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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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1

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

2

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!!!

3

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

4

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

5

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.

6

+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” )

7

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.

8

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

9

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!

10

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?

11

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

12

Mercedes F1 2013-2015. Let the infighting begin.

13

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.

14

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

15

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…

16

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

17

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

18

Any news on a direct replacement for Norbert?

19

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.

20

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.

21

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.

22

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

23

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.

24

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.

25

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 …

26
Val from montreal

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 …

27

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 !

28

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.

29

Sorry James, the latter should be a reply to Val 🙁

30

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.

31

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.

32

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

Thanks.

33

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.

34

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.

35

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.

36

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.

37

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.

38

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.

39

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 .

40

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.

41

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

42

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

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