of a F1 champion.

    Ironically, Haug was the weakest leak in the whole Mercedes organization for he was the only none winner.

    Anyway I like the way Lauda is going about his business, he seems like a pretty intense and hungry individual as shown by a number of his recent moves e.g. Foregoing Christmas lunch and also recently giving up his post at Air Berlin.

    So yes, I predict lots of success for this team so much so that Lewis will banish any thoughts of going back to Mclaren.

    Regards the money issue, I guess Mercedes were fooled by the credit crunch for after 2008, they were of the view, why not join the sport because everybody is going to be running around on a budget, playing fair and all that but as it turns out, they’re going to start signing those cheques.

    1. Luke says:

      But Haug was a multiple champion at McLaren as well!

      Lauda’s championships are not really relevant – they were won as a driver. Team management is completely different. I’m surprised he hasn’t cottoned on to this after his unsuccessful stints at Ferrari and Jaguar.

    2. Gudien says:

      To be perfectly honest I don’t know what is wrong at Mercedes F-1. I’m not an expert on running an F-1 team. However if past history is any guide I foresee problems developing between Lauda/Brawn/Hamilton/Hamilton’s management/Daimler board/new hires in engineering.

      It is entirely possible things will get worse at Mercedes before/if they get better.

      1. spyke says:

        With Lauda stirring the pot emotions will boil over

      2. Alexyoong says:

        I tell you what I remember about Lauda’s management style- him test driving the Jaguar, totally pointlessly, and about 10 seconds off Irvine’s pace, when he was the team principal there.

        It made me call into question just how sensible he was at the time.

    3. Mr Ed says:

      Well I’d be hungry if I gave up my Christmas lunch as well! :-)

      1. ak says:

        :P LOL well put !

  4. Michael Bye says:

    My guess much the same as last year

    1. **Paul** says:

      /\ I think you’re going to be right. Although as the regs haven’t changed so much I expect everyone to close up a bit. So McLaren and Red Bull with the fastest cars, Ferrari just behind and then Lotus and Merc behind them.

  5. Elie says:

    I honestly don’t think the Mercedes was that bad a car . It just needs a bit better balance in its aero and suspension. If they find the sweet spot it will be fighting at the front regularly- it will do that anyway given that DRS use is not as big a factor for the leading cars now .

    What will people be thinking if it starts winning races from the get go with Hwmilton at the wheel. We will have everyone saying that Lauda is a genius- but really it’s just 2012 investment finally gelling.

    1. Simmo says:

      It also needs much better tyre management, but hopefully Pirelli will have found the perfect tyre balance this year (interesting and risky, but not too conservative or too fast degrading).

      1. Elie says:

        The tyre management bit has got to do with the cars balance – if that gets sorted then it should no longer be a problem.

    2. Spinodontosaurus says:

      People are constantly spouting that the last 3 Mercedes have been failures. What they forget is that the 2010 Mercedes was very, very quick, especially at the start of the season. The 2011 Merc was also very quick, if not to the same extent. The 2012 Mercedes was one of the fastest cars at the start of the year. OK the end of season was dismal, but the start was very strong.

      Wouldn’t suprise me to see that form continue.

      1. Simmo says:

        Bear in mind Lotus/Renault had a good start to 2011, and a poor end to 2011, but then they put their brains together and produced a winning car.

        Maybe it’ll be a similar story for Mercedes. We will have to see…

      2. JohnnyBenerba says:

        This is what Scumacher and Brawn have openly admitted. While the team did great work in the offseason, they didn’t spend enough on an infrastructure to further develop the car during the season and respond to the top teams developments. So what if you start the season with a decent car, F1 is a development race as much as it is a drivers race. Money is development in that regard.

    3. Wade Parmino says:

      I don’t know what people would be thinking, but I personally would be utterly devastated for Schumacher. I imagine he would throw his TV out the window in furious frustration upon seeing a Hamilton/Rosberg 1-2 finish.

      So, I kinda hope Mercedes doesn’t do so well this year.

      1. Elie says:

        What – 7 world championships aren’t enough ! I would be happy to see MS throw his television out the window.Can’t stand the guy. Hope Hamilton wins in Melb.

      2. Elie says:

        Well maybe if Mercedes wins the WDC Michael will throw all 22 teles out..lol

      3. tim clarke says:

        i suspect Michael has a TV too big to up and throw!

      4. Chromatic says:

        … and there’s probably one in each of his 22 rooms !!

    4. Rudy says:

      The problem with Mercedes is that they are too corporative. Like Toyota and Honda were. Add the fact there have been rule stability since they won as Brawn GP so Mr. Brawn hasn’t had the chance to benefit from crazy new loopholes. Look at their DDRS! A failure. I am no Red Bull fan but look what Newey has done in the same period (2010-2012). If the so called big teams get their act together they could win the CWC. McLaren had it all and threw it away. Ferrari hasn’t produced a decent winning machine. Lotus is in the way to great success. Mercedes…remains a mystery…

  6. Richard says:

    I sense their are heading down the right path now after they have got the big upheavels out of the way. In engineering terms they do need to follow a critical path that constantly pushes them forward, and in todays F1 it needs to be aerodynamically lead, that is everything secondary to that slippy downforce producing shape. – A close second is reliability. So are they moving in the right direction, I hope so, and the noises we are hearing so far seem to comfirm that, but we will only really find out in the first qualifying session in Australia. – I can’t wait!

  7. Luke says:

    So Mercedes will now be given the extra budget to challenge the front runners? Money brings success in many forms as proved in other sports e.g Manchester City. This can only be good news for Lewis Hamilton, good news for us British fans!

  8. Chris says:

    Mercedes need a silver bullet to have any chance of competing at the front in 2013. They finished 2012 a long way back!

    1. tank says:

      silver arrows certainly weren’t doing it..

  9. Mark says:

    I think Lauda and Mercedes has disaster written all over it, he has no proven track record of running a decent F1 Team. His Jaguar days have proven that. He has used the media before to destabilize teams and I think its going to happen again at Mercedes. I hope I am wrong, lets see.

    1. Elie says:

      Lauda is not “running the team” – Ross Brawn is . Lauda is reporting to the board as an external opinion on what the team needs- both guys report to the board. That said -I don’t think it will be smooth sailing at management level anyway.

      1. Liam of Sydney says:

        Indeed, wasn’t it the Joker who said “…too many roosters in the hen-house”? This is exactly what will happen.

        And for Ross Brawn? What a shot of confidence in the arm knowing the board need an overlooker sticking their nose in? He should make sure from the start that he is setting all the agenda for the race team, in terms of politics.

  10. Scuderia McLaren says:

    “I have a bad feeling about this…”
    -Anakin Skywalker

    1. BurgerF1 says:

      Wasn’t that Han Solo??

      1. Scuderia McLaren says:

        Lol, yes Han did say it. Actually a few Star Wars characters muttered those words. C3P0, Kenobi, Solo, Anakin. It seemed to be a bit of a recurring comment. Now I think Lewis Hamilton, Anthony Hamilton, Nico and perhaps some others in F1 paddock will also be muttering that iconic line.

    2. shortsighted says:

      I have a bad feeling about this too. Look at how Mercedes fared in the German saloon car DTM series. I don’t think they managed to outdo all the oppositions.

      Whether there will be a difference with Hamilton coming to the team, I don’t know. At least they will have a driver who they know is on top of his game. He should be able to give good feedbacks to the designers to believe in and work on. I can only say good luck to them.

  11. JamesHunt007 says:

    Long time reader first time commentor. James hits the nail on the head as usual. All depends on the technical department for success in 2013 for Mercedes… On top of that the team infrastructure to build a strong challenge for 2013 to build for 2014. Either way will be an interesting year for Mercedes Benz & Lewis Hamilton.

  12. David Clark says:

    well they might get the £30 million they use to pay to Mclaren? Mclarens last accounts showed a huge amount of revenue still coming from mercedes

  13. Adam says:

    This will be the story of 2013, who will leave first Brawn or Lauda or can they figure out how to get on(and win?)!

    James you should have a caption competition for the first picture of Lauda with his finger out. My caption would be ” I don’t care if you don’t manage your son, he fails to win, I will hold you to account!”

  14. Peter Doff says:

    Yes Brawn v Lauda with Hamilton in the middle.
    May not work but will be fun to watch it.

  15. Jodum5 says:

    Is there a reason you selected a photo of Niki Lauda pointed at Anthony Hamilton senior contentiously?

  16. Alanis Morissette says:

    There’s little question in my mind that any team with Nick Fry as a senior member of staff won’t be unsuccessful for long. The man can literally turn water into wine – he’s an alchemist and a magician when it comes to adding drive, vigor and common sense to the dynamic. Just take a look at his track record. An unbelievably talented individual. :-)

    1. Sebee says:

      You oughta know!

      1. Darrin from Canada says:

        You are AWESOME Sebee…!

      2. Sebee says:

        It’s only start of January! After such high praise things can only go downhill for the rest of the year. :-)

    2. Ambient Sheep says:

      I take it, given your user name, that you are being Ironic…

    3. Ted the Mechanic says:

      But now he’s got a “jagged little pill” in his water (Niki) that might upset the alchemy…

    4. Liam of Sydney says:

      Dripping sarcasm… :)

  17. Spyros says:

    It’s always the same, isn’t it? Those who win always say it’s because their people work hard, like each other etc… and those who miss out squabble.

    When applied to warring sides (where the above phrase is ‘borrowed’ from) it is said that the losers learn the most, but in this case, the real reasons for the result are recognized by everyone, though not always publicly.

    In a world where one multinational company (or a few dozens of them) can evade/avoid taxes by shifting its costs to whichever country has the lowest corporate tax, believing that an F1 team, which has subsidiaries around the world (or is itself the subsidiary of a larger company) CAN’T hide extra development costs, is somewhat short-sighted…

    Thank you James for offering us a rare insight to an increasingly blatant but seldom-discussed issue in the sport.

  18. Rishi says:

    When I saw the headline I did wonder whether it was possible to answer the question given that we haven’t seen the new cars or any testing yet.

    But this is an interesting analysis of the budgetary issues the team have faced and how this has impacted their strategic direction. Regarding the technical issues, they have hired a lot of new staff in recent years (Bob Bell, Aldo Costa, Geoff Willis etc) so one question is whether they’ve now had time to gel together.

    Additionally, all the above are highly-qualified and have held senior positions at the team, leading some people to wonder if there is a case of too many chiefs and too few indians (to use the expression), and others (Gary Anderson I think is one example) to wonder if the car has been ‘designed by committee’. James, is there any suggestion that one of these is an issue, or was an issue during 2012?

    1. Rob says:

      +1 – I subscribe to the “too many chiefs” theory, with Lauda just further complicating matters. I hope to be proven wrong, for Hamilton’s sake.

  19. Rein says:

    With RedBull, Dr Marko, Niki Lauda, Monisha Kaltenborn, Toto Wolff, Franz Tost, Gerhard Berger, Alex Wurz and probably many more less senior team members, arround the paddock, makes this small country pretty influential in todays F1.

    1. Gudien says:

      I was thinking the same thing! Now if we only had Jochen Rindt running F-1 !

    2. Elie says:

      We will know its curtains if the Arnold Scwartzanegar enters the fray !

    3. Wade Parmino says:

      Why is there no Austrian drivers? Surely Red Bull would be making sure they get one into F1. Even through Toro Rosso.

      1. Martin says:

        Unless the driver was there on merit, a slow driver wouldn’t help Red Bull shift cans of drink globally.

      2. Alexyoong says:

        Last one? Christian Klein, for Red Bull.

        I thought solid if unspectacular

  20. KGBVD says:

    The RRA was flawed from the get go.

    Why would teams like Ferrari (political rule benders) or Red Bull (technical rule benders) stick to an RRA without any chance of being caught, or repercussions should they BE caught.

    Rules in F1 are artificial impediments to be worked around and bent – as the two teams mention above do to great affect, in different ways. Why would the RRA be any different?

    I was a fan of Haug and felt that he was wrongly used as a bit of a scapegoat when he left. But, considering the above, maybe his nativity that Merc could field a competitive team by sticking to the RRA was his tragic mistake. One that he now pays the price for.

  21. Werewolf says:

    Mercedes re-entered F1 with bought’n’badged engines (Ilmor) and then purchased a team (Brawn), now it’s buying in its senior management (Lauda). Its greatest and only major success has been as engine supplier to McLaren, having developed the Ilmor facility through investment, etc. Its own cars have rarely been in the same league as Woking’s and its other customer, Force India, has been closing the gap.

    I believe manufacturers are best represented in F1 as engine suppliers and race better themselves in touring cars and sportscars. The danger now is that when Mercedes realises this, whether or not they allow Lauda sufficient time to make any difference (if indeed he is the man to do so), there is unlikely to be anyone with the financial or technical muscle to take on the former BAR/Honda/Brawn team, so it is vital that recognisable progress is made if F1 is not to lose more cars.

    1. Sebee says:

      I’m with you.

      Except this F1 business got big. Really big. And now you give an engine, but if the team isn’t making it happen manufacturer looks bad. Perfect example Honda as supplier and then buying BAR. There are many other examples. Manufacturers feel frustrated that their engine isn’t winning and they think they can do it better.

      Conspiracy Theory #25. Mercedes will go after Newey. Based in UK they stand a chance, unlike Ferrari. If they do, and succeed – Mercedes problem solved.

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        Newey is brilliant (probably the best since Colin Chapman) however he has not always designed winning cars every season. The early 2000′s were dominated by Ferrari who did not have Newey.

        As F1 is cyclical, Newey’s and Red Bull’s time at the top should be concluding within the next 2 seasons. Statistical and historical considerations; I would be surprised if they are still the team to beat in 2015. Another designer, another team, another driver will have their day.

      2. Sebee says:

        Indeed. I remember those delicate McLarens.
        But I really feel like RBR had a meeting. They got all pumped up and motivated by Ferrari 5 year run and Schumi’s 7. I think they will give it all they’ve got to beat those marks. And sadly for others they have the resources to make it happen, and are not dependent on any sponsor. But Renault may be their weak point.

      3. KRB says:

        Y’mean the 2014-spec Renault engine? Seeing as they might also pick up Toro Rosso as a customer, that would affect a lot of teams. While it’s usually been a safe bet, post-German-unification (I mean 1870-71), to back the German contingent over the French one, y’just never know in F1. I would love to see a dominant Mercedes engine in 2014, but there are no guarantees.

      4. Richard says:

        I would say that Red Bull had a certain amount of luck this year. There’s no doubt that Newey’s design team are talented, but had McLaren not dropped the clangers in the operational and reliability departments then I think it likely that Lewis Hamilton would have won this year, moreover I think Ecclestone realised that. On top of that hard fought title pushes come at a price, and Red Bull find themselves behind with this years car similarly to McLaren in 2009 when they produced an absolute dog of a car. I think it quite difficult to predict who will be at the front of the grid, but I suspect it might be McLaren.

      5. Alex says:

        I’m not sure what it would take for Adrian Newey to move to another team, particularly with the challenges of the 2014 reg changes. There’s much talk of M-B F1′s potential advantage in 2014 but what of Red Bull? I can’t think why Renault wouldn’t be sharing 2014 engine info with Red Bull already. Also I may be making an assumption here but surely the smaller capacity engines will offer packaging advantages of the type that Newey would thrive on in terms of optimising the aerodynamics. 

        Further if it ever got to the point where Newey looked like he wanted to move on perhaps Red Bull (the corporation) has the resources to tempt Adrian into some other project – does Newey still harbour ambitions of designing an America’s Cup Yacht? If you can’t have Newey for your own team, then surely it would be better to make sure non of your rivals have him either?

      6. Sebee says:

        Interesting, and likely 100% right.

        1. Where else can Newey have the freedom and resources?

        2. Red Bull sure does fun things to keep Newey interested outside of F1.

        3. In my heart I believe RBR is Newey’s final F1 destination.

      7. Martin says:

        I’ll add that Newey essentially got to build the design team and facilities as he wanted them in Red Bull. Mercedes will be set up the way Ross Brawn wants it, so there could be many systems that don’t suit the wholistic approach Newey has from designing entire cars in 1980s.

      8. Alex W says:

        England win the America’s cup, that’ll be the day…

  22. Chris says:

    I think the biggest hurdle for Mercedes in 2013 will be the team’s ability to get on with one another. Niki Lauda’s strange hiring is sure to cause tension, particularly with Ross Brawn. I still think Mercedes have made a mistake in hiring him and it’ll be very interesting to see how that situation plays out over the course of the season. Just his comments about working while the others are on holiday brings concern. Rather than asserting himself as being the best “employee”, he should be getting on the team’s side. Airing out dirty laundry in the public eye is never a good thing before the job’s even been started.

  23. Onko says:

    Ross Brawn is a CHAMPION period!
    While he’s there everything is posible.

    1. Edison says:

      Onko, you are absolutely right. Everything is possible, even failure, but we hope they will succeed.

  24. Andrew C says:

    All I can say is that at the time it struck me as INCREDIBLY naive of Mercedes to think that they could operate a team on a restricted budget when they first set up. I distinctly remember thinking uh oh that won’t work. It was a nice ideal but it seemed obvious that they’d be at a huge disadvantage to RBR and Ferrari in particular. I’m just a little surprised that it took them so long to realise it. If my memory is correct, I think Brawn was also part of that original idea so I think he bears some shared responsibility with Haug for some bad decisions.

  25. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    You said “it’s clear that Red Bull in particular has been spending more.”

    Does it mean Red Bull was cheating?
    Can you explain more?

    1. Sebee says:

      Like many sports, you spend your way to championships. RBR has the best model in this respect. They have the crazy funds, resources, and hardly need anyone to win.

      They didn’t cheat. RRA was not implemented or enforced. It was a gentlemen’s agreement and once questions about enforcement came into play it was obvious that it was uninforcable. So choice was – take the high road and finish 4th, or spend and win.

      What would you do? That’s what RBR and Ferrari did. I’m sure others as well.

    2. JR says:

      The RRA wasn’t an enforceable set of rules, it was a just a gentleman’s agreement from FOTA.

      That is why Mercedes neglected to count the people in their engine department as working for Mercedes, so broke the RRA of 350 personnel (later reduced to 315).

    3. Ade says:

      I think it’s quite easy to see that RBR have been “bending” the rules as much as possible during their 3 year winning streak. I think that they have also been worthy winners though as overall they have been the best team. Cheating, perhaps a harsh word for their success however…

    4. ACx says:

      Yes, in spirit. But there is no spirit in competition, let alone F1.

      Put it this way, had they stuck to the agreement, would they have won? I suspect not. They currently claim that resources that would have gone in to the 2013 car went in to winning in 2012. Presumably that demonstrates the over spend. Or a bunch of lies designed to some how lull the others in to a false sense of security.

      Recently I have come to see RBR as Michael Schumacher in team form. Win at all costs, with out knowing where the line is, or even knowing there is one.

      Still, it is all with in the written rules, so its fair enough, and records stand. I don’t like it, but who cares? Fans seem to be lapping it up. Best season ever, apparently.

  26. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    I think that Mercedes will have a better season in 2013 because:

    - new windtunnel
    - Hamilton speed
    - eager to succeed

    Maybe Mercedes could match Lotus this year… or to be clear from Sauber at least.

  27. Rene says:

    Nice photo of two of the best drivers ever!

    1. Glennb says:

      Maybe 1 of the best drivers ever…

      1. Rene says:

        Don’t be rude, Schumacher is definitely also a great!

  28. Sebee says:

    I will believe, when I see.

    I believed when Schumi joined that they would raise their game. My 3 year disappointment won’t let me believe foolishly again.

    Also, I just don’t think Mercedes has the ability to out-fox Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren.

    Mercedes brand is too big to take big risks in F1. Just look at all the talk or RBR flexiwings, exhausts, some going as far as saying they “cheat”. Can you imagine Mercedes brand being able to withstand and accept that type of talk in the media? And it is this limitation that will not make Mercedes a winner of a championship. Race here and there – perhaps.

    1. Steve says:

      Very good point. They are kind of have their hands tied.

      1. Wanja says:

        That didn’t refrain them from introducing the highly debated double DRS to Formula One.

      2. Sebee says:

        Indeed. But it wasn’t really a game changer. Clever, and gave us false hope start of the season.

        Bottom line – top running team in F1 seems to get a lot of heat for their winning innovations in F1. Maybe it is the norm now and my point if mute.

    2. Scuderia McLaren says:

      Interesting point.

  29. Sami says:

    Had it not been for Le Mans disaster in 1955, Mercedes would be far ahead of anyone else, should it be painted in red and sporting a prancing horse.
    I know history cannot be rewritten based on What-ifs, but a certain Juan Manuel Fangio always said, it was the best team he ever raced in. And the great Argentinian knew what motor racing is about.
    Lewis Hamilton has got it so right, bringing Mercedes-Benz back to the front will give him an outstanding place in the history of motorsport.
    As Nico Rosberg will always be the driver who brought a Works Merc to victory after 57 years, nobody will ever take that from him.

    Good luck to them both, and to the Silberpfeile, they deserve support from any motor racing lover, because this sport would never have been what it is without them.

    1. Foxhound says:

      Couldn’t agree more!

    2. Alexyoong says:

      I seem to remember Moss echoing Fangio

  30. eric weinraub says:

    On the negative side. one of the worst and most underachieving teams in F1 (Honda). Failed leadership at Honda/Merc, Brawn and Lauda. A car that has gone steadily backwards over a 3 year period. The firing of Haug. A revolving door of talented drivers unable to push the car forward….Panis, Barichello, Button, Rosberg, and Schumahcer. The hiring of some of the best minds in F1 such as Bob Bell. Lewis Hamilton. My expectations are ZERO… I expect the team to languish on the outside of the points this season. I expect Hamilton to terminate his contract after season 2.

    1. Simmo says:

      To be honest I sort of agree. I think they will have a better season in 2013, in 2012 they were inconsistent. That is the problem.

      I think that they can’t accept they are a mid-field team. Yes, the odd win and podium may arise, but in the end it’s consistency which gets the results, and that’s something which Mercedes lacks.

      So, what I am saying is, consistency-wise, they will do better, but they are going to be mid-field.

      But we will have to wait until Australia, who knows? ;)

      1. Ez Pez says:

        I think that all Lewis will wish for is reliability, Mercedes has proven point scoring ability already. if he has a good record in ’13 then he will be a happy man i’d say, if he has a season like Schumacher though…

  31. Wanja says:

    I guess the aerodynamics department has been Mercedes’ weakest point. Looking at the career of Loïc Bigois it is hard to tell how good he really is. Ligier suffered a lot after Henry Durand left them, and they got back on their feet when Bigois joined, but the change to Renault engines is possible to play a big part too. At Williams from 2005 to 2007 it looked like a step backwards, but their switch from BMW to Cosworth to Toyota could have played a big part as well.
    At Honda he was responsible for both the catastrophics “RA 108″ and the Championship winning Brawn BGP001 (the Honda RA109). His Mercs have been rather mediocre cars, but they were built in turbulent times with a lot of reorganizations and budget changes going on with mechanical and aerodynamic issues probably contributing equal parts to the team’s problems.
    I guess that if Mercedes wanted to have a sure bet, they should try to hire Peter Prodromou (though I red Bull would let him go), Nicolas Tombazis or John Iley.
    Talking of Aerodynamicists. James: do you know where Henri Durand went after Jordan?

    But back to Mercedes:
    Now that they have upgraded their wind tunnel to 60% and are getting the Simulation up to date (as far as I have heard), I think the thing they need most is to have the right people at the right spots and give them the space to get things done and no disturbances like replacing important people all the time.
    I know from software development that organization, group dynamics, company politics and tooling can interfere a lot. All you need is one or two “unpleasant” or “incapable” people in the wrong places to have motivation and effort go down the drain, have one clumsy designed software tool or some bad workflow and your people will fight the tool or the bad workflow instead of their development problem. Composing a great team by hitting the sweet spot in terms of time spent on organization, motivation, putting the right people to the right places, finding the best tool chains and making them work well is the real magic.

    Now let’s think for a second that Mercedes have most of that accomplished: The rules did not change much and I think that will compress the field. This makes race results more volatile, so you need very a very low defect rate throughout the whole weekend (Mercedes lacked that in the previous year), you need a car that has no major insufficiency (like Mercedes tire wear/heat problems in the previous years), it must be one of the top 4 cars in terms of speed, your development rate must be as fast as that of the best teams and your drivers need to bring it home.
    So technically I see two major things that Mercedes must address: Their manufacturing quality and removing the 2012 car’s flaws. If they can do it, they’ll have a pretty good chance of winning the championship.

    1. Wanja says:

      Oh, just forgot: Each year saw some kind of misfortune.
      2010 they were fighting with tires not getting up to temperature, the car was developed in the Brawn GP year on a very tight budget, while Brawn GP were fighting for the championship, that could not lead to a very good car in 2010, and while Merc had bought the company and put some more budget in it, new people were hired and the company reorganized to meet the larger number of employees. I must say, the team did pretty well under these circumstances.
      2011 saw a too short wheel base for the car, lifting the center of gravity and causing more roll and pitch, which should actually destabilize the aerodynamics and in the end overhead the tires – they overcompensated their 2010 problem and while they were trouble shooting their problems, as far as I remember, they had a very high update rate – brought updates faster than they could understand how they worked in practice.
      During these troubles they did not mind the flexi wing magic, underestimated the exhaust blown diffuser, hired new technichal staff, reorganized and gradually fell behind in the development race once again.
      The 2012 Double DRS was unfortunate too, as it was said to be incompatible with the flexi wing approach (the Red Bulls are rumored to have sported a flexi nose rather than flexi wings in 2012). Having not cured their tire problem properly, despite of the longer wheel base for 2012, the coanda exhaust, which came pretty late, was poison in combination with their rear tire overheating heat problem, as it brought even more heat to the tires. Also upgrading their wind tunnel to 60% did not particularly help getting it right at that time. Modernizing a wind tunnel takes time that cannot be spent on development.

      But apart from Haug leaving the company and Lauda joining, no new technology on the horizon apart from passive DDRS systems (they have actually run a passive F-duct rear wing in 2010!) and little regulation changes, I don’t see these difficulties anymore. The team structure should be rather steady now, processes established, wind tunnel up to date, simulations improved. Even though they might be a bit behind regarding Coanda exhausts, if they don’t mess up anything huge, they have a pretty good chance to play with the best in 2013.

  32. goferet says:

    Uh, it appears Mercedes’ adventure into F1 is paying off after all and maybe this would explain why the team decided to stick around and try to make this thing work.

    According to figures released, Mercedes road cars have had record sales in 2012 with about 1.3 million Mercedes-Benz cars purchased, a gain of 4.7 percent on the previous year.

    As usual these numbers are due to big sales in the US and China.

  33. Toby Deveson says:

    One thing no one has mentioned is the Lauda/Hamilton relationship. I think the success or failure of this will be the most interesting thing to watch out for.

    Much has been said about Hamiltons need for better mind management and a stable working environment. Over the last few years the words “driver coaches” have been used too.

    Lauda is outspoken and will naturally, I think, want to advise and help or criticize Hamilton whenever he feels the need.

    Either Hamilton will accept this and thrive from advice given or he will bristle and perhaps see it as an undermining of his desire to be perceived as the new team leader.

    I have a feeling Mercedes’ year will hinge as much on this relationship as it will on Brawns and Laudas.

  34. Curro says:

    Expect fireworks if the car is not performing at Lotus-2012 levels by mid-season.

  35. Tim says:

    What kind of Mercedes challenge can we expect in F1 this year?

    My wish would be for them to be at the sharp end (indeed, the more teams scrapping at the front, the better) but, realistically, nipping at the heels of Lotus.

    The Daimler Board should be smiling today re: 2012 figures. While German sales fell 0.4 percent, Western Europe rose a bare 0.6 percent for the year and Chinese sales rose only a modest 1.5 percent, U.S. sales rose 11.8 percent. Mercedes sold 1,320,097 vehicles, up 4.7 percent. Best ever results.

    Just underlines how much $$$ F1 and other companies have “left on the table” by neglecting the American market/key demographics.

    Wait ’til Hamilton and Merc get it together in ’14, marketing-wise. On track I can’t even guess, but Merc will most certainly blow away the 2012 numbers in the U.S.

    Tim

  36. olivier says:

    I’d have to disagree with Schumacher. Money is not all. Have a look at Sauber. They’d almost beaten Mercedes with a fraction of their budget.

    As a general rule: Money feeds ego, not ideas.

    1. Richard says:

      I do in certain respects agree. What Mercedes need to do is work more intuitively rather than harder, and the signs seem to indicate that. Extra money can help with testing and allows development to go the extra mile so to speak, and during the season helps to keep changes flowing to the car. They need to start well and develop fast to compete with the top teams.

    2. Elie says:

      Exactly- same applies to Lotus they can be more than 1/3 RBR’s budget and look what they achieved !. It’s all perspective isn’t it. To me that’s what made Lotus the best team of 2012. & why I definitely want to see budget caps come in .

    3. Wanja says:

      Money is still very important. More money gives you the possibility to explore more ways of solving a problem at the same time, stronger computers, better developed software, more expensive and highly rated personnel and the power to employ excellent people just so they don’t work for other teams. It enables you to overcome some deficiencies in your organization by sheer brute force.
      But it doesn’t necessarily buy you good organization, good working atmosphere, efficient use of resources and right ideas or right decisions at the right time.
      See it this way: As long as they are properly run, the best funded teams are always the most successful teams: Williams (while they were at the top), Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, RedBull,.. success brings money, money attracts success if well spent.
      And of cause there is nothing worse than lack of money for any team.

    4. Hal says:

      Maybe the point MS was saying is that they had the ideas but not the money (hence facilities) to execute them. Very naive to think money is not a big factor.

  37. Michael Powell says:

    Every mass manufacturer behaves the same, they add personnel to attempt to solve a problem. It needs skill and vision, not manpower to make a step change.

    Mass manufacturers don’t understand step change. They make incremental updates to dull, middle-brow cars for average man. A step change would simply leave their customers behind. Customers like dullness.

    Mercedes, like BMW, Toyota, Jaguar and Honda think their money will make up for their lumbering management style and decision making by committee. It has not, and will not. The time between races is too short for twenty men from Stuttgart to be brought together to discuss wheel nut details.

    The only hope is for a small core team to be formed, and for expertise to be bought in, the way that Ilmore was drafted in to supply engines.

    Newey is the acknowledged expert in his field, so they need to call him in and if they insist on keeping Lauda, who has no acceptable experience, then he should be used to hold back the useless hordes at Daimler Benz.

    Daimler personnel and their hangers-on should be banished from the track, and ideally, the factory too.

    1. Foxhound says:

      I think your view of the Mercedes F1 team is dimmed somewhat. Daimler AG do not interfere with the team, it is Brawns show. What they do ask for is results. The actions taken at the team refelct the need for change, especially from what went before.

      1. Michael Powell says:

        When the owners call for better results, they can’t stop themselves from also giving advice and drafting in people to ‘oversee’ or ‘help out’. It’s what they do elsewhere in the empire, it’s the only way they know. That’s Laudas role.

        But the clear evidence is that it doesn’t work.

        BMW bought into Sauber, and failed. Now that Sauber is on its own again, with less money, it is doing far, far better. Making dull rep mobiles is no qualification for making race cars.

        Honda failed for years. Brawn took it independent and they were able to change engine suppliers and introduce a new design using half the people in no time at all. It won that year, but since the Mercedes company took control, it’s been an immediate flop. You can’t go from making taxis and trucks to running a race team.

        McLaren have won far less than they should with the talent at their disposal. Now that they buy in their engines perhaps the dead hand of corporate life can be lifted.

        Ferrari have a giant corporation behind them, but of course FIAT are in awe of Ferrari, so dare not interfere and Ferrari are powerful enough to smack FIAT on the nose if they tried.

        Only Renault have managed to buck the trend, and there is the exception that proves the rule.

        RBR have succeeded by having no motor car owners, so they don’t get a load of unhelpful advice dropped on them. It means they can explore the rule book without having to form a steering committee.

        It happens all over. There is a wide difference between corporations which are risk averce, and entrepreneurs who are risk takers. To win at F1 you need to take risks so it’s no place for people who need to ask permission before doing anything,

        Oh, and before somebody yet again mentions the success of Silver Arrows, let’s not forget how long ago that was. Two or three generations of employees have come and gone. Nobody now at the factory was around back then. There is now a different structure, culture and style.

  38. James, can you please write a blog post for aspiring F1 journalists?
    Thanks.

  39. Val from montreal says:

    Everybody here seems to miss the whoke point …. Why is Ferrari’s entire operation based in Italy ? Because it belongs there … Im not talking about Force India thats indian owned and based in the uk … This is Mercedes here , not Caterham or Marussia either … If based entirely in Deutchland , Mercedes F1 would be the real deal … Germans only game a damn of their works team becsuse Michael Schumacher signed with them .. Brackley was never capable of making a pretty fast car and maintain it throughout the seasons on a consistant basis … If MSC could not have turned that team around , no one will …. The ferrari era consisted of 4 men … Todt , MSC , Byrne and Brawn …. Schumacher had so many technical issues and reliabilty problems starting from the beginning , it removed any consistant progress the car and team could have achieved …. The germans are in essence appalled of the idea that THEIR brand , runned by a bunch of brackley employees dragged Schumacher’s rep in the mud on his comeback ! Could you imagine Schumacher st Ferrari in 2010-11 and 12 ??? 8 th tiitle guaranteed …

    1. Wade Parmino says:

      I do think that teams should have to be based in the country in which they are registered as a competitor. Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Lotus, Toro Rosso and Sauber are all OK. Red Bull is basically a British team operating under an Austrian flag. It’s ridiculous. The situation with the other teams is an even bigger joke. Force India is not Indian, nor Marussia Russian or Caterham Malaysian. At least HRT was Spanish.

      I hope (I know it’ll never happen) a rule is put in place requiring this in future. A period of 5 years from the time of it being decreed could be allowed for teams to reorganise their operations.

    2. Jake says:

      Red Bull and McLaren amongst others are working out of the UK and seem to be doing just fine. On the other hand Ferrari have employed a lot more home gone talent and we can see the results, so what if anything is your point?
      Results come from employing the best people, regardless of nationality, and giving them the tools and resources to do the job, and has very little to do with location.

    3. adam says:

      The UK based Mercedes HPE facility produces excellent engines.If it was based in Germany it might well have gone the same way as Toyota’s German based F1 team !

      1. Sami says:

        You have a point, and more than once! When you recall the history of Mercedes, to be based in the UK is a little surprising, I agree being based in Germany makes more sense. It has to do with Heritage. Moreover distances inside the European Union are very much like those in the US, so it makes sense… For Mercedes.
        You cannot ask a Japanese team to centre all his operations in Japan, the same goes for Force India or Caterham… Just imagine Penske returned to F1, should they be based overseas? It does not sound very sensible, they would be facing an enormous disadvantage at the start of the European Season.
        As for MSC turning around things, yes and no. I was very impressed by Michael’s last season, has it not been for his sanction in the Spanish GP he may well have won the Monaco GP, his virtual pole was brilliant. He really deserved that victory before bowing out, but happy endings only occur in the movies. I feel that money may have had a lot to do with the results, as he has recently pointed out.

      2. Sami says:

        Sorry James, the latter should be a reply to Val :(

  40. Dunky says:

    Ever since they were formed in 1999 Brackley F1 have built 2 decent F1 cars. These were the BAR 006 (2004) and the Brawn (2009).

    That’s a very poor hit rate and I’m not expecting much from 2013.

    1. olivier says:

      They’ve been spoiled with money. First Honda, now Mercedes.

      They need to step out of their comfort zone, because life really begins at the edge of our comfort zone. As they experienced with Brawn GP …

  41. jpinx says:

    That comment about using Lauda to keep a distance between Brawn and the “board” is actually very telling. Who instigated taking Lauda onboard anyway?

    1. olivier says:

      Good question. This Triangular structure doesn’t bode very well … why the need of a middleman? As if Brawn does not know how to run a F1 team? I feel/fear for him.

  42. JohnBt says:

    I strongly suspect 2013 will be full of Lewis Hamilton news more than Mercedes. But I sure hope they will improve the car for closer racing. Lewis does not need a winning car as you all know his capabilities. On the other end it could be the worst time for Lewis. We shall see.

  43. what i find, after reading all of the previous posts, is that no one is really homing in on what is so obvious. ross brawn. mercedes couldn’t get their hands on maclaren and so they went for brawn.

    this team was no new start-up operation. they were world champions. what happened? ross brawn became a seriously rich person but hasn’t delivered the goods for 3 years and approx 60 races. one win, and that was fluke. right place, right time, right set up on the day. no repeat performance in sight.

    ross brawn, to the best of my knowledge, is responsible for the design/build and racing of the cars yet it was haug who took the bullet. fair enough i suppose as he was the mercedes man but surely ross brawn should not have got away with it as he appears to have done.

    i am not in any way convinced that things will change but of course i may well totally wrong. roll on melbourne.

    1. Elie says:

      Yeah definitely Ross is under the micro scope now since Lauda is on board and the Daimler Board are definitely “circling” should things not go well this year. But they are mostly to blame for there delayed investment in the team.

      Just looking at what Ross Brawn had at his disposal in the past to succeed- First Ferrari ! Then Honda investing Billions- he inherited a top notch car and added a double diffuser that led pack for 6 months. The really big question here is Ross Brawns motivation – does he really feel he can be a game changer again or has he just hired a team of gurus that will just make things happen for him ??.. I thing like many have said here it could be a case of too many chiefs tripping over one another. He needs to get them to gel very quickly and Hamilton could be the key ingredient in this.

      Norbert tried his best to bring costs down in F1 and that was the fundamental flaw in Mercedes campaign over the last three years ( I still think this is the right direction for the sport) -.this ambition was premature- he was fighting a loosing battle through FOTA and the RRA, but he needed to build a competitive team from the get go..Something which Mercedes needed to realise from day 1 not year 3. He almost had to have 2 vastly different agendas and mind sets – something which is not very easy to do, and something only hindsight is now teaching us.

      Either way I really hope both Mercedes and Lotus run very competitively this year as I don’t want to see either the Red or the Blue car dominating & I really think this year will be even more competitive than 2012.

  44. Alex says:

    Any news on a direct replacement for Norbert?

  45. Gord says:

    Why is Ross Brawn associated with the sucess of Ferrari during the early 2000s, but not associated with the lack of sucess at Mercedes ?

  46. 2013 will be important for Benz, but 2014 will be the critical year

    I feel Lewis will manage to pull some incredible performances off in the car this year due to his sheer talent (note I am not a huge fan) which will take some pressure off – but if they are not clearly in the top 4 by 2014 it will begin to get ugly

  47. Goob says:

    There is a simple test in 2013…

    We need to contrast the decline in McLarens performance and the rise of Mercedes performance relative to one another.

    This will confirm the Hamilton factor more then anything else…

  48. it also needs to be considered that this year brings the curtain down on the current cars. despite what hamilton/mercedes can do this year it will have very little impact on 2014 when the major changes occur. it will be back to square one for all teams.

    one cannot assume that mercedes will be any better then than they are now as the new engines have never been tested against each other. they may be super but then again they may be ‘merde’. it is impossible to guess the outcome.

    whilst mercedes engines have always been amongst the very very best, how long since a mercedes engined car has won a WC ?

    fun speculating but that’s all it is.

    1. KRB says:

      Huh? The two DWC’s before Vettel’s current run.

  49. Robert says:

    Mercedes F1 2013-2015. Let the infighting begin.

  50. For sure says:

    I wouldn’t expect anything less than being the fastest at going backward in development.

  51. Mickey78 says:

    Hi James,

    Is it just a coincidince that you and Nikki Lauda have the finger pointen towards the Hamiltons or do the pictures serve a meening?

  52. Methusalem says:

    What’s more likely? A German team, with German drivers (Schumacher + Rosberg) and German motor a German team with a British (black) driver? Will they be motivated to see a British driver becoming world champion beating an Austrian team with a German driver (Vettel)? I Don’t know!

  53. Tim says:

    I should think their own self-interest will prevail and the color of money wins out.

    Capitalism (when bridled), does have its good points.

    Tim

  54. Thompson says:

    Lol…. been so long since I last visited, anyways my view is the departure of Haug, although sad will have no real impact on the team. The departure of Schumacher will.

    Rosberg was doing fine and only when the team tried to accomodate Micheal did things start going south. Even towards the end when things really started going south ‘fans’ were happy because Micheal started to come to terms with Nico – even at the cost of the teams place.

    Micheals departure is what the team really needed and imo is what will bring them forward, I think Hamilton and Rosberg will drag this team up the grid and Laudas influence will have no real impact.

    Provided Merc/Brawn can provide a car like those they provided at the start of each season the have contested, this could be their year.

    I actually believe Lewis will allow the car to be developed in the right direction, like those Mclarens of the recent past.

    Its Mclaren I’m more concerned about.

    1. TheBestPoint? says:

      +1
      Not what his fans will want to hear but I’ve always wondered about the simulator sickness issues.

      He was still as focussed and determined as ever but not at his best. I felt that he was at his best in the track testing era but simulation testing were not his time.

      Also Rosberg as chilled as he is normally appears almost super chilled now it is as if he is in ” Thank goodness -irrespective of how teammate battles pan out at least we now have the chance to get our team into the big time- pushing in right direction”

      (whispered so as not to rile the fans would also explains Schumacher recent comments anticipating success for the team in coming season/s” )

      1. TheBestPoint? says:

        re Haug
        too nice too gentlemanly for this loop hole finding sport.

        Brawn – the quiet Brawler vs Horner
        Lauda – shouting from the rooftop vs Marko and/or vs “whing mode” Newey
        then add two drivers in their prime

        if any team can take it to Redbull surely in terms of personnel it has to be Mercedes (as long as the team gells).

        Come on Mercedes F1 techies get the car ready !!!

        Also – the point about corporate works team being a hindrance is a fair point one consider Dr Z who came out categorically and defended Schumacher in the press after his driving at Monza? 11.

        HIm being an F1 racing fan is a massive advantage and may well work the other way whereby the might of the brand is used to quash any naysayers- lets watch this space.

        ps: take a listen to Brawn’s Sky review – comments – when asked about the concorde agreement and what the issues were, his response about the negotiations with BE are quite revealing.

  55. Sikhumbuzo says:

    Guys

    All these guys have specific and clealy defined roles. And the accounting authority is Bob Bell technically speaking. However one can not restrict such calibre individuals like these and confine it into a box of defined parameters, and that’s where the Executive Authority of Ross Brawn comes in as the Principal Officer.

    We have had not issues so far with both Aldo and Geoff (who many predicted caos upon their arrival). These are really down to earth type of guys and have proven it. And the W03 was the first Bell car who has worked with engineer Eliot and I am sure there was a discussion before he was brought in among themselves on the strategic direction of the earo division under Mr Willis.

    It is not a one man show. A team it’s a collective effort not a Lauda matter nor a Brawn issue. Can we allow the team to do its work, because it’s more than a clever line in the design studio but more an an infrastructure matter ( e.g. McLaren, Ferrari and now Red Bull Racing).

    Now we wait because I m certain it was not just Niki that missed his lunch at Brackley.

    Sikhumbuzo
    South Africa

  56. Gareth says:

    Nikki Lauda, wasnt he responsible for the Jaguar mess and getting Bobby Rahul fired? He is not the answer to Mercedes problems

  57. Rob T says:

    I must have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, I had no idea that Haug was dismissed. I naively believed his quote that it was time to retire. Can’t believe that I bought it!!!

  58. Anon says:

    I don’t understand why Lauda is getting the blame for Jaguar’s mess, he joined and left the team in a similar state.

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