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Mercedes put faith in Brawn, Silver Arrows on the grid next year
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Mercedes put faith in Brawn, Silver Arrows on the grid next year
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Nov 2009   |  8:55 pm GMT  |  77 comments

The legendary Silver Arrows works Mercedes Benz F1 team will return to Formula 1 racing next year for the first time in 55 years.

Picture 26
Mercedes Benz is buying 75.1% of the Brawn team. Mercedes CEO Dr Dieter Zetsche and Mercedes motorsport chief Norbert Haug announced this morning that the team will be rebranded as the Mercedes team from next season onwards and the colour scheme will change to the Silver Arrows livery.

The move allows Mercedes to have its own brand to the fore, rather than subservient to the McLaren brand, for a fraction of the cost of what they have spent in the past on F1, thanks to the resource restriction agreement and greater commercial revenues.

The move is a massive vote of confidence in Ross Brawn personally. Mercedes might have expected to win more during its time with McLaren and the fact that they didn’t is largely due to Brawn’s management of the Ferrari technical team and of Michael Schumacher.

Brawn had nothing left to prove after winning the championship this year with his own team, but here Mercedes are investing in him and he has committed to stay with the team for an undisclosed period, in addition to retaining a shareholding. By rough estimates, presuming that he held a majority stake in Brawn GP, he must have personally made around £30 million this year from taking on the team from Honda for £1 and then reselling it nine months later.

McLaren’s Ron Dennis responded with a statement saying that the deal was a “win-win” for both companies and that his team would continue to be called Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and would retain its silver and red livery. Mercedes will continue to supply engines to McLaren until 2015.

Dr Zetsche said that the reason for the move away from McLaren was that the two companies were not aligned on road car projects, with McLaren pushing forwards with a new sportscar, the MP4/12C which is a direct competitor to Mercedes supercar programme. He refused to be drawn on what effect the spy scandal of 2007 and this years lying scandal had on their decision.

Although this move has been foreshadowed for some time, the execution is subtly different from what has been rumoured. First the Abu Dhabi investment company Aabar is taking a 30% shareholding in the team, with Mercedes taking 45.1% and Brawn directors keeping the remaining 24.9%. It had been speculated that Aabar would hold the entire 75% until the end of 2011 when the contract with McLaren was due to expire. By giving away certain rights, McLaren and Mercedes have arrived at a compromise which works for both parties and allows Mercedes brand to be at the forefront of its

Dr Zetsche said, “Our relationship with McLaren was affected in recent years by the fact that the other shareholders were interested in building up a new automotive company building sports cars and supersports cars. That was not in the interests of Daimler and Mercedes Benz and because of this lack of alignment we were discussing to withdraw and McLaren group agreed to purchase 40% shares from Daimler within the next three years.”

“We can now rearrange our F1 activities with the consequence that we will reduce our F1 budget to about a quarter of what it used to be. We want to accomplish that in the next two years. The reason for that is the resource restrictions agreement between the teams and the FIA, greater revenues from the commercial rights and greater revenues from partnerships and sponsorships as the Silver Arrows works team. We are acquiring 75% of a team which has been very well funded to begin with.”

Mercedes is very cannily taking over a team which is perfectly suited to the F1 business model of the future, which has been built up with BAT’s massive investment in the 1990s and Honda’s money in the 2000s. Literally billions have been spent on this team and Mercedes is picking it up for a fraction of what it would have cost if they had decided to ‘do a Toyota’ and build their own team up from scratch.

Logistically it makes perfect sense too, Mercedes Benz High Performance Engines facility is based in Northampton, 20 miles away down the A43 from Brawn’s Brackley base. They are either side of the M1 motorway.

As for drivers, Jenson Button and his management have made a big play of wanting to be ‘valued’ but they may have got their timing and tactics wrong. They have tried to back Brawn into a corner. But I cannot help but feel that Button should have taken the deal on offer and signed a contract this Autumn and just got on with it. Brawn’s team is clearly the place to be and to risk losing everything for the sake of a few million quid when you have fought for your whole career to be in the right car, seems counterintuitive.

Button will have known about this takeover for some time and Mercedes will have been involved in the background of the decision making process. Where they are in the negotiation reflects how they value him. The deal is still on the table for Button and I get the impression that Brawn would still like him to drive alongside Nico Rosberg. Some commentators see it that Mercedes has pushed Button out and that he is going to McLaren as a result. I’ll post on this in more depth later.

Four drivers are in play here; Button. Rosberg, Raikkonen and Heidfeld. There are three seats available. Although Rosberg is the German driver sitting in the Mercedes car for the next few years, there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Sebastian Vettel is the driver Mercedes want long term and he will become available in 2012. You have to wonder about Mercedes’ plans for Lewis Hamilton too. His contract with McLaren is for five years from 2008, but I can imagine that Mercedes and Hamilton would be factoring each other into their plans for the future.

* Apologies for problems with the server today. It’s not the first time, but please keep patience with us. We thought we had found a better solution but today’s traffic spike proved us wrong. We are going to need a “bigger boat” as they say in Jaws!

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1

James,

Any word on Mac having retained it ability to veto where the MB engines go? I understand they nixed the Red Bull move. Does anyone know if they still have that power? I would think they should retain it until 2012 but they may have surrendered it to extend the supply to 2015… What thinkest thou? Any word from insiders?

2

Will not happen but imagine Shummie doing a final season with Merc!

3

At least it won’t be too hard for Mercedes to improve on their return to Le Mans in 1999 🙂

4

Was a massive fan of Brawn, shame that Mercedes have bought them out, and automised them. And it looks to be that Button has left now as well as Rubens. With two drivers the team has never worked with before, a car that was developed quite late if some updates to the Brawn are to be believed, it looks like the “Silver Arrows” team is going to be a flop. I know they needed the money, but the team has sold themselves out, and the Brawn dream appears to be over. I feel quite sorry for Ross, it looks like 2010 is going to be a difficult year for him. I’ve seen this happen before, when a major Manufacturer takes over a Successful team (E.G. Stewart being taken over by Jaguar) And the result is a management that believes that pouring in money will get you world championships. It’s sad to see, I supported Brawn because It was a British team, and I thought that with an independent temas champion we would have a golden age. I have a very bad feeling about this…

5

Have Merc sorted out their issues with the unions? I know that their workers aren’t happy because they used to work less hours/days, being paid less, while Merc was spending billions in F1.

6

“I sense that Kimi Raikkonen is more likely to end up, if anywhere, at McLaren rather than Brawn, not just because of the financial side of things, but because of question marks over motivation and consistency. This is not me saying this, but people on the inside of the teams in question”

James, I don’t understand. Are you saying that McLaren is okay with paying him more despite having issues with his motivation and consistency? Or that Brawn GP, sorry Merc GP, isn’t sure what makes Kimi tick while McLaren does?

Thanks as always for your insights.

7

Great article as ever James.

Jenson Button would appear to be the perfect driver for the new non-refueling rules – a smooth driver that is usually kind to his tyres and gets the car home.

If I were part of the Mercedes management, I’d do everything that I could to get him and the No. 1 on the car after 45 years (not 55!). Must be some strange internal politics going on.

8

I was a big fan of Brawn this season, it was super to see a clean, non branded car at the front of the pack. Reminded me of the old days. Now that it has turned into Mercedes the romance has gone a bit.

I think jenson is doing the right thing to go to McL, always a competitive car, and will be great for us to see two super teams, on one side McL with two english world champions, and on the other Ferrari with a double champion and an “almost” champion. My hunch is Brawn (sorry Mercedes) will not be as dominant. And maybe RBR will have another brilliant design to deal with the big tanks and no petrol stops, watch out for them…

9

Might the altered arrangement between McLaren and Mercedes have opened up the possibility of Mercedes supplying engines to RBR for next year?

10

No, McLaren has the right of veto there and it’s looking like RBR will stay with Renault

11

If Hamilton is no 1 at McLaren, and Brawn becomes a German F1 Team, wouldn’t that make Rosberg the no 1?

So Button becomes no 2 wherever he goes, might as well go to the place with the better money…

Actually I cannot see how Button can so easily fall from grace at BrawnGP, considering his loyalty to the team at the years past.

12

2010 will have a German WDC whose name isn’t Michael Schumacher, which will pave the way for Vettel to pilot a Silver Arrow in 2012. It’s my belief that, at this point, Mercedes is looking to Brawn to build a solid driver out of Rosberg over the next two seasons so Vettel will have a good teammate.

The Brawn and Mercedes partnership is going to be the one to watch for years to come. Brawn will surely be able to add more championships to his credit with the backing of MB.

13
Christopher Snowdon

James, two gut feeling question for you, do you think that Mercedes and Mclaren will be partners in 2015?

Does this makes Renaults potential exit easier as they will not be seen as the last manufacturer running out on the sport?

14

Probably not to the first and as to the second, I think Renault will do what is right for Renault and not worry about being the last manufacturer etc

15
Carlos Eduardo Del Valle

Nice to see that the server crash was due to heavy traffic. Good luck with the bigger boat, I hope it’s a transatlantic, because 2010 will be a fantastic year. Eleven days for the book premiere, too…

16

James, if you take away Ross B himself, what are you left with?

Is the team not Honda as it was, more or less intact? Ross alone, and his manipulation of that loophole transformed the team’s fortunes.

Seems over optimistic, to say the least, to put your faith in one single mortal human, genius or not …. esp when you have a very successful, tried and tested alternative.

17

Yes but it always was a good team it just lacked technical direction. Honda invested massively in the 2009 car, under Ross’ instructions and the result was this year. They didn’t spend a lot on development this year and just about got away with it.

18

If your suggestion that Brawn personally made £30 million you can see how Button might feel undervalued when he’s not even asking as much as another former WDC who has no more titles than Button and will not even be wearing the #1 on his car.

Button took a huge paycut and delivered. Brawn made no bones about letting everyone know that he stopped working on the 2009 car and thus it’s not surprising Button had the competition breathing down his neck.

In the light of this news it makes his title even more impressive especially considering his last two drives.

19

Heavy traffic in the off season! You must be doing something right James.

Enjoyed reading the recent articles, I bet that Jenson is having more sleepless nights now than when he was trying to secure the WDC!

20

Why do English drivers always get stuffed after they become world champions this is the third time now, so join the dots up !! what is it…

21

Very good question. Only Hamilton bucks the trend in the last 30 years!

22

Probably because Hammilton was the only outstanding one of the whole bunch.

I’m sorry but, Mansell, Button and Hill are/were good but nothing more than that.

23

Don’t worry about the server problems. It just proves that when big news hits, everyone wants to read your take on it.

24

Would love to hear from Honda’s board members.

I doubt Dennis is happy about this,even if he says he is.

He will have to go buy engines like any other one.

off topic:any idea who will replace Bridgestone James?

Thanks

25

James,

Looks like now a real possiblity that Button could end up with no drive next season. Like to hear your thoughts on that.

26

Unlikely he’ll have no drive, don’t see how you get that?

27

How strange. Honda, BMW, and Toyota get out of F1 while M-B increases its involvement.

28

I have a sinking feeling about Button’s chances of bagging a drive with either Mclaren or Mercedes now. As James mentioned, it seems like his management’s attempts to get more money have back fired, particularly as Heidfeld has been linked to join the rebranded team alongside Rosberg. Surely if Raikkonen can negotiate a deal at Mclaren he’d be the logical choice, as a known quantity, to team up with Hamilton at Mclaren. That’ll leave Button out in the cold.

Obviously it’s easy to make a snap judgement without knowing all the facts but I can’t help feeling that this is all very reminiscent of the 2004 fiasco when Button had to renege on his deal to join the Williams team in favour of BAR.

29

you seem to be jumping on the Brawn Mercedes wagon a bit too fast.

I definitely dont see them as suddenly “the place to be”

I could bet you James that the Mclaren car will be faster in 2010 and that the Mclaren cars will finish higher than the Mercedes team.

Perhaps Button already senses this, hence is he strongly considering the Mc. even with Lewis alongside…plus it seems plans are for him to play 2nd fiddle to Rosberg (rumors about Rosberg having a clause stating he should be the most paid driver at Merc.), no way to treat a WDC.

In the longer term, probably a win win for both parties… Mercedes finally own a team, how it will play out we will see… Mclaren already are proven as chassis makers and in Lewis they have a legend driver in the making… I believe their roadcar program will be successful too.

Things might seem dodgy now but Im pretty sure Mclaren will come out of this strong and independent. They wont need Merc engines till 2015 by the way.

And I just dont see Lewis ditching Mclaren for Mercedes, its gonna be Vettel there.

30

And you are a Mclaren fan, what else to expect but some spite when Mercedes are hyped up?

It must be a sour feeling that Mercedes are leaving Mclaren to be a mere customer aye?

I can understand your position.

31

The one thing the extended Merc deal does for McLaren is buy them the time to talk to other engine manufacturers about a possible future tie-up, time to develop those engines so they hit the ground running. I think there has to be some loss to McLaren as the years progress with maybe a barren year or two but they are never down for long. I’m no big McLaren fan per se but have huge respect for what they have achieved in a very competitive sport.

32

That’s a great point and they were willing to give up some ground on other things to have six years’ guaranteed engine supply.

33

Well I wasn’t really thinking short term, like one year. I was thinking slightly longer term than that

34

yea short term, long term…the mclaren guys are proven race winning chassis makers… the Brawn guys have done it only once, and that was with the most expensive car ever built… even with Mercedes support, Brawn wont have that kind of money anymore…

Mclaren still have arguably the best driver outthere. Their future has atleast every chance to be as bright as Brawns, and that will show in the next 10 years, starting from next year.

Jenson is right to ditch them, if they indeed offer him such a derisory contract after just winning the WDC.

Oh Im pretty sure the BMW team looked good years ago too… but just watch, by the time Mclaren and Ferrari reassert themselves at the top for the next 3 years or so, questions will begin to get asked in the Mercedes boardrooms and before you know it, another manufacturer is gone.

All this assumption that just because its Mercedes, the team will be strong is way unfounded…I look forward to next season, its exciting.

35

Please let me wake up tomorrow and read he is staying put. But then, he must be convinced he can beat Lewis in the same car, so maybe he sees this as a way to consolidate his champion status … gives me shivers just thinking about it.

36

Kudos to Mercedes for having the courage to swim against the tide in F1. I hope this encourages other manufacturers to take a fresh look at Formula 1 as an investment. They have also done the right and honorable thing with McLaren by giving them what looks like an excellent deal to position themselves for the future as manufacturer in their own right. It looks like Mercedes wanted McLaren to be their motorsport arm but found McLaren had bigger, competing plans outside the racetrack.

Do you think McLaren got a good deal here? Free engines and full sponsorship for 5 years – to me this sounds like Mercedes are financing McLaren’s buyback of the 40% they owed. Also, does this deal prevent McLaren from either using its own engines or finding another manufacturer if it wanted to?

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