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Honda deal gives Mercedes leverage for early Paddy Lowe release
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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does the red bull car not have the word infinity on it yet with a renault engine in the bay?


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.


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 🙂


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


James – why edit out my post? Not offensive?


Didn’t like the tone of it


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.

Val from montreal

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 !



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!

Val from montreal

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 …


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 🙂


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.


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.


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.

Val from montreal

@ 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 …

Val from montreal

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 !


You really are a dingbat Val!


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..


“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.


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!


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.


“…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!


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.


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!


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.


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!

Adrian Newey Jnr


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.


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


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


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)


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 🙂


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.


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.


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?


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.


“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?


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 🙂


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.

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