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TJ13 reported last winter the fact that Marussia and Caterham had engaged in merger talks and it became apparent that come the start of the season that this indeed was the case and it was Marussia who had finally withdrawn from the discussions.
We reported this week that whispers had emerged over the Brazilian GP weekend of another Marussia potential merger and the justification for TJ13’s article is now evident as tonight AMuS are reporting similar news.
The Russian sports car manufacturer has thus far spent a fairly modest 40m euro’s on their Formula One project, and in Max Chilton they have a driver who brings around 12m euro’s to their annual budget. For 2014 the team is believed to have spending power in the region of 75m euros and unlike others, Marussia is debt free – except for the investment made by the team’s owner.
AMuS makes a rather strange claim that Andrei Cheglakov has set his sights on bigger things beyond the fight for last/second last and to this end sought to buy Toto Wolff’s 15% share in Williams. Apparently, Claire Williams blocked this acquisition.
In light of this, the obvious question which has to be asked is – how being a 15% shareholder in Williams F1 moves Cheglakov forward, and the answer is not particularly obvious.
There is another option for Marussia – to do a deal with Sauber. These two may seem a strange set of bedfellows, yet since TJ13 has been singularly reporting in the English speaking media that the Russian deal with Sergey Sirtokin’s backers and Sauber has gone west – maybe its not so strange at all.
However, the logistics of such a merger seem fraught and difficult to envisage due to the locations of both teams’ factories. Other than a capital transfer from Marussia to Sauber and in effect the closure of the current Marussia base – the synergies are not clear.
Yes – Sauber like Lotus are in big financial trouble, but the proceeds from this years campaign plus sponsorship and the funds from one pay to drive pilot should be sufficient for the team to go racing in 2014 – all be it with more limited ambitions.
Of all the stories we’ll hear this winter, a Sauber/Marussia merger is one I’d expect to have the least legs.
Meanwhile, RTL in the Netherlands has reported that Dutch billionaire and father in law of Giedo van der Gardew is in discussions to buy into Force India.
Brawn leaves Mercedes
Its official. The most inevitable news of the week. Ross Brawn will leave Mercedes. Following a short sabbatical after leaving Ferrari, Brawn has been working in Brackley since 2008 when he arrived as Honda team principal.
Following the withdrawal of Honda, the team became Brawn GP and won both F1 titles in 2009. It was then bought by Daimler Benz who retained Brawn as the team principal. Earlier this year, Lauda and Stuttgart decided to parachute in Toto Wolff and at the same time he became a 30% shareholder.
The handling of this and the recruitment of Paddy Lowe was shambolic from a PR perspective, and Brawn in his usual dignified manner calmed troubled waters – though the issue of Brawn’s ongoing role was never properly resolved.
Brawn indicated publically that he alone wished to be the team principal and be the voice of the team in the media – “a single point of reference”. Lauda and Wolff in particular have been unable to offer this, so Brawn has decided enough is enough.
“The most important consideration in my decision to step down from the role as Team Principal was to ensure that the timing was right for the team in order to ensure its future success.
The succession planning process that we have implemented during this year means we are now ready to conduct the transition from my current responsibilities to a new leadership team composed of Toto and Paddy”.
Brawn identifies the building process that has taken place within the team over the past few seasons, and makes reference to the fact that the dots have been joined up between Brackley and Brixworth where the Mercedes F1 engines are made.
“Mercedes-Benz has invested significantly in both the personnel and infrastructure at Brackley and Brixworth. Thanks to the one-team approach we have implemented between the two facilities, the team is uniquely positioned to succeed in 2014 and I am proud to have helped lay the foundations for that success”.
Lauda has been clear that he wanted Brawn to stay. “We have had long discussions with Ross about how he could continue with the team but it is a basic fact that you cannot hold somebody back when they have chosen to move on. Ross has decided that this is the right time to hand over the reins to Toto and Paddy and we respect his decision. Toto and Paddy are the right people to lead our team in 2014 and beyond.”
Brawn embraces Rosberg after his maiden win
Lewis has been recruited as the Mercedes voice to the homies and has tweeted, “Massive thanks to Ross Brawn. He’s been a great leader and teacher for me. Ross has built the foundations for us to succeed in 2014! Toto and Paddy are fantastic guys and strong leaders for the team. I’ve started my training already and can’t wait for 2014!”
However this is pitched, the owners of the Mercedes team subverted Brawn’s authority and without notice brought in Lowe who was clearly intended to be Brawn’s replacement. Whether this was a mistake, only time will tell.
Both Lauda and Dieter Zetsche offer profuse and extensive thanks to Brawn for all his efforts, though unlike each weekend when the team goes racing – we have nothing from Toto Wolff.
More legal challenges for Ecclestone
Mr. E has been known to make a fast buck or two over the years, but at present the lawsuits appear to be coming in his direction even faster.
Bernie is currently being sued for $140m by a former owner of the commercial rights to F1. He has a further similar case listed in New York to answer and the Swiss authorities recently announced they are investigating transactions related to the Ecclestone’s family trust – known as the Bambino Trust.
Criminal proceedings are under way in Munich related to the bribery of an official of the German bank BayernLB and that official Gerhard Gribkowsky is currently serving a 7 year sentence for his part in the affair.
All these cases are interlinked, and the disclosure required in one case is helpful to the other litigents in their proceedings. The German bank BayernLB yesterday applied for access to documentary evidence used in the ongoing High Court civil lawsuit against the F1 supremo.
Following Gribkowsky’s conviction, BayernLB wrote to Ecclestone demanding $400m in damages. Speaking from the paddock at the Indian GP in 2012 Ecclestone was dismissive of the claim, “I didn’t respond. There’s no point is there? They will sue. If they win, they get paid. If they lose, it will cost them.
A massive per cent of these actions that take place, people settle. They don’t want the trouble. The very reason I gave Gribkowsky money was to stop the problem and aggravation which would have gone on for years.”
Ecclestone has attempted to settle some of these claims including the one in Munich. To date his prediction that “They don’t want the trouble” appears to be misguided. Further, it is probable that the litigants in the civil cases are working together from a perspective of mutual interest.
Sauber lose head of track engineering
Sauber’s head of track engineering Tom McCullough is to leave the team and join a UK basedF1 team at the end of this season.
Tom joined Williams in 2002 as their data engineer. He progressed through a number of roles and became the chief engineer on the F2 project. As test engineer he was also in charge of driver development, working with the likes of Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Hulkenberg when they were third drivers.
As race engineer he worked with Nico Hulkenberg, Rubens Barrichello, Bruno Senna and third driver Valtteri Bottas in 2012.
He joined Sauber as head of track engineering at the end of last year.