Daimler set to pull the plug on Mercedes AMG F1 team: A plucky F1 engineer called Ross Brawn, took a chance and bought an F1 team from Honda – allegedly for £1.
In one season, Ross Brawn delivered Jenson Button a drivers’ F1 championship and humiliated a number of other established outfits such as Ferrari and McLaren.
Brawn had taken advantage of a significant FIA car design regulation change – just like we are seeing this season – won the titles – and then next year sold the ex-Honda works team to Daimler-Benz.
Ross Brawn was retained by Mercedes as team principal and he set about building a championship winning outfit. Then Wolff and Brawn bought into the company 10% each.
Yet the arrival of newbee Toto Wolff who bought 10% of the business in 2013 led Brawn to believe he couldn’t trust the Austrian, and so the Maestro of the Ferrari/Schumacher renaissance retired from active team management pronto and the Mercedes F1 brand was left to a relative nobody in the motor racing world.
The base R&D and spend had already been laid out for the 2014 V6 Turbo Hybrid era prior to Wolff’s accession to the Mercedes throne and Brawn had unsurprisingly delivered another title winning car.
Wolff and Lauda benefitted from the 3-4 years of Brawn’s work in the result that was the 2014 championship winning Mercedes.
Yet behind the scenes, the seeds of failure were being sown.
Lewis Hamilton was brought in as the driver to launch Mercedes F1 success. However, the team were not ready to cope with the emotional being that was Hamilton.
Further, over $1billion was spent by Daimler to produce the best new power unit for 2014 to ensure success and dominance for their F1 team for the best part of a decade.
The Mercedes AMG F1 road show could have gone off the rails at anytime, but the addition of Nikki Lauda as a 10% owner kept the likes of Lewis happy and the key design and engineering personnel committed to the cause.
The financial plan for Daimler was always to dominate the sports pages of the global press, and in effect replace their advertising spend for their road cars with F1 success stories around the globe.
But times change.
Daimler Benz has sold down their 70% stake in the F1 team, and is looking for a complete exit for their remaining 30% over the next two seasons.
Clearly a brand dominating a sport may improve your product awareness, but also it may upset a lot of hard core sports people who then refuse long term to buy the merchandise on principle.
Dominance in F1 is a poisoned chalice.
The budget cap and loss of interest by Daimler in the F1 project have left Toto and Lewis in a quandary. They can’t spend their way out of the catastrophic design errors they made on the W13 and the future looks bleak for at least 2 seasons.
Further, the brain drain from a waning outfit to the ‘new best thing’ is occurring. Ross Brawn at the inception of the 2009 Mercedes project sold a dream to the brightest and best in F1.
Now the elite are leaving Mercedes AMG F1 and joining Ferrari and Red Bull.
Daimler have achieved their F1 ambition which was to get more eyeballs on their product via the sports pages than they were paying for in advertisement print.
Stuttgart’s exit plan is secret, but those close to the company see them selling out this year or early next year.
This leaves Wolff and co. exposed .
The reality behind the Wolff tenure as an F1 boss, is that he benefitted from the Brawn legacy and the Daimler cash, But when push comes to shove, he has been little more than a people manager and his time is up – as also is Lewis Hamilton’s.