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Honda deal gives Mercedes leverage for early Paddy Lowe release
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Posted By: James Allen  |  20 May 2013   |  4:52 pm GMT  |  161 comments

The long running saga of Paddy Lowe’s move from McLaren to Mercedes was resolved today when the technical director was released early from his contract to begin work on June 3rd.

Originally Lowe was being held to his contract and was set to be blocked from starting work in Brackley before the end of 2013.

But the announcement that McLaren is to move from Mercedes to Honda engines meant that Mercedes had a bargaining chip to negotiate his early release. Which means he will be able to play an active role in preparations for 2014, a year which Mercedes has targetted as its breakthrough year to challenge for the world championship under the new turbo engine formula.

McLaren has a contract for a supply of Mercedes engines for 2014, when the new formula comes in and the German manufacturer was very unhappy that Honda engineers would potentially have access to information about its 2014 hybrid turbo engines and would learn a great deal about them, which would help with its own preparations for 2015 entry.

So it appears that they have leveraged this situation to trigger the early release of Lowe. It will be a major boost for Mercedes to have Lowe’s input into the 2014 chassis and engine integration as well as a longer term view on 2015 and 2016 designs.

Lowe has been given the title Executive Director (Technical) and according to a statement from Mercedes he will be part of a triumvirate of senior management figures, clearly shadowing Brawn.

Officially the statement says he “will work closely with Team Principal, Ross Brawn; Executive Director (Business), Toto Wolff; and the team’s senior technical management. As Team Principal, Ross Brawn will retain overall responsibility for technical and sporting matters.”

Speaking to JA on F1 last month, Toto Wolff suggested that ultimately Lowe would take over Brawn’s responsibilities, as Brawn did not want to carry on for ever, but that it was up to Brawn to decide the timetable for that,

“The ball is in his court. Ross is conscious that he will not do this forever,” said Wolff. “We are committed long term and he needs to look after someone who is able to do it.

“Ross doesn’t need to stay doing what he is doing at the moment. I’m not pushing him out. He isn’t sure if he wants to do it in same way, [with all the] travelling, like Patrick Head did at Williams.

“Who am I to push Ross Brawn out? That guy won 15 world championships, with three different teams and won races with four different teams.”

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161 Comments
  1. sa_lisu says:

    Best of luck to Paddy Lowe. I still think Brawn’s seat is still not safe at Merc.

    1. Peter says:

      Either it’s not safe or Brawn is quietly orchestrating his retirement with support from the Mercedes board. For some reason, I feel it’s the latter.

      1. Elie says:

        I said mid way through last year that Brawn will probably retire shortly after Schumi does and after lining up all the top technical people at Mercedes looks like the last piece in the jigsaw is now in place with Paddy Lowe. I think there will be a six months hand over and then it’s good bye.

  2. John says:

    James, what exactly do you mean by ‘leverage’?

    Surely, McLaren have a contract with Merc for 2014 and that’s that. I understand that Merc wouldn’t be happy at all with the Honda situation but I really struggle to see how they could do anything about it?

    1. Brace says:

      My thoughts exactly. I rather think McLaren needed some favor in return and were desperate enough to give Lowe in return half a year too soon.

    2. Anon says:

      They don’t want Paddy Lowe hanging around with the Honda engineers at Mclaren?

      1. James Allen says:

        He’s not been at Woking for some time

      2. coefficientf1 says:

        Could it not simply be a deal where Mclaren receive a discount on next year’s hugely expensive engines in return for letting Lowe skip his gardening leave and get started at Mercedes?

      3. Quade says:

        Its most likely that Paddy Lowe has agreed to tell McLaren what they are doing wrong.
        McLaren is desperate. A couple of weeks ago Whitmarsh said McLaren had been trying to work with Paddy Lowe to sort their issues, even though they had him on garden leave. That says a lot.
        I doubt that McLaren have been able to get the desired cooperation from the guy they’ve sat in the naughty corner.

        In every technical department, it is standard practice that guru’s withhold some key info as insurance against politics (and as key to the organisations political Aladins cave).

        Merc holds a very powerful bargaining chip since they are ready to fulfill Paddy Lowe’s aspirations; groom him for the team principal post he has always wanted, pay him a dream wage. Merc could make Paddy Lowe divulge McLaren saving info in return for McLarens signing of a release deal.
        If we suddenly see a better McLaren, then we can guess what has happened.

    3. Alexander Supertramp says:

      The leverage should be something like the execution of contract clauses regarding protection of IP by Mercedes which could harm Mclaren in 2014 .

      Basically, Merc could say: Give us Paddy in June and we will enable you (or Honda engineers)to do certain things that would not be possible under the current contractuel terms.

    4. Rich B says:

      I’m a bit confused over this, I’m not sure how the Honda deal helped Mercedes ‘lever’ paddy away early? Did they threaten to give them engines 30bhp down in 2014. McLaren couldn’t exactly turn a Honda works opportunity down

    5. hero_was_senna says:

      Honda, back in the 80′s would not allow any team member to touch their engines, from fitting them to the car, checking levels and starting them.
      I have read articles where a manufacturer showing an engine for a magazine has asked certain ancillaries and angles of the engine not to be photographed. By all accounts it would give too much information to the opposition.
      I’m assuming, Mercedes will have a dedicated team who police the engine and everything connected with it. Look at teams now on the grid when cameras get too close, these guys are seriously paranoid.

      1. coefficientf1 says:

        Not so much of a worry these days as the engine spec is mandated including the V angle to my knowledge.

      2. coefficientf1 says:

        Of course that will have changed during the development cycle of the New Generation Motors but again, they are heavily prescribed in specification and development will be frozen early next year, by April I think.

      3. hero_was_senna says:

        Which is another reason why I struggle to understand when people suggest Mercedes and Renault will have better engines than Ferrari. The parameters are so finely controlled, no one will get an advantage there.
        Now, the other systems, that’s a different story..

  3. Phil says:

    So Merc now have a Technical Director (Bob Bell), Technology Director (Geoff Willis) and Executive Director, Technical (Paddy Lowe).

    This is in addition to Team Principle Ross Brawn and Engineering Director Aldo Costa.

    Wow!

    1. Darren says:

      I’m sure theres an old mantra “If you can’t beat them, buy them”

      1. Carlos Marques says:

        Or “too many chiefs, not enough indians”…so out with the old chiefs…just watch…

      2. Darren says:

        Very true Carlos. I wonder if they are trying to set up for a mclaren style alternate design teams system?

    2. Zombie says:

      I never understood the appointment of Geoff Willis . The man has had a mysterious career dissapearing from one team and reappearing in much less successfull teams elsewhere. He was with Williams and decided to join the ill-fated BAR Honda. His leadership did nothing to improve BAR’s situation, and it wasn’t until 2005 that they showed some improvement. By then Willis had been put on a gardening leave when he was roped in by RBR. He dissapeared from there too and reappeared with HRT of all places before finding a job with MGP.

      1. hero_was_senna says:

        Little unfair, he was the man responsible for the 2004 BAR which was a great car, just that the Ferrari was better

      2. coefficientf1 says:

        That’s not correct, Geoff Willis penned the 2004 BAR which Button almost single handedly took to 2nd place in the WCC and 3rd in the WDC and were famously heralded as the non-ferrari world champions as the F2004 was untouchable.

        Geoff was put on gardening leave when Honda announced they were buying the team lock stock and barrel because they wanted the guy that designs their MotoGP bikes to take over but Geoff’s design influence remained well into 2006 at BAR. The Nakamoto San designed earth dreams car of 2007 was the design departure. One which took them straight to the back of the grid.

      3. Kevin says:

        i totally agree with this. i remember when he moved to BAR and Patrick Head said something like that BAR has problems with its mid-corner downforce levels just like our Williams did last year haha

    3. Elie says:

      My experience in companies that have too many geniuses in the one place – it never works- they will get in each others way and they will all want their own direction. Which means – a company that’s divided not united.

      I think as soon as Ross Brawn goes and the 2014 progresses according to plan. Mercedes will the. Start swinging that axe- don’t get too close.

    4. Veena says:

      Don’t wonder if Allison lands there with the title of “Director of Thermal Management”

    5. Tornillo Amarillo says:

      Because 2014 “is so important”, Merc is just trying to dry the market of engineers and executives and not letting any of them for the other teams!

      Now, for 2014, maybe they are going to hire all the drivers with licence and assign them as a 3rd driver, and as test drivers, developer drivers, simulator driver, coach of test drivers, etc…

    6. Dren says:

      They each have designated roles. It isn’t as much of a cluster that people make it out to be. Lowe will be Brawn’s understudy until Brawn retires or moves on.

  4. justafan says:

    This is a blow to Ferrari. Reportedly Lauda is actively hunting Vettel to join the Mercedes team in 2015. If that happens, Mercedes will go on to win some titles on-the-trot, at the expense of Ferrari.

    1. Anne says:

      Huh? I thought Mercedes wanted Lewis to win titles with them.

    2. hero_was_senna says:

      Why? I don’t re member Ferrari trying to employ Mr Lowe.

    3. Andrew Carter says:

      Given that Ferrari are after James Allison I don’t think they’ll be too bothered.

    4. Enzo says:

      Because the Lowe designed MP4-28 is outperforming the F138?

      1. coefficientf1 says:

        The 28 was designed by Tim Goss who has been the lead guy since the 25. Goss has been groomed by Lowe to be the Technical Director elect at Mclaren. Lowe moving on and Goss getting promoted is the next natural progression in their careers, nothing unusual.

      2. Cliff says:

        As Technical Director Paddy Lowe would have had Management oversight and along with colleagues signed off on this years car. His senior role within McLaren means that he, along with others has to share blame for the failure of this years car.

  5. Pierre says:

    This has clearly happened rather sooner than (very widely) anticipated. It will be interesting to see if James Allison will also be realeased early from the traditional gardening leave.

    1. JCA says:

      Depends on how skint Lotus are. If his future employers offer enough cash it’ll happen soon.

  6. colin grayson says:

    I think that daimler benz have made a real mess of the situation with MGP ; when they bought the team it only had the resources of a midfield team and it was only last year that enough of the right people were brought in to give ross brawn the possibility to chase the top teams : bear in mind that , irrespective of the owner , this has only ever been a midfield team

    but now that the team is making progress they decide to germanise the team …lauda’s record of team management is hardly stellar and toto’s running of the company that builds and runs mercedes’ DTM cars is not exactly inspiring either …..best qualifying mercedes in last weekend ‘s DTM race at brands hatch …12th !!

    1. Tim says:

      but now that the team is making progress they decide to germanise the team …

      I hate to nit pick, but aren’t Lauda and Wolff both Austrian?

      1. Steve Mc says:

        Yeah, but they’ve got strong German accents… :0)

      2. Tim says:

        Wouldn’t their accents be Austrian ? :-)

      3. D@X says:

        Thats funny…LMAO!

      4. Elie says:

        Yep Austrian not German

      5. colin grayson says:

        perhaps I have a longer memory than most

    2. F458 says:

      A midfield team who won both championships in 2009?

      1. Frans says:

        “resources of a midfield team”. When they won in 2009, the budget for building that car is huge, easily top team budget. But since then, the budget is relatively small compared to other top teams.

      2. colin grayson says:

        which is how it was when DB bought the team , as stated

    3. JCA says:

      Joe Saward speculates that Wolff is being lined up as a team owner if the team doesn’t improve.

      As for DTM, he has only just taken over, car development is the manufacturer’s responsibility, and they are being out spent by BMW, who sees it as its top motor sport priority.

      BMW also have a slightly better engine, as Audi and Merc had to homologate theirs several years ago. Personally, I think they should have changed the engine type with BMW’s entry, thus leveling the playing field, they are going to 2L four pot turbo’s in a couple of years anyway.

      1. James Allen says:

        He’s already a shareholder so he has an entrepreneurial interest in the team, more than a simple manager would have

        Read the post on him he on JA on F1 from Barcelona weekend – that explains it

      2. JCA says:

        Yes, I know. I mean that if Daimler want to do a Renault and only be an engine supplier, they can sell the remainder to Wolff. As was the case with BMW and Toyota, if you continue to lose, the publicity is no longer positive.

  7. Dan says:

    I’m confused, where is the leverage?

    Honda engineers will have access to the 2014 engines regardless, so what’s enabled Lowe’s early release?

    1. ACx says:

      Me too. I don’t understand this leverage at all.

      With a contract in place, McLaren get Merc engines in 2014, end of. Right? So, unless Merc were planning something underhand, which I have zero reason to believe, I fail to see where any leverage exists.

      The only other thing I can think of is Merc permitting Honda to completely dismantle and learn from their engines legitimately. I cant quite see that either.

      1. Rockie says:

        Maybe discount on engines just saying!

      2. Rubinho's Keyfob says:

        I think the situation is probably one of Merc being in a position to break the contract if they can see a possibility that their tech/IP may be scrutinised by a competitor (both in F1 and in the commercial world). A contract being in place for 2014 means nothing. Either side can break a business contract (possibly with penalties – it depends on the contract in question – but it can always be done).

        That would leave McLaren without engines for next year, so Merc very much have the upper hand here.

        So the “leverage” would simply be Merc saying “We COULD break the contract based on your actions, however we won’t IF you release Lowe from HIS contract so that he can begin his tenure with us immediately.”.

      3. ACx says:

        Yeah, could be.

        Would be nice those if James could tell us what his thinking is. Its his suggestion after all.

      4. Peruvian says:

        Correct, that is precisely my view as well, just one more detail..
        If Mercedes GP decides not to supply engines to Mc laren, then it would be a bad publicity for Mercedes… so I think, that even if Mercedes does not want to supply engines, it is a lost cause, they, Mercedes will not win simpaty points, so, to have a win win situation, then supply the engines for 2014 (and save face) and get Patty Lowe early.

    2. Alexander Supertramp says:

      Well, what do both parties have?
      Mclaren has Paddy, Merc has intellectual property. Mercedes wants Paddy, Mclaren don’t want the protection of IP to harm them next year and beyond..

    3. Steven says:

      Cost perhaps? Maybe Merc.agreed to not charge for the lumps..

    4. F458 says:

      Maybe there is an option on Mercedes’ side not to supply McLaren if they have agreed an engine deal with someone else, just a guess. Mercedes must have something on McLaren for them to release Lowe as this is a massive disadvantage for McLaren.

  8. Quade says:

    …And the Mercedes armada continues its remorseless aquisition of all F1 talent.

    Barrack Obama will be Mercs next target. :)

    Lets hope Paddy Lowe can sort the rear tyre issues.

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      Yes and turn them into this years Mclaren.
      Something doesn’t add up here.
      Aldo Costa was at Ferrari for some years, and the generation of cars he worked on, be they under Byrne stewardship, or as tech boss, were always easy on their rubber.
      In fact, if you think back to the last Ferraris he worked on with Alonso, their main problem was getting sufficient heat into them for qualifying.

      He’s at Mercedes now, and I honestly thought that characteristic would have changed from previous seasons, yet once again the Merc’s cook their tyres..

      1. Zombie says:

        H_S_N, Aldo Costa has a chequered record as a development head. The F2005 was a good car but terrible on its tires. Was it the German GP in ’05 when Fisi complained about rubber from Schumi’s car hitting him ?

        The F2006 was no better on tires either. In fact Schumacher was so worried about the rear tire degradation, he requested in mid – 2005 for one of the mirrors to be angled so that he can a close watch on the rear tires. For 2006, the mirrors moved permanently to the edge of the pods. The Ferraris from 2007 onwards have been much kinder on their tires, probably due Tombazis influence on their design.

      2. hero_was_senna says:

        In 2005, the rules had been changed that teams had to qualify and run the race on one set of tyres.
        Mosley obviously wanted to rein in Ferrari, Ferraris historic veto obviously isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, and we had a championship with a handicapped Schumacher.
        Bridgestone supplied 3 teams, Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi.
        With Michelin able to test with all the other big teams, it was a no brainer how the outcome would be.
        Funny, after a single season, they returned to previous rules, suddenly Ferrari could race once more.
        In 2006, we had a tyre war and Renault/ Alonso took the fight to Ferrari/ Schumacher.

        Regards the mirrors, didn’t they all start to move their mirrors out to the sides, but the FIA implemented changes during the 2011(?) season on safety grounds?

    2. JC says:

      I heard a rumour they’ve signed Nelson Piquet and Alan Jones to sell ice creams and baseball caps at the official merchandise stand.

    3. How, exactly, might that add to the talent pool in any way for anything? Hasn’t helped things in the Colonies one darn bit. Only clear result is total gridlock in the system.

  9. KRB says:

    Job #1: get that Merc coanda effect up to snuff.

    JA, so what are you saying was the bargain chip? That Merc would be in full IP-protection mode next year in the McLaren garages, or could it have been that they wouldn’t have to send McLaren important info about the new engine (e.g. dimensions, weight, etc.) until much later in the season, if they adhered strictly to their engine supply contract? Now, with Lowe released early, they’ve agreed to release that data earlier? Just a guess.

    Now, where will Allison land?

    1. Steven says:

      Perhaps Merc agreed to lower the cost of the engine, or give McLaren the lumps for free

    2. Andrew Carter says:

      Given how fast their car is I don’t think it’s the coanda exhaust thats a problem.

      1. Quade says:

        Possibly so.
        Without the wretched Pirelli’s, the Merc is arguably the fastest car by a mile.

      2. Andrew Carter says:

        Only through bad vehicle dynamics though. Given that they tried to come up with a strong race set up for Spain and ended up with their worst race performance of the year I think they must be really missing something.

      3. KRB says:

        But it would help with rear-end downforce, and hopefully reduce wheel spin. A better coanda will mean a loss in bhp, but would be a worthwhile trade-off.

      4. Andrew Carter says:

        You are of course making the assumption that they don’t have a good design already and since it’s not wheelspin or a lack of rear downforce that is being pointed to as a major problem we can assume it’s as much mechanical as anything else.

    3. Dren says:

      I’m guessing Mercedes didn’t want to supply engines for just one year, especially with Honda coming in the following. Lowe was a bargaining chip, Mercedes gets him early and Mclaren get Mercedes engines for a year. I’m sure Mclaren will still have to pay for the engines. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a way out of the contract for Mercedes in 2014, and that Mercedes was thinking hard about doing it.

  10. goferet says:

    What can I say, this early release of Lowe has Wolff political finger prints all over it. He sure looks like a mover and shaker aka a man that gets things done.

    Also fair play to Mclaren for not holding grudges for not only did they let Lewis go early but they have also let an asset head off to the competition early without a fight in the courts.

    As for Mercedes’ focus on the 2014 season and beyond, unfortunately for the team, unless they get on top of the over heating tyres, a strong engine will be of no use am afraid for it will be the same old of pole on Saturday and scrapping for points on Sunday.

    Anyway, now that the missing link in the Mercedes puzzle is now finally in place, what’s left is to gel this orchestra together.

    1. Rich C says:

      No, the last, Missing Link will be revealed when *I am appointed “Executive Director of Technical Directors and Other Peasants, English Only.”

  11. Sven says:

    Next move:
    Brawn to Williams with Honda engines.

    1. Tim says:

      I don’t think so. The reports that I have read indicate that RB is growing weary of all the travelling. A move to Williams would be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
      I suspect it’s more likely RB will take up some sort of role back at the factory that won’t require all the long haul flights.

      1. Joel says:

        I hope Lewis shares his jet with his boss :)

    2. Anne says:

      I do really wish that

    3. ACx says:

      I think you have just defined “optimism” !!!!

      I say that as a depressed Williams fan.

      1. Steven says:

        As another Williams fan, and also Lewis fan, I would describe optimism as Lewis moving over to Williams…

      2. ACx says:

        If Williams build a car worthy of Lewis, I imagine he would go there.

        Hmmmmm, if he didnt like McLaren, I have difficulty seeing him liking Williams. Although change is afoot, perhaps the team might chill out a bit.

      3. Ian says:

        Is there another kind?

        - Ian (Williams fan)

      4. ACx says:

        Yeah, that’s all we’ve got, isnt it?

        Lets hope Claire can work some magic.

  12. jmv says:

    I was wondering why McLaren would release Lowe earlier than intended… (this explains it).

    I guess McLaren(Honda) will now definitely put the 2014 Mercedes engines through an x-ray machine (if only for “security purposes” at MTC :)

    1. Danny Almonte says:

      Obviously Honda needs all the help they can get. If they need to ‘study’ the Mercedes engine they are all ready in trouble.

    2. Edison says:

      The comments are suggesting Honda as a Korean, Chinese or Indian car makers with no tradition in competition and they need to copy somebody to succeed. This is not true, because Honda has pedigree in almost any races level. Man, Honda is Honda wherever they will be.

      1. JCA says:

        There is no downside in knowing what the opposition is doing.

  13. Joel says:

    May be an announcement that James Allison will join McLaren is due shortly… Is the path getting cleared?

    1. Martin says:

      This wouldn’t make any difference as the vacancy starts from when Lowe announced he was going. Tim Goss has already been promoted to the Lowe’s old job. Allison doesn’t fit Ron Dennis’ preference for people who “bleed McLaren”, as he has moved around a bit. While Newey brought success to McLaren, his way of working didn’t perfectly match the McLaren way, hence his flirtation with Jaguar and then move to Red Bull where Newey was able to set up the design process to do things his way.

      Given Mercedes’ troubles with tyres, hiring Allison may not be a bad idea… but the rumours point towards Ferrari apparently.

      1. Edison says:

        The big problem is that McLaren are losing top notched people and aren’t replace them in the same ratio and quality.

    2. C Lin says:

      Sorry, Allison is joining Ferrari not McLaren.

  14. Joshua says:

    Hi James

    I see the connection but is this just “the word in the paddock” or do you know exactly what the deal includes. I’m sure meclaren would not breech there contractual obligations (openly) so what did Mercedes have to bargain with?

    1. Steven says:

      Imo the bargaining chip that Merc has is the cost of the engines to McLaren…

  15. Oz Geezza says:

    Legends say to many cooks make the crappy
    soup,and certainly there are to many cooks in
    Mercedes kitchen.
    Imagine,Wolff,Lowe,Bell,Willis,Costa,Brawn
    and the chairman Lauda.
    Which ever you slice, its very,very, much top heavy,and the most amusing thing of all
    who will have the last word?.
    One would say its not in the best of German
    officiency.

    1. Steven says:

      The drivers would have the last word, they are the ones that have to put up with a slow car afterall…

    2. Anon says:

      Oh so because you’ve taken an old saying that makes it true, Mercedes have generally had the fastest qualifying car even though they have had to come from a long way back in performance terms with stable regs. They all have their place at Mercedes, they are not doing the same thing. Wolff, Lauda and Brawn do not develop the car, Lowe oversees the work of Willis and Bell who are working on cars for different years whilst Aldo Costa manages the mechanical side of things.

  16. Paddock F1 says:

    I think the 6 months or early release is more to do with the Bosman ruling as restriction clauses going beyond 6 months are not legally enforceable.

    1. Yak says:

      He was still under contract with McLaren until the end of the year, no? So still employed, just not being put to work. It wasn’t a contractual restriction stopping him from going to Mercedes, it was him still being employed by McLaren.

    2. ACx says:

      No idea if you are correct, but I like the thinking.

    3. JCA says:

      But if you’re on gardening leave, you’re still an employee under contract receiving salary. I would think the six mounth thing would apply to non compete clauses? Just guessing.

      1. Paddock F1 says:

        @Yak @JCA – You could both be right. If he is still under contract then he is not out of pocket. However, I wonder if there is a legal provision, where even if he is being salaried that beyond 6 months is too long as his skills in Formula 1 would be useless and therefore unemployable – something the Bosman ruling was made to address. I don’t know I’m not a lawyer, it would be great to have someone with greater knowledge preside on this.

  17. oniwa says:

    hi. a question for james. first of all sorry to ask you this here as this is about the pady low move. i read today on the spanish as.com and on bbc that the FIA has rejected the pirelli proposal to go back to last year tyres specifications. can you confirm this? will this mean that from canada onwards it will still be the same tyres used until now? this is the link to the news ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/22593977 ) thank you.

    1. Anne says:

      FIA Art.12.6 basically says that for specifications tyres change ALL teams must agree to do that. It was clear that wasn´t the case.

      The minor changes we will see are for safety reasons only.

  18. mgicn says:

    I justed wanted to thank you for your outstanding contribution to a deeper understanding of F1, its main actors and its changes, James. I really admire your work. Your website is one of the very few where you can get the full picture. Just when I heard the story of Lowe’s earlier release on the usual sources, one question came to my mind: why?
    And guess where I have found the anwer.
    Keep on going with your excellent work.

    1. Joshua says:

      What’s the answer?

      This appears to be a theory or if James does have the answer he hasn’t made it know here.

      That’s not to take away that this is the best f1 site out there. This creates great debate and it’s great to hear the opinions of those close to the heart of the action, which James provides but I dont think an answer has been provided. …yet

  19. Methusalem says:

    The first company to produce vehicles, one of the most adored car brands, a team with so many brains in its garage isn’t capable of solving tyre problems on its cars for 48 months. Doesn’t this surprise you?

  20. Robert N says:

    I don’t understand what leverage Mercedes had.

    They may be appeased now that Lowe can start working for them earlier, but what could they have done if McLaren had not budged?

    Also, the issue of Honda possibly gaining valuable insight into the Mercedes engine in 2014 has not suddenly gone away.

  21. Chris says:

    James, Mercedes will be trying to sign you next to write pro mercedes blogs ;)

    They may have already done so? – Only joking, keep up the good work, best F1 site on the web!! Have pointed many fellow fans in this direction, it’s truly a unique site :)

  22. Rein says:

    “leverage” … perhaps McLaren had some kind of pre-agreement/option with Mercedes for 2015 which is now “gone away”?
    Ross Brawn and Williams? Toto W. want’s to sell his stake in Williams. Perhaps there is a chance to tie up a view more loose ends? Beneficial for everyone concerned?

  23. Andrew Carter says:

    I’ve read the article through twice and I still have no clue as to what this leverage is. All I see is that Mercedes have secured the early release of Lowe’s contract and that they’re worried about Honda getting a good look at their engines next year (surely still a severe worry irrespective of Lowe joining in June or January next year).

    So what is it that McLaren have gained in return, or what consequence did they face if they refused to release him?

    1. Jake says:

      My thoughts.
      It is very likely that the Merc engine engineers give a great deal more assistance to McLaren than is specified in the contract. If Merc only give the minimum assistance as per the contract, work to rule as it were, then McLaren would have serious problems getting to grips with the new engine. The Honda problem is still there, not a lot Merc can do about that or they would have done it already.

  24. JCA says:

    As for other manufacturers entering the sport, James, wat is Bernie on about with this BMW speculation? I was under the impression that BMW’s new motor sport blueprint is to develop a vehicle that can be run by customer teams in several series, as in, Z4 GT3/GTE, S1000RR superbike and the DTM car that will be run in three series from 2015/6. Not to concentrate on one series, like F1, LMP1 or MotoGP.

  25. joe says:

    James, you have made a big statement, so explain the reason behind. I don’t get it.

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s simple – Mercedes needed a lever to get Lowe early.

      They are extremely unhappy about the prospect of supplying an engine to McLaren in 2014 with Honda engineers around ( Honda gas form in this area)

      So there will have been extensive discussions about safeguards and guarantees and such like and to placate Merc, what better that the early release of Lowe? (Whitmarsh has form in this area)

      1. BlueRacer says:

        It was not clear for me either.
        Actually I’m not even sure if it’s 100% clear for me now.
        Are you saying that McLaren released Lowe so that Mercedes will be “more friendly and relaxed” about what Honda engineers can see/do on Mercedes engines used by McLaren in 2014?
        That would mean that the engine contract between Merceds and McLaren can still be modified, isn’t it? Or are they going to modify things outside the contract?
        Can you give us an example of a specific safeguard they could be discussing?

        Maybe a little more explicit paragraph in the article would have helped :)

      2. Chris says:

        Its simple, Mercedes will want to put 24 hour security around it engines, as well as seals that will alert Mercedes should there be any foul play. McLaren will want privacy (i.e. no people storking its factory at 3am, remember mercedes own a team). If neither gives a little, the courts decide (which would likely come down on Mercedes side, but neither would want to take that chance). Now, will Ferrari get twitchy if Sauber sign on with Honda? And will Renault to get nervous that a new competitor might see technology from two of it’s rivals. Interesting times ahead.

  26. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    James
    What do you think the restructure at Mercedes will do to those working under the Director-level staff? Ie people in F1 are highly motivated characters. By parachuting in senior staff from rival teams would be massively demotivating to up and coming engineers. This would pose an opportunity for the next Adrian Newey/Ross Brawn/Aldo Cost to be poached.

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s about building a brains trust. Lot of experience there now and new senior people will spot rising talent and encourage it that’s how it works

  27. UhuraStarWars says:

    I really don’t understand how such a great team like McLaren have let themselves down to the point where their car is not fully competitive, their infant prodigy and star driver is now committed to a rival team and they have some personal feud with the engine supplier… So sad! 2013 is a nightmare right now!
    But I’d like to see RedBull facing some competition this time so i wish Mercedes with all the brain powers & resources can come on top of tyre issues and join in the battle with Ferrari and Lotus for the championship!
    We have 5 WDCs in the circus, let’s fight and please Pirelli, don’t be so silly!

  28. “…2014, a year which Mercedes has targetted as its breakthrough year to challenge for the world championship under the new turbo engine formula.”

    I always shudder when I hear this kind of talk. It reminds me of BMW’s master plan for a championship assault in 2009 and we all know how THAT went!

    1. Joel says:

      Correct. I’ve been thinking along these lines too.
      Too much emphasis on 2014 and they are building a lot of expectations, not a wise thing to do.

    2. Kay says:

      Haven’t we heard the same story about Merc year after year on whatever the introduce were the “last piece to the jigsaw”?

      I’ve yawned off them some time ago.

      1. Tim says:

        It takes time to build a winning team, particularly now when the margins between winning and losing are so much smaller.
        But, one thing is clear, Mercedes are going to give it their best shot. Only a fool would underestimate the might of Mercedes!

  29. Val from montreal says:

    They can’t have a “breakthrough” season if the team is’nt lead by a “breakthrough” driver …. This Mercedes team are becoming the New York Yankees of F1 teams ! They are poaching all the best brains in F1 and it still won’t amount to amything … Maybe if they get Vettel ,( they wont) , that could be a game changer but im sure Michael has advised his friend Sebastian to stay as far as he can from Brackley!

    McLaren Honda will kick some serious butt !

    1. Phil says:

      What planet are you from Val?
      If Lewis isnt a breakthrough driver then a lot of wiser people than you or I are very wrong.
      If Alonso, perhaps the most complete driver on the grid currently, describes Lewis as the quickest driver bar none, then thats good enough for me. Vettel doesent perform in a car unless its 99.9% perfect, Button is the same. Alonso and Lewis both regularly outperform the car’s abilities. Welcome back to planet Earth, hope you had a nice trip!

      1. KRB says:

        Likely why they are the two highest paid drivers on the grid. Both are on 20m euros. Vettel is 4th on 12m. Button scored big with his 2011 season, getting bumped up to Lewis’ old salary (16m). Perez is on 1.5m. Rosberg’s only 1m behind Vettel.

        Webber’s on 10m while Kimi’s on 3m. So Kimi would be getting more than just a better car with a move to RBR.

    2. Jake says:

      “McLaren Honda will kick some serious butt !”
      Why? McLaren have what is regarded as one of the best engines at the moment and they are 1 or 2 sec down on race pace. Even if Honda can come in late and build the best engine, there is still no guarantee that McLaren will do anything with it.

    3. Elie says:

      Well they’ve already had a breakthrough in 2013 with their new driver already on the podium very early on and both drivers on pole over the last 3 races.. So your already wrong there Val– remember how quickly you wrote Lewis off when Merc signed him– wrong on that too I might add. Merc only need one thing– tyre management and your good friend Seb won’t even the see the back of that Silver arrow.. It may even come after summer break with Lowe now on board.. & next year.. well that may prove a Golden year for at least one Silver Arrow! As for MS- I just wish he would learn to retire gracefully and put his talents to road car program’s like he did before.. But I suppose he’s going to stick his nose into everybody’s business and think its still the 90″s – that’s what he does.

      1. Val from montreal says:

        Poles – Schmoles !

        Remember Juan Pablo Montoya with Williams back in the early 2000′s ??

        2001 : 3 poles
        2002 : 7 poles
        2003 : 1 pole

        Now , how many championships has Wiiliams won since 1997 ? That’s right , zero …

        Then people say Schumacher had no competition back in his days , yeah right !

        Montoya was and will always be faster than Alonso or Hamilton any day of the week and twice on sunday !

      2. Elie says:

        Im not a hugh fan of poles either but Mercedes are getting on the podium more often now aren’t they.
        As for Montoya being faster than Hamilton or Alonso – by association that would make Raikkonen faster than anybody including your MS which would be about right too.. It’s just that Schumacher/ Brawn were smarter than most and better equipped. In 2003 and 2005 Kimi would easily have beaten both MS and FA respectively had his Mclaren held together..

      3. Phil says:

        You really are a dingbat Val!

      4. Val from montreal says:

        @ Elie , if you wanna do the ‘by association’ thing , how about this : Schumacher was faster than Rosberg last year , which Rosberg is so far faster than Hamilton , who in turn was faster than Alonso in 2007 ..

        Result = 43 year old MSC still faster than all of them , except for Vettel …

    4. KRB says:

      Umm, the NY Yankees are the most successful MLB franchise there is! 27 World Series wins.

      Have you ever thought deeply (I could stop there likely) about why you don’t like a certain driver, and how silly it all is? Support a driver b/c you’re “for” them, not b/c you’re “against” some other driver.

    5. Tim says:

      @Val
      Clearly your comments are intended to provoke some sort of reaction with the constant sniping at Lewis. Why? What has he, or his fans, done to upset you?
      Your beloved Michael made an attempted comeback and, sadly, it failed. I used to be in awe of Michael Schumacher in his hey day. I have many happy memories of watching him drive but, that’s what they are – memories. Sportsman reach the end of their careers, there is a changing of the guard and then we all move on.
      Val, it’s time to let go – Michael has retired!

      1. Val from montreal says:

        Im just the bearer of truth … If the truth upsets people well Im sorry if I offend anybody … Im not snipping at Lewis either … Last year when the Hamilton to Mercedes rumours started to creep up in the news, I was early on saying Hamilton won’t be that much faster than Rosberg if at all faster thsn him … I was called a looney-tune .. Now that Rosberg has proven that he is indeed the quicker teamate at Mercedes ( more poles than LH so far and better race pace too ) , I think I’m not so looney after all …

      2. Elie says:

        Val Nico has been with Mercedes for 3 years. Can you at least give Lewis 3months – I mean he’s already there isn’t he.

      3. Tim says:

        How do you conclude NR has proven he is faster than LH or that he has better race pace?
        So far this season LH has out qualified NR 3 to 2 and has finished ahead of him in the races 4 to 1.
        That would seem, at this early stage of the season, to suggest that LH has the edge over NR. However, as I suggested in another thread when we were chatting – lets ‘meet’ at the end of the season and see if you and your magic eight ball predictions are right. So far, you have been wrong every race, but I guess if you throw enough mud at a wall then eventually some will stick.
        Take care :-)

  30. Sensei.GT says:

    I think Mercedes offered McLaren free engines for 2014 in exchange for Lowe’s early release. The way that their car is chewing up tires, I mean tyres, it sounds like they desperately need his help. I can’t see any other reason why McLaren would let him go.

    1. Joel says:

      Althought I respect Lowe and his abilities, I don’t think Merc will lost $5 mil for Lowe’s services for 6 months…

      1. Sensei.GT says:

        I agree, however there is more to it than that. If McLaren have to pay, then they are under no obligation to have “Mercedes-Benz” on the side of the car, on the transports, on the team’s gear, on the stationary etc. This way both parties get what they want, free engines for McLaren, and a brilliant mind for MGP, win-win. It’s all marketing.

  31. Erik says:

    So from what I gather, Merc got Lowe early because they have a contract with McLaren next year? I dont understand, why didn’t McLaren ask for an early release from Mercedes engines in return? Surely Honda coming in next year would be better for them – Honda wont be a year behind, no need to reset the McLaren chasis in 2015 to a new engine style, etc…

    Gotta give Wolf some credit too for his comment on Brawn, he is absolutely right. Although it probably just means he will leave the Brawn exit to Lauda.

    1. Dan says:

      Because a Honda engine wouldn’t be ready by next year I’d imagine?

    2. Dren says:

      Mercedes likely wanted the full 2 year contract and longer, or no contract. Mclaren just wanted one of the two years.

  32. Richard says:

    James – why edit out my post? Not offensive?

    1. James Allen says:

      Didn’t like the tone of it

  33. Matt W says:

    It would be novel if Mercedes decided to actually develop a car rather than constantly employing more and more mercenaries. All of these appointments can’t be coming cheap.

    Merc are being forced into a corner where they achieve or get sold. I can’t see this ending well, Merc are making the same mistakes as Honda.

  34. John says:

    Well I always believe that things should never stay the same. It’s time we have another growing team just like Redbull currently who push the boundaries of F1 and perhaps in the turbo era Mercedes will shine and dominate a little until the next best team arrives with new evolutions and ideas. Pretty exciting times coming up.

  35. Elie says:

    I can’t imagine Mercedes intellectual property is worth six months release of Paddy Lowe. Possibly Mercedes threatening to cut supply in 2014 since the Honda announcement as they would have founds grounds to discontinue legitimately so Mclaren offered them a sweetener.

    I would strongly suggest that Mercedes investment of probably €100m+ euros and 2 years development on the new power plant will still be a heavily guarded secret. I can’t see them giving that up next year to a rival manufacturer.

    1. Edison says:

      Elie,it does not mean much, but I agree with you. Probably their contract was not tied up enough and had some holes in it so both sides had the chance to get some advantages. For sure their lawyers were busy lately.

  36. Paul D says:

    It’s been touched upon above, but is it possible that following the bang average MP4/28 Lowe has designed, Mclaren just wanted him out the door and off the payroll?

  37. Paul D says:

    I’m amazed that Mercedes agreed an Engine supply contract ending one year into the change of regulations? Surely there was always a probable risk of this scenario occuring?

    1. JCA says:

      Wasn’t the contract signed when the engines were supposed to come in this year? So 2 years into the new engine formula.

  38. Northeastcorner says:

    To everyone puzzling over the ‘leverage’ and trying to work out what specific item it may or may not be, surely you’re missing the point. McLaren/Merc is a relationship that has people involved. McLaren with the Honda announcement have made Merc feel uncomfortable. McLaren with Lowe release have made Merc feel better.

    The cost/benefit leverage argument is just as much about managing and securing a relationship for a further 18 months in which McLaren I would imagine would still like to consider themselves title contenders for in 2014 even if they’ve written off 2013, as it is about specific actions.

    Working to the spirit of the agreement rather than the letter.

  39. Zombie says:

    James, great job as usual in covering everything on track and off-track. OT : When you have some time to spare, can you do an article on Williams ? How they arrived to where they are now, and if that team will ever find redemption or just wither away like Tyrell, the original Lotus and many others. Thanks.

  40. Kay says:

    I’ve always thought the McLaren-Honda deal announcement was a bit stupid, and half expected it’d trigger Merc to react.

    McLaren should’ve made this announcement at around Nov / Dec at the earliest.

    1. Ambivalent B says:

      Mercedes would have been informed by McLaren about the Honda deal much earlier. McLaren also let an option for continuing with Mercedes engines beyond 2014 lapse earlier this month. In the wake of such decisions, it hardly made any sense for McLaren and Honda to withhold the announcement.

      Making an announcement will also help as Honda can look at signing customer deals with smaller teams such as Lotus and Sauber.

      McLaren must have also looked at sending at a signal to sponsors, partners, employees and other crucial stakeholders that the team is geared up for the future and will continue to be one of the ‘big’ teams.

    2. Dren says:

      There are two parties involved…maybe Honda wanted the announcement now? Or maybe all of the contracts/deals were solidified so it made sense to go ahead and announce it.

  41. Jon Wilde says:

    James makes absolute sense regarding the Honda news impacting Mclaren’s early release of Paddy Lowe.

    Mclaren will be working very hard to disassociate themselves from Mercedes in 2014. With a new title partner coming on board, and a new engine partner in 2015. The Mclaren brand will be undergoing a 24 month relaunch. I expect the Mercedes name to disappear from Mclaren in 2014. In fact, what are the chances of Honda being the new title partner?

    The release of Paddy I imagine will be 1 element of a lengthy negotiation between Mercedes, Mclaren and Honda. I expect we will see many more in the coming weeks and months. For example, sponsorship agreements. Honda is a Shell business, Mobil was Mercedes, with Petronas and Ferrari in the mix I can see some changes here.

  42. Tim says:

    Well at least you have the right username to go with your ideas – Wild!
    Let me get this straight – a Mercedes engine in the Mclaren and you think the title sponsor will be Honda!!!!
    Nurse, I think Mr Wilde has been forgetting to take his medication, please keep an eye on him :-)

  43. aveli says:

    mclaren needs to move 30 years forward in terms of logic. how can you ask an employee to stay away from a prospective employer for a year while you pay them not to work? ferrari did the same with raikkonen.
    if you have decided to let him go, let him go with the freedom to work with whoever he wants whenever he wants. this idea of controlling other human beings with threats is against human rights laws. it’s like depending on sabotage for success rather than making good preparation and trading for success with the resources you have. no wonder hamilton is so happy that he is no longer controlled.

  44. aveli says:

    does the red bull car not have the word infinity on it yet with a renault engine in the bay?

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