Mercedes to buy into Brawn team UPDATE #4 Amid all the furor over the Renault race fixing scandal, this week has seen another important development in shaping the next generation of F1.
I posted last week on the news that Mercedes was set to take a controlling interest in the Brawn team. It appears that the deal has been worked with the backing of the Abu Dhabi investment vehicle Aabar, which bought 9.1% of Mercedes’ parent company Daimler earlier this year. It is the company’s largest shareholder.
Aabar is an interesting company with a wide range of investments in many different sectors. They bought a 32% stake in Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s space project recently.
According to Auto Motor und Sport’s Michael Schmidt, who is usually pretty good on these matters, the Mercedes shareholding in the Brawn team will be held by Aabar until the end of 2011, at which point clauses in Mercedes’ contract with McLaren lapse and allow them to take equity in another team.
The suggestion is, however, that from next year onwards the Brawn car will carry more significant Mercedes branding, the three pointed star on the engine cover and so on. There is also a strong suggestion that Nico Rosberg will drive there. One would expect Jenson Button to partner him, but the championship leader is being squeezed in negotiations over a new deal at the moment. With a much bigger picture in play now at Brawn, he may opt to stay with what is clearly a team of the future and settle for what’s on the table.
Brawn is known to have signed a title sponsor and two secondary sponsors for next season. There are others negotiating the remaining positions on the car and Mercedes’ involvement will attract others.
The team are keeping the details close to their chests, but I have heard a suggestion that one of the secondary sponsors may be Orange, the mobile phone giant. It seems that another of the sponsors may be a Germany company and another from the Far East. It is known that LG is interested in sponsoring a team next season, in addition to its extensive spend with Bernie Ecclestone and FOM thus far, but I have not heard any direct connection with Brawn yet. James Allen on F109/08/09 (GMM) Norbert Haug on Tuesday remained tight-lipped about speculation regarding Mercedes-Benz's approach to formula one for the 2010 season.
It was expected that the German manufacturer would unveil its plans for next year at Monza this weekend, but competition director Haug in a teleconference said he was "not sure" that timetable could now be met.
The delay is surely due to reports that Mercedes is close to buying into the Brawn team, and how this might affect the engine deal that was expected to be reached with Red Bull Racing.
It seems Red Bull might now be keener to simply stay put with Renault power, leading to suggestions that Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head's visit at the Brands Hatch DTM race last weekend could be the prelude to a Williams-Mercedes deal.
Asked on Tuesday whether he had talks with the Williams team co-owners at Brands Hatch, Haug simply answered in the negative.
He also told reporters that, as well as being in talks with Nico Rosberg about a driving deal for 2010, the planned 2010 program announcement for Monza is likely to be delayed.09/07/09 (GMM) Mercedes-Benz on Monday did not deny reports it is set to buy into the formula one team Brawn GP.
The German marque already owns 40 per cent of McLaren and also supplies the Force India team.
A McLaren spokesman responded earlier on Monday that the Woking based team is supportive its partner's collaborations with other F1 competitors but expected its own Mercedes association to continue.
"Our cooperation with various formula one teams obviously gives rise to various rumors," a motor sport spokesman for Mercedes is quoted as saying by the news agency Reuters.
"Nevertheless, we would like to ask for your understanding that our company in principle is not in a position to comment on rumors.
"The facts are that we have long-term contracts with partner McLaren with whom we won the last F1 championship," he added.
A spokeswoman for Brackley based Brawn did not comment.
09/07/09 We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong' upon further information we received on this topic.
09/07/09 (GMM) A Mercedes spokesman has refused to confirm reports the German manufacturer is set to buy into the Brawn team.
Britain's Daily Telegraph said on Monday that Mercedes-Benz decided against pulling out of McLaren entirely but remains interested in becoming more involved with the former Honda squad.
"It's our policy not to comment on rumors and we want to point out that we have longstanding contracts with McLaren," said the spokesman.
Brawn chief executive Nick Fry last month played down the paddock rumors about the carmaker's switch from McLaren, owned 40 per cent by Mercedes, to the Brackley based team.
"We have not heard anything about Mercedes being unhappy where they are and we very much hope that they stay involved (with McLaren)," he said.
Fry however said subsequently that Brawn has secured its future for the next few years but is not ready to announce the deals.
"We've signed some nice contracts and those will come out into the open when we launch the car next year," he said.
The Daily Telegraph also said Mercedes may forgo receiving payment for its customer engines in exchange for putting its three-pointed star logo on the nose of the 2010 Red Bull car.
McLaren, Brawn and Force India will also be powered by Mercedes next year.