Lauda: Ross Brawn’s new boss

In the last thejudge13 article, ‘Schauber or Ferrari’ we looked at how successful Michael has actually been this year, and why it would be very strange for him to quit driving now. It was this that puzzled me most during the breaking story from Eddie Jordan about Hamilton moving to Mercedes.

Surely after coming out of retirement and investing his wealth of experience to the development of the fledging Mercedes works team, why would he step aside for Hamilton, and surely after all the years together, Ross Brawn wouldn’t push him out. It was also reported the consolation for Michael was that he was to be offered a job in the senior management of the team.

But why has Schumacher been left out in the cold? James Allen has written an excellent piece today, which in brief suggests Schumacher just missed the boat. (link) James argues that Michael Schumacher felt his position was secure enough to delay decisions until October before making a commitment, and the Hamilton events simply overtook Schumacher’s timetable.

I seem to remember there being some talk in the summer of Michael being offered a 1 year contract by Mercedes taking them up to the new engine launch in 2014. Allegedly, Schumacher wanted 2 years to reap any benefits many expect the team to have from the new technology. Maybe it was this negotiation point that cost Schumacher his seat.

We then heard over the weekend that Niki Lauda has been given an ambassadorial role with Mercedes AMG F1. No mention again of Schumacher which appeared a little strange.

Tomorrow morning, Bild (A German newspaper) is running an article entitled, “Off with Schumacher, on with the Lauda cap”. I guess the headline looses a little in translation, but to many of us the rapid escalation of Niki Lauda’s profile during the last week has come somewhat from ‘left field’ – a sporting Americanism that means ‘has come from nowhere’. Enough of the translations and onwards and upwards.

From my recollection, Lauda has one previous excursion into F1 management with Jaguar racing, a team backed by US car giant Ford. This ended with him being sacked after just 15 months in charge.

Richard Parry Jones, head of Ford’s F1 programme at the time said, “the most important thing [in Formula One] is technical depth and Niki Lauda, for whom I have enormous respect, does not have it.” One might consider this a fairly to the point assessment of Lauda’s weakness.

Lauda made some strange comments on Austrian radio at the time of his dismissal saying, “What you’ve got to know is that in England things work differently. Britons do have their unique way of solving problems.

“They saw away at the legs of a chair – nobody talks about anything because they of course all stick together – until they get what they want. (link)

This is typical Lauda brutal honesty, and this man management style may resonate well with Lewis Hamilton after what many have described as the stifling corporate culture of McLaren.

So despite the troubled waters between the Daimler Benz board and Bernie Ecclestone (link), in a flash Mercedes have now signed Concorde almost simultaneously with the signing of Lewis hamilton, and Lauda is being credited in the German press with pulling off both these feats. “Lauda cap wears 2 badges”.

Lauda tells Bild, “About ten days ago I was [asked by] Mr. Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler [to become Chairman of Mercedes AMG F1], asked if I would do that. I said yes”

Wow. Lauda is to become Norman Haug and Ross Brawn’s new boss.

Calm down, I hear you say. ‘Chairman’ – it’s just an honorary title, kind of like ’Ambassador’. My thoughts at first too. Then I read on.

Bild continues, “Haug and Brawn must now comply”. Lauda explains, “I have to make sure that we spend a lot less money without losing competativeness. I was in the factory in Brackley over the few last days and have already seen things that we need to change. ” Correct me if I’m wroing but Mercedes have not been that competative before Lauda weilds the knife and enforces cuts.

The reporter then summarises, “As a tough businessman Lauda is looking at the balance sheets and needs to eliminate the often costly needs of Ross Brawn, Motorsport Director Norbert Haug and F1 CEO Nick Frey.” I wonder if Lewis knew all this before he signed?

It’s now obvious why there has been little in the press on Schumacher’s future. Brawn’s hands were tied.

I have to say I felt breathless when I read the Bild online article tonight.

(New Info Since writing) Auto Motor und Sport says today, “Heads will roll at Brackley by the end of next year of Lewis Hamilton is not competative.” They suggest Lauda has been appointed to “motivate the whole team”  and Lauda says it is now down to him and Ross Brawn together work out how they get to winning ways regularly.

So Mercedes Benz have appointed Niki Lauda – the man who was sacked by another global giant car manufacturer Ford for being lacking in F1 technical knowledge – to oversee Ross Brawn and Norbert Haug.

I feel I need to re-iterate. Niki Lauda will supervise Norbert Haug who has delivered more F1 Championship winning engines than anyone else in F1 history and also Ross Brawn who has mentored the F1 World Driver’s Champion no less than 8 times.

Niki may feel secure with his new German bosses at Daimler because unlike Jaguar, they are German run. His failed experience in management with Jaguar was apparently down to the British who ganged up on him to get their own way and had ‘sawn the legs off his chair”.

Place your bets please ladies and gentlemen. First to leave Brackley? Ross Brawn: the master of guile, sophistication and intrigue – or Niki Lauda: what you see is what you get – and at the moment what we’ve got is an infamous cap with 2 badges on it.

Unglaublich!!! (Incredible).

(Click here for Part 2: How Lauda got the top job in Mercedes F1)


Please follow me on twitter (box to click in right hand column) if you are part of the twittersphere and retweet our tweets that show a new article has been written – if you are not twittered up you can click on the button at the top right of the page to receive an email when (and only when) a new article hits the net.

7 responses to “Lauda: Ross Brawn’s new boss

  1. I would imagine Nick Fry is looking over his shoulder nervously too.

    Great article and, yes, I am also stunned at the perceived strength of Lauda’s hand here, although he was always partial to a bit of self-aggrandisement.

    • Agreed re: self importnace. But even if Lauda’s level of power is only perceived by him and not real – he will act in a way that will hack everyone off and it will all end in tears. Can’t see this lasting the 15 months he managed at Jaguar

      • It may just be big words feathering his nest, but I personally cannot see Haug and Brawn buying it. He says he’s there to ensure best value for mercedes, which is why I suggested Fry may be looking over his shoulder, surely his remit in the team. But I genuinely can’t see them allowing Lauda in to the power position he’s effectively stated.

        Interesting times ahead.

        Did you note Haug saying he’s, effectively, been paying for Hamilton since 2000? Even this season, they are paying some of Hamiltons retainer. I should have known that, but didn’t. It’s even cheaper for Merc then really? Maybe this leads into Mercedes not paying any of Hamiltons retainer next year, which led to the initial offer of less than he was already on. Makes me slightly nervous about Mclarens future….

  2. Apart from anything else he is going to do, I see Lauda becoming a kind of (Red Bull) Marko type figure, during race weekends. I doubt Brawn will appreciate Lauda sticking his nose in at GP’s, which I think is what will happen. If decent results occur fairly quickly, then it MAY all gel ok, but if things persist along the lines they have, over the last few seasons, then in line with this article, I also think it may end up in Brawn walking or being given the boot. An unbelievable total success, or a complete mess, with the brown stuff hitting the fan frequently. I don’t see anything in between.

    • Could well be. He has said he wants to continue his media work and this may give the garage some space. But as you say if things don’t change…

  3. When I seen Merc made Schumacher effectively their scapegoat for their lack of results I wanted them to fail in the coming years. So I was happy to see Lauda being put in the team to help screw everything up. It’s like the big shot comes in a thinks he knows better than people with experience and pedigree in running a winning race team like Brawn and Haug.

    Like F1-Ray says if they have a good car next year and it goes good then there is no problem. It’s what happens if things go wrong, we have Lauda changing things and making matters worse and upsetting the unity in the team and we will have Hamilton loosing his recent everything is in harmony state. Hopefully happens because will be a lot of fun to watch.

  4. “Lauda” will come to be understood to mean “toxic” or “corrosive” in less than 12mos time.

    On merit, the idea of emplacing Lauda b/w Merc corporate and Brawn/Haug in the F1 entity is retarded at best, suicidal/self-destructive at worst. Oh to be a fly on the wall when Lauda tries to justify claimed cost-cutting w/o having any practical, working expertise in technical matters. It’s not like “technical experience” is something one simply gathers up by osmosis in old age, w/o working directly in an engineering capacity (or, for the truly exceptional non-technician, managing engineers from a business perspective).

    What’s been Hamilton’s comment on all this? Has he confirmed Lauda’s self-aggrandizing narrative (of having been instrumental in getting LH’s signature on a contract)?

    The reference to Lauda assuming a role like Marko, while perhaps true, instantly turns me rabidly against Lauda and Merc. Marko is what’s known here in America as either a “[mod] joke,” a “douchebag” or a “[mod] d!ck” – not someone you’d want to emulate.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.