22 Jan 2013
The Mercedes-Benz press release talks of Brawn, Wolff and Lauda all being part of the management team behind Mercedes Benz Formula One Racing team. All are shareholders in the team along with Nick Fry with both Fry and Brawn keeping shares from the sale of BrawnGP. The arrival of Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff has got the rumour mill running amok with suggestions that Ross Brawn will be asked to step aside as the team's principal. Toto has publicly backed Ross and I see no reason for him to step aside, especially as Lewis' arrival at the team was largely muted as a decision made based on the old Brawn/Schumacher alliance. I'd not completely rule it out though as the last time Lauda was involved in F1 at this level was at Jaguar Racing and was instrumental in the dismissal of Bobby Rahal.
I've talked about the problems at Mercedes in the past and the burden of the team phasing from the Honda times with massive financial support to the cut backs under privateer ownership (BrawnGP) and then the shift back to manufacturer support with Mercedes. Mercedes overcame one of their largest problems last season when they shifted their focus to 60% Wind Tunnel modelling. This was both an expensive and time consuming exercise requiring new tooling to build the models whilst time would have needed to be spent on the Tunnel itself. The whole process surmounted to a lack of updates throughout 2012 and can be seen as a contribution to the teams relatively poor performance and slow adoption of the 'Coanda' style exhaust. It was however a necessary evil with the team wanting to be successful with the rule changes commencing in 2014.
The other rumour currently circulating is that Paddy Lowe will leave his Technical Director role at McLaren and take up a senior position within the Mercedes F1 team. Most are assuming that someone must leave in order for this to take place which could be the case but based on their current arsenal of staff it may however be a little wide of the mark. Bob Bell is currently at the top of the tree as Technical Director but both Aldo Costa and Geoff Willis have previously held Technical Director roles at Ferrari and Honda respectively. Aldo now directs the Engineering department whilst Geoff takes care of the Technology department, I suspect that Mercedes are hoping that Paddy could fill a void in the hierarchy especially with resources being further stretched by the 2014 regulation changes.
The long and short of the Mercedes situation is a difficult one not only with personnel but infrastructure too. 2013 represents an important time for Mercedes GP but with the exception of a win or two through attrition I wouldn't expect much from them in the coming season. Their efforts instead will be focused on maximizing their 2014 challenger in a bid to leap frog the likes of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.