As Formula One geared up for the 2013 season, Mercedes were hiring key people for key positions. They had already secured Niki Lauda, Ross Brawn, Geoff Willis, Bob Bell, Aldo Costa and Ross Brawn but they needed more. After setting motor sport boss Norbert Haug out to pasture, they quickly replaced him with Williams F1 investor Toto Wolff but that wasn’t all they would do in the team personnel category.
The team had already found an open window at McLaren’s Woking-based head quarters and they poached driver Lewis Hamilton and then set about luring technical boss Paddy Lowe out that same window. Losing your top driver and top mind is not an easy thing to swallow so McLaren placed Lowe in the damaged goods aisle in Woking and were prepared to sit on him until his contract came up at the end of the 2013 season. The Brits call it “Gardening leave” and for good reason.
Several weeks have passed since the revelation in March and now it seems that Mercedes may have flashed a few quid around Woking to get their new employee released from his contract earlier than expected. Lowe was wasting oxygen in Woking and if I were a member of the McLaren board, I believe I would have made a deal with Mercedes that would release Lowe six months early in exchange for a free engine supply deal for 2014. This would have taken McLaren from here to their new partnership with Honda in 2015 without an expense for engines but that’s just me talking. What we really want to know is what Paddy Lowe says:
“I am excited to become part of a highly talented and capable technical organisation.
“The team has already produced probably the fastest car of the 2013 season while the technical challenges of the new regulations for 2014 will give us the opportunity to maximise the synergies available to a works manufacturer.
“That is a challenge I am relishing. I have worked closely with Mercedes-Benz for almost 20 years and deeply admire the company’s phenomenal commitment to Formula 1. I look forward to much success together in the years ahead.”
Lowe is the fifth technical director to join Mercedes and the brain trust is massive but as their performance shows, they need the talent apparently. Lowe is tipped to replace Ross Brawn (59) but it is unclear as to if and when Brawn will retire. For now, he says he’s happy Paddy is coming over telling the BBC’s Andrew Benson:
“He has an excellent record of success in the sport and would be an asset to any of our rivals in the pit lane,” he said.
“It is no secret that every team is facing a significant balancing act between this year and next.
“But it is perhaps less obvious that we will also see major changes for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, as development progresses with the new generation of car design and power unit.
“To deliver in these circumstances, a successful team needs strength in depth. Paddy’s arrival will further strengthen our organisation and puts us in a strong position for the future.”
One can argue that Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 is doing what any sport team would do… build a foundation in which to grow on. From American football to European soccer, each team has had that dreaded era when they are re-building for a better future. If there is comfort to take from Mercedes and their penchant for buying all the top brass in F1, it is that the team seems to be investing in the long term.
One could argue that they are trying to buy the world championship through all of these efforts and attempting to shorten their path to glory by replacing adequate resources with extraordinary resources. The path has been well trodden before with teams such as the New York Yankees and Detroit Red Wings who spent a fortune for top talent to claim the big prize. If you have the money, then buying the best money can buy seems logically and Mercedes have no reservations about spending a few farthing to get what they want.
Perhaps Lowe’s first assignment should be centered on how to actually deliver something more than just qualifying pace on a race weekend but will the team adopt the pull-rod suspension that he left McLaren with in 2013?