Mercedes F1 team principal Ross Brawn spoke today about the goings on behind the scenes at the team in recent days, suggesting that the move for Paddy Lowe is part of his long term succession plan but emphasising that he is very much in charge of the team.
“I am the team principal. I am in charge of sporting, technical and racing matters,” he said emphatically, when asked if Mercdes ran the risk of emulating the failed Jaguar Racing experiment, where no-one was sure who was in charge.
News has surfaced in recent days of a plan formed by Mercedes F1’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda and Mercedes’ new head of motorsport Toto Wolff for McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe to come in to head the technical side of the team. Brawn said that this is because he is being asked for a long term commitment from parent company Daimler, but is currently unable to give it.
“I know all the plans for the future of the team and I hope I’m going to be a part of them for a very long time, ” Brawn said at the outset of his press meeting at Brackley this morning. “I know the situation completely. Mercedes want a long term commitment. And obviously with a lot of additions, I want to see how things go before I make a final long term commitment. And that, so we have to have things in place. It’s rather like my succession plan at Ferrari. When I decided I was going to stop at Ferrari, we built a succession plan and I am part of that, I’ve talked to Paddy, we know the situation. I’m planning on being here a very long time.”
Brawn’s performance today looked very much like a man who wants to control the outcomes; he made it clear that he was aware of the plans, rather than finding out about them once they became public, talking of his own motivation and desire to continue, deflecting from any suggestion that his future is being decided by others in the management chain.
The situation, as he paints it, sounds similar to Michael Schumacher’s at Ferrari in 2006, when he was unable to give Luca di Montezemolo a long term commitment and so Montezemolo and Jean Todt went out and hired Kimi Raikkonen.
Brawn is a proud man with an admirable track record: 8 drivers world championships and 8 constructors’ championships as a technical director and team principal and – uniquely – he has overseen Grands Prix victories with four different teams. So he’s achieved far more as a manager than Niki Lauda ever has.
But he making it clear here that the ball is in his court when it comes to deciding what part he will play in Mercedes F1 plans over the next few years.
Brawn is excited by the challenge of the new 2014 rules and knows that Mercedes is putting all the pieces in place to have a crack at the world title. He is also excited by working with one of the fastest drivers in the sport. But he clearly has doubts about the effect Lauda is going to have on the project he has been developing at Mercedes and wants to keep his options open about the future.
“We are entering a really exciting period. Obviously Lewis joining us was a massive catalyst for us all, a massive incentive, motivation. I’m seeing the maturity of the changes we made 12 months ago. This car has been project led by Aldo (Costa) and he’s done a fantastic job and I’m really excited by that. Like any of us in life if we are excited by what we are doing we carry on doing it.
“And when I say ‘hope’ I mean that I continue to find the excitement and the motivation and the reasons to go racing, because racing gives me a buzz. We have our difficult days but it’s a really exciting period, the car is coming together well we have set some tough tasks over the winter, we are meeting them. A lot of things are behind us now; we did the restructuring of the wind tunnel and a lot of things are behind us where this coming year we are going to gain the benefits of those initiatives we made.”
But things do seem to be happening on the hoof with Mercedes; Toto Wolff said on Tuesday that his appointment came about “in the last two weeks”; Paddy Lowe had already been talking about a move to Williams when Wolff was there and this has now morphed into a Mercedes plan. There are a number of people whose purposes it would suit for the plan regarding Lowe to become public for various reasons. Brawn said he is disappointed it has as it means a distraction for his staff just when he wants them focussed on preparations for the season about to unfold.
However new driver Lewis Hamilton, in his first days of work at Mercedes in Brackley, said that he believes Paddy Lowe is staying at McLaren and emphasised that as far as he in concerned, Brawn is the main man,
“Having a head figure in the team is vital. Ross is that head figure, he leads the way and inspires everyone to go that extra distance. He’s had a great career and he runs a great team,” he said.
“As far as I’m aware there are no plans to bring Paddy here. I’ve been assured by Ross that his commitment is for the long term and he is here to try to win with me, which reassures me and continues to give me a positive feeling moving forward. There are lots of good people here and I’ve obviously had great experiences with Paddy but he works with McLaren as far as I’m concerned.”