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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff denies plan to replace Ross Brawn
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Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Jan 2013   |  2:25 pm GMT  |  194 comments

New Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff has denied speculation that he plans to replace Ross Brawn as team principal of the Mercedes F1 team, but refused to be drawn on stories that he plans to hire McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe,

Speaking in a Mercedes organised teleconference, in which JA on F1 participated, Wolff (41) said,

“It would be foolish to talk about replacing anyone… That is speculation in the media, I think I would be aware of that. Ross is there and he is part of the team and I hope Ross is going to stay as long as possible.

“Paddy is a recognised person in the paddock, he has been with McLaren for 15 or 20 years. I’ve read it in the paper, that’s all I can tell you. Obviously in F1 there is always a lot of speculation about personalities joining or not joining, but there’s nothing I can tell you at this stage.”

He denied that there had been a plan in place for Lowe to join Williams and this has been converted into a move with Wolff to Mercedes, “there is no truth in it,” he said.

Wolff only took on his new job yesterday, but already there is rife speculation, most of it originating in Germany with Bild newspaper. However BBC Sport website ran a story today with insight from Eddie Jordan, who broke the Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes story last September, that Wolff and Niki Lauda planned to replace Brawn and run the team themselves.

Jordan’s theory is as follows: “”Paddy Lowe is going to Mercedes and it would appear that Brawn and Fry are on their way out, and Lowe will be there in a very senior capacity. Lowe won’t be technical director; he’ll be more senior than that. But he won’t be called team principal either,” Jordan said, “because that will be Wolff. But Lowe will effectively be running the team on a day-to-day basis.”

Sources in Germany have indicated that Lowe’s future is under discussion in Woking and Brackley, but the 50 year old engineer has a contract at McLaren to the end of 2013 and will not be released sooner.

Wolff clarified that Lauda’s role is as non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team, reporting to the Daimler board but without executive day to day functions, whereas Brawn will be responsible for the technical side of the team and Wolff will represent Mercedes’ interests. As for the future of the CEO of the team, Nick Fry, Wolff said only “we are looking into that situation”.

Wolff will drop all his other activities and focus on his new role with Mercedes, which involves him being a 30% shareholder in the Mercedes F1 team. He confirmed that there are no silent partners in his shareholding and that he is doing it alone. He has stepped back from the management of Valtteri Bottas, who will now be handled by Mika Hakkinen’s former manager Didier Coton, who also has a hand in managing Lewis Hamilton.

Clearly having a partner like Wolff who is also a shareholder, gives Mercedes options going forward in case the project of team ownership does not work out. And clearly as shareholders Wolff and Lauda will have more clout than Brawn. It was interesting to note Wolff’s comment that he had not yet spoken to Brawn, which seems odd given how closely the pair will be working and considering that the deal to bring Wolff to Mercedes has been in discussion for a couple of weeks, according to the Austrian.

“Mercedes is committed to F1 and to doing it for many years from now,” Wolff said. “I’m very proud to have the possibility to be a partner and a kind of managing partner of Mercedes in F1. This is what they were looking for someone who is a co-shareholder and a partner and who is looking after their interests in F1.”

Asked what his brief is from the Daimler board, Wolff said, “Daimler (owner of Mercedes) is one of the best brands in the world. They came into F1 to be successful and to be perceived as being successful, being a top team. This is what the board is expecting and this is the goal. We will be working flat out.”

Wolff also confirmed that former F1 driver Robert Kubica in a DTM car shortly and will be closely monitoring his progress and rehabilitation.

Asked again by JA on F1 at the end of the conference if he could clarify that replacing Brawn is not his objective he said,

“I haven’t been in Brackley and had conversations with Ross. I admire what Ross has done. I need to sit down and understand the structure….Ross’ track record is fantastic…I need some time to understand the situation and to take time and analyse. It would be foolish to speak about replacing anyone. They are good people and that’s where I am right now.”

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1

Hi James – you briefly mentioned Robert Kubica’s upcoming test in a DTM car, and now that it is coming up to two years since his crash I was wondering if you could write a piece on his recovery over the past two years, and realistic prospects of a return to F1?

2

Hi James,

When do you think we will get an announcement on Ross Brawn & Paddy Lowe? Surely this is going to be destabilizing for the team with a management reshuffle just before the season starts. One would hope they would try and get this resolved ASAP :/ I don’t want this to be ‘the reason’ why they aren’t competitive in 2013… no more excuses 🙂

3

Seeing Ross today. I don’t know about Paddy. Discussions are ongoing. He has a long tie-in on his McLaren contract so unlikely to be moving in 2013.

4

Thanks James 🙂

5

Sounds like Mercedes is becoming a team of outcasts with fragile working relationships at least in the short term. Let’s hope for Lewis’ sake it doesn’t implode in acrimony and blame.

PS Ross Brawn to Williams!

6

I’d imagine if Wolff has purchased 30% of the team then he’d want to be Chief hence Nick Fry having to make way.
With Nick gone, I’d say Ross Brawn would probably want to follow him out the exit pretty quickly.
All very poorly handled by Wolff + Lauda.
Jordan is spot on this time.

7

James, what’s with the ‘rumour’ about reported visit of Christian Horner to Maranello?

8

What I think is, their meeting was probably something to do with the post-Bernie era.

9

Where did you read that? Got a link?

10

I have a feeling about that. Working on a story at the moment

11

Next they might replace Hamilton with Suzy wolff 🙂

12
Alanis Morissette

It seems to me that Wolff is staging one of the great coup d’état of our time. He is a fearsome individual who, like is namesake is right at the top of the forest food chain. He stalks his prey, he bides himself through lean times feeding on scraps and then transforms himself into a magnificent beast and strikes.

This is excellent news for Lewis I feel. With the Totmeister at the helm, I can only see a great future for the Mercedes team. The only thing I’m not sure about is the rumours of the removal of Nick Fry. Removing an individual of that caliber has to be a mistake. The man has a track record of excellence second to none. Not something that can be said of the now past-his-best Brawn.

13

This is the start of Mercedes exit strategy from the sport. They dont want to loose money and the so called reputation. MS and Haug are gone, Next is Fry and Brawn whose exit counter has started. With 40% of stake sold, Merc has set the stage for exit. They might have asked Brawn to buy a stake, which he might have refused politely (Who wants to lose money, while knowing that things are not going to work) and there come Wolf from nowhere, without much experience to manage a team.

With Wolf and Lauda (without Brawn), I pray for Hamilton who might be on the phone with Dennis, “Hi Ron, how about a 50% cut of my Mclaren salary, will that work”?

Merc will watch this year results and if there is no noticeable changes (wins, which is not going to happen, may be one or two).

Most of us have been watching F1 over a decade or two, we know how all this will end.

14

I bet that before long, Lauda will be shooting his mouth off and arguing with others including his co-managers. He likes to do that, like he did at Ferarri.

15

Talk of Hamilton being stitched up, but as James noted this hasn’t happened overnight prob in planning from mid last year, and that was the news that finally peruaded Lewis to join, remember the ‘heart to heart’ talk he had with Lauda, who obviously knew full details of the re-structuring.

16

Much as I admire Ross for his work in the past he is not able to come up with the goods now. It’s not unreasonable for Mercedes to have a shake-up. Every day occurence in industry.

17

I knew there was more to the Schumacher exit story. There is no way Brawn would have hung schuey out to dry like was done. It was a stitch up and Schumacher was first followed closely by Haug. It seems now Brawn and Fry are next in line. All to make way for a “new look” team. Despicable mercedes…It will not work

18

Just goes to show you how shrewd this business is. There is no way Wolff got to this ridiculously awesome position in a short time without stepping on many toes. And some of those toes are still to be stepped on if the Brawn story is true.

19

Face palm times for Lewis Hamilton, talk about car crash management ! Just goes to show large corporations make the biggest mistakes, usually because they can afford to.

This will be embarrassing, funny, sad and cringe worthy all at the same time.

20

Hi James

It all makes sense now appointing Lauda as non exec board member and getting rid of Haug was all about business and nothing to do with the need to improve the team!

Merc wanted divest/offload shares so they found 2 willing buyers Lauda/Wolff so what do they do? Install 1 as an exec Board Member and then ex Haug and replace him with Wolff.

If merc were truly serious about becoming a winning team they would be investing more money the kind of money the top 3 teams do and not selling of shares to ppl like Lauda & Wolff! Even though the 2 of them can afford a combined 40% share in the team you really have 2 ask how much more money do they have 2 invest in the team? Thats besides the fact that non of them have a proven record in Formula 1 management and barely any experience that’s worth anything. Lauda ran Jag which was a failure under him and Wolff worked under Frank Williams. Williams success last yr was largely down 2 the work Parr did.

I really thought Merc were ready to turn the corner after hiring Hamilton I was 1 of the ppl who was positive about hamilton joining merc I thought it was a chance for 2 grow as a leader and as a person but now i have my doubts about merc.

If the bbc are right and Merc are going 2 ex Brawn then I would really like to see how Lauda/Wolff with no proven records and any useful experience in team management cant do a better job then Brawn/Haug who are legends in F1 in there own right and are among the most respected men in F1.

21

Ross won’t leave F1. He’s the best in the business. You don’t stop doing things you are the best at instead you continue doing them. I hope he goes to Ferrari.

22

Unless… he just wants to go fishing!

23

The Mercedes operation has been a disaster so far. 2012 was embarrassingly bad. Carrying on as they were was not an option.

24

James thanks for a great article and like I said a while ago- i believe this would be Ross Brawns last year at Mercedes Toto will allow Ross the opportunity to see the structure he created gel to the end of this year and perhaps retire- I don’t see Ross doing it all over again in another team- he’s achieved much more than many ever will in F1.

Nick Fry’s departure must surely be imminent and I doubt very much this will be a surprise to anyone within the team. The technical team recruited over the last year are surely settled in now and ready to take the reins. People must remember you don’t hire three or four top notch guys without someone leaving once their settled. Is it not possible that one of the guys within the team can take the Technical Director role ??

Yes this is unsettling regardless of what transpires over the coming days but surely the engineers, mechanics and the car are already established and ready to race.

25

James, what do you think? Should Ross and Schumacher come up with their own for 2014 if not for this year?

Schumi could be a technical/strategy director as well as drive one car, and Sutil/Algusuari/Glock or a pay driver could driver the second car.

A bit like team Prost but more successfull 😛

26

There’s too much to do, I don’t see it

27

Toto Wolff, what a man..

Puts down xx mil. euro’s? like it’s nothing..

And also remains shareholder f the Wiliams team…

I doesn’t matter how u look @ it, that deserves respect..

The man has got a passion for racing and men who have that kind of passion will not drop Brawn..

Brawn will only leave, if he want’s to leave..

And I think he wants to leave..

28

Edit:

“Of the Williams team”

And..

“It doesn’t matter”

Sorry!

29

if lowe does go to Mercedes what will mclaren do?.

pat fry & lowe used to take in turns the design of the mclaren and lowe has taken that on himself since fry’s departure but who is left to take up that mantle if he goes and the offer which may/may not be on the table could be too good to refuse.

i believe personally that the reason newey and Hamilton left have little to do with money and more to do with the stifling nature of the team and actually feeling “valued”.

who heard Dennis at the Canadian gp and thought wow thats how you p#@& a driver off and make him look elsewhere for a drive.

horner wouldnt have said anything like that to the worlds press about an employee let alone a driver, whitmarsh must have been crawling on the ground head bowed slapping the floor “why Ron,why?…….we want him to sign……….why do you have to make it so hard!”.

i think toto and lowe are a sign of just how commited to success Mercedes are. i doubt tho that fry,bell or Willis will be there for 2014 as many have said too many high profile design people in the same place.

still cant figure out how lauda got a job with merc, he just seems to stirr up trouble and cause problems, hope Ross & toto can control him (fat chance) and not let him distabalise the team.

30

I my as well add my two pence: I work for a german OEM in germany and I would say no one is safe in the the Race Team. If they are not “Mercedes men” i.e. not directly appointed by them then it will be tough. German companies are highly political and you need to be under the wing of some one highly senior. If Ross Brawn has been solely focused on improving the race team and not building up connections within Mercedes the he is probably done for – crazy to think it works like that but it does! that’s not to say it isn’t successful but that is how it is. The only thing to save him will be if Totto Wolff is approaching this with an open mind.

31

This assumes that Brawn wants to be “saved”. Per Dougel’s comment (34) Brawn achieved his win with Rosberg and Schumacher has left the building so what ambition does Brawn have left? I could see this as an ideal opportunity to take the retirement that was deferred following the sale of his team to Mercedes. These could be moves being made by Mercedes because they were on notice that Brawn intended to retire once his locked-in period expired.

32

Right, Brawn and Schumacher should make their own team (they could buy HRT or Force India if its on sale).

33

Would like to see them with FI but probably not happening.

34

Brawn sees something tricksy for 2014 and the alignment of planetary egos at Merc does not suit him.

He’ll join a small team and catapult them (making another bundle in the process).

Lewis will whine and moan about other drivers (again) in 2013.

EJ will continue to be a pain as a commentator but an excellent PA system for someone else.

35

This is how F1 operates:

rumor-denial-truth

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