With rumours that Ross Brawn could soon be usurped within the Mercedes encampment rife, it seems the unbridled success he has enjoyed over the last two decades has slipped the mind of some within the Formula One community. You don’t really need reminding how great this man is to know his departure would leave a very big hole in the Mercedes team fabric.
The Brackley-based outfit seems in disarray at the present time, Schumacher out, Hamilton in, Wolff in, Brawn and Haug out…it wouldn’t be surprising if the team that turns up in Melbourne is decidedly unready for the season ahead. To muddy the waters even further, it seems Paddy Lowe may be ready to jump ship from Mclaren to replace Brawn after a six-month ‘gardening-leave’ period.
Toto Wolff, only recently engaged as Mercedes ‘overseer’ is the man behind the unfathomable decision to replace Brawn as Team Principal, claiming he “[wished] Ross was going to stay” and that he “admire[d] what Ross has done but I need to understand the structure and what Ross has done.”
“At this stage it would be foolish to come in and speak about replacing anybody.”
Trying to solve the riddle continuously unfolding in the press is a challenge that would make anyone shrink from the task. What it boils down to is this; should Wolff have his way, Paddy Lowe will move over from Mclaren and become Mercedes Team Principal. Ross Brawn could be pushed into accepting the role currently occupied by ex-BAR, Honda and Brawn GP man Nick Fry, that of Mercedes CEO, or he may be asked to leave altogether.
Between them, the two men masterminded the salvation of the stricken Honda team over the winter of 2008/2009 and the metamorphosis into Brawn GP that brought them a World Champion in the shape of Jenson Button and the Constructors World Championship thanks to the efforts of 3rd placed Rubens Barrichello. Since then, pickings have been lean with just the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix victory as consolation. This lack of success was what prompted Norbert Haug to leave the marque earlier this year, and is also understood to be the motivation behind the changes proposed by Wolff.
Paddy Lowe was instrumental in designing the 2012 Mclaren MP4-27, a car that was often the fastest (but regrettably unreliable) car in the field. While Mclaren themselves have fallen consistently short of their targets in recent years, they have a much better record than Mercedes have managed in the same time period. Should Ross Brawn refuse the offer of demotion being dished out by Toto Wolff, will he remain in Formula One? Could he bring himself to go through the Honda/Brawn/Mercedes saga all over again? Once upon a time it seemed impossible to visualise him working with anyone but Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, yet his sweetest hour surely was the moment the team bearing his name triumphed against all odds. That proved it was Brawn who was instrumental in Ferrari’s 2000-2004 run of success rather than the team he assembled around him.
The potential move should Brawn wish to remain within the sport could be a direct swap with Mclaren; Mercedes of course would hope that if Brawn does go no other team will benefit. If Brawn chooses to join the team that harboured his arch-nemesis in the shapes of Mika Hakkinen and Adrian Newey, he will rekindle the relationship with Jenson Button that proved so fruitful in 2009. Of course, this all depends on Mclaren’s willingness to bid for Brawn’s services should he become available.
One man who will be watching all this with, one would imagine, more than a slight degree of alarm is Lewis Hamilton. Only hours after making his debut in Mercedes colours the man he thought was going to be his boss this year is seemingly on the way out. Part of the deal that lured Hamilton to Mercedes was the prospect of working with such a leading light as Ross Brawn, and although the 2008 World Champion has been careful to temper expectations that are too heady for the 2013 season 2014 is now looking like it too could be a difficult year should significant changes still need time to settle.