Mercedes has reaffirmed its partnership with McLaren F1 for 2010 but is looking ever closer to a deal to take a majority stake in Brawn F1
As the F1 season drew to a close at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi yesterday, the whole of the top end of Mercedes Benz management was on hand. They had expected to see Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes McLaren waltz to a win, but had to settle for simply powering the world champion – Jenson Button – to victory this year and claiming third and fourth place at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Many had expected Mercedes to pull out of their long-term deal with McLaren, but the Guardian reported Mercedes competition director Norbert Haug as saying “The only decision that is taken is that we are firm, here, partners and are connected for a long period of time”. Which is probably not all that unexpected, There is no love lost between McLaren and Mercedes, but business is business. McLaren is 40% owned by Mercedes and McLaren seem set to be at the top of the heap in the 2010 F1 season if their form in the latter part of this season is anything to go by. Mercedes and McLaren are locked in to a contract until 2011, so why spend time, money and effort to undo something that is still working?
But it does seem likely that the ties between world champions Brawn and the Stuttgart engine suppliers (although, strictly speaking, the Mercedes F1 engines are built in the UK) will get closer. Brawn’s success this year has been in no small part thanks to the huge investment made by Honda before they left Ross Brawn to pick up the benefits of the expenditure. F1 is an expensive business and even the prize money coming Brawn’s way won’t be enough to help them compete as independents in the coming season. They need a fairy Godmother – or at least a deep-pocketed manufacturer who is willing to pay for the privilege of being a big part of the team.
It is looking extremely likely that Mercedes will take a big stake in Brawn in the coming months; perhaps as much as 75%. That would make Brawn a Mercedes manufacturer team in all but name, but would allow Ross Brawn to spend the money needed to give Brawn GP the chance to emulate in 2010 what they achieved on 2009.
2010 could be an even bigger year for Mercedes in F1 than 2009 was.