February 13th, 2013 (F1plus / Ernie Black).- Have you every head the expression, 'The whole is not always equal to the sum of it parts'? Though there are many versions of these phrases, the ideas are all similar in intent.
The recent shuffling at Mercedes leaves many a bit confused. The Mercedes AMG F1 team seems to resemble an inverted pyramid, with the top heavy management structure.
Let's take a step back for a moment and try to understand a few things. The Brakley based Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team was born in November of 2009 as Mercedes GP. Mercedes (Daimler AG) and partner investors (Aabar Investments) together acquired 75.1% of Brawn GP. Brawn GP was born when Ross Brawn, former Ferrari Technical Director and mastermind strategist allegedly purchased the Honda F1 team, for a little less than a bag of peanuts, upon their exit.
Ross Brawn and Nick Fry sold their remaining shares to the team in 2011 but retained their posts as Team Principle and CEO. Bob Bell holds the position of Technical Director which he was given in 2011. Bell has worn many hats over the years and has worked for McLaren, Benetton, Renault and Jordan in different capacities. In 2012, Mercedes decided to appoint outspoken former three time F1 champion Niki Lauda to the role of non-executive chairman. I'm still uncertain what that means or what that role encompasses. This may have come about after it was evident that Michael Schumacher would not be interested in a similar role.
This is where I get lost in the upper management fog. Presumably, Wolff did not sell off his 16% equity in the Williams F1 team, however he did leave his position on the board of directors. It was announced last month that he joined Mercedes as an executive director. It is also rumoured that he also acquired a minority interest in the team.
Recently, there have been stories swirling about whether Ross Brawn would be leaving Mercedes on his own accord or eventually shown the door. Brawn is adamant that he is staying on as principle, with the latest endorsements from Wolff confirming that Brawn will still call the shots from the pit wall. It was added however, that Niki Lauda would take a back seat to Brawn. Is this Lauda in training to take over? Is this just a hand-off in disguise? Are plans already in place for the transition? Time will tell.
Mercedes AMG F1 seems to be playing an interesting game of chess. Strategically setting itself up to deliver the ultimate "Check Mate" to its F1 rivals. They have secured former F1 champion Lewis Hamilton to partner race winner Nico Rosberg in 2013. Mercedes is said to be leading the race in development for 2014 engines which will be a huge advantage given the regulation changes.
These are interesting times at Mercedes, however, I can't imaging the current top heavy management structure remaining for too long. There are too many strong personalities with differing opinions and styles which may cause political mayhem. All of the above mentioned are great individually in their own right, however, when added together, will the sum yield Mercedes the results they desire?