Mercedes to take 75% stake in Brawn – but what does that mean for McLaren?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The Brawn cars could carry Mercedes logos soon
The Brawn cars could carry Mercedes logos soon

Back in April, when Brawn were striding to victory wherever they showed up, I had a conversation with one of Mercedes’ product managers. Why, I asked, weren’t Mercedes rushing to get their logos on the BGP001s, as it looked like they were going to romp to the championship?

He explained that because Brawn only had a customer deal with Mercedes, the engine manufacturer didn’t get to put its name on the car. Mercedes’ exclusive deal with McLaren meant that only the silver cars bore the three-pointed star.

I later wrote a piece titled ‘Mercedes should put a sticker on this car‘ above a picture of a Brawn. And now that looks likely to happen as a report in the German press today claims Mercedes will take a 75% stake in Brawn by 2011. What does this mean for Brawn – and McLaren?

A boost for Brawn

The story in Auto Motor und Sport claims that because of Mercedes’ deal with McLaren its investment in Brawn will be held by Abu Dhabi state-linked company Aabar in the meantime.

Aabar bought a 9.1% stake in Mercedes owner Daimler in March, injecting ??1.95bn into the company. Aabar has previously invested $380m in Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company run by Brawn’s sponsor, but that is probably not related to the deal as Virgin is transferring its sponsorship to the new Manor Motorsport F1 team in 2010.

The development will be welcome news for Brawn, which has needed to secure long-term funding since becoming an independent outfit following Honda’s departure from F1. It gives the team security, allowing it to plan for the long-term and boost its attractiveness to potential sponsors.

Mercedes has not previously insisted on having a German driver at McLaren. But was this out of a lack of desire, or simply because they did not have a majority stake to demand it? If so, we could see one of Brawn’s drivers replaced with one of F1’s many German drivers next year.

A potential target could be Nico Rosberg, who has been tipped to leave Williams and who drove for the Mercedes-Benz/McLaren kart team in 2000 alongside Lewis Hamilton.

What about McLaren?

Mercedes’ stake in Brawn does not automatically mean it will have to surrender its 40% stake in McLaren – after all, Red Bull own two Formula 1 teams. However there has been a discernible loosening of the ties between Mercedes and McLaren in recent years.

Earlier today the new McLaren MP4-12C sports car was revealed and tomorrow Mercedes will publish official details of its rival sports car, the SLS – having taken care not to coincide its announcement with McLaren’s.

The two companies previously collaborated on the Mercedes SLR McLaren, the last examples of which were recently completed at the McLaren Technology Centre. McLaren has built its own V8 engine for the MP4-12C – does it plan to produce its own F1 engines in the future too?

Another change coming McLaren’s way in the near future is the widely-expected loss of major sponsor Santander. Ferrari is expected to announce a deal with the Spanish bank tomorrow, which may include confirmation that Fernando Alonso, who joined McLaren with Santander in 2007, will be a Ferrari driver in 2010. It remains to be seen who McLaren will replace them with.

Regardless, McLaren is forging ahead with its road car development programme which anticipates 1,000 sales by 2011 and the development of future models. In July Woking Borough Council approved its request to extend its production facilities.

Perhaps this is not just a case of Mercedes seeking an alternative to McLaren, but also McLaren forging an independent path for the future?

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79 comments on “Mercedes to take 75% stake in Brawn – but what does that mean for McLaren?”

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  1. I’ll admit that I saw McLaren’s independent road car development as a step away from Mercedes, but this news is quite unexpected.

    Indeed, it would not be a suprise if Brawn as we know it today is, slowly but surely, turned into a real-life works Mercedes-Benz F1 squad.

    Somehow, I think the chances of Rosberg in Brawn lime-green in 2010 just got a heck of alot more realistic.

  2. I think that McLaren, Brawn, Force India, and Red Bull (don’t forget about them), can all stay independent teams, but with engines and support from Mercedes. Maybe it will come at a price of having to use German drivers, but then Mercedes does support a lot of drivers too.
    As F1 generally is trying to cut costs, the teams will want a decent supply of engines, from whatever source, and this looks like an easy solution at a time when finding sponsorship and partners is getting harder and harder.
    Of course, it also allows Mercedes to continue with engine development, and it gets more advertising at ‘showtime’. Especially if all the teams are carrying the star on their noses.
    I don’t think Mercedes goal is to have a complete F1 team under their own name, especially after the mess that Honda, BMW, Renault and Toyota have made recently. Its much safer to let the teams keep independent, but have more input than just as an engine supplier. As I said before, why on earth haven’t the other manufacturers been able to realise this?
    Also, this isn’t the only example of Mercedes spreading itself amongst the teams, as from what I can tell, its how they work in the DTM series, but I may be wrong since they also supply complete cars too.
    As for McLaren making their own engines, I hope that one day they will appear in the F1 cars, and that a divergence from Mercedes, and even competing with them in the marketplace, is something that happens from time to time, after all AMG and Brabus both compete with Mercedes too.

    1. As I said before, why on earth haven’t the other manufacturers been able to realise this?

      I have no idea either. They seemed to manage it perfectly well in the 80’s and 90’s. They’ve all just become greedy recently, and look where that’s landed most of them.

      Let the teams build the cars, let the engine suppliers… build engines!

  3. How can someone even consider Rosberg to be a German. He’s a half-breed for gods sake!! Mercedes must seriously be considering Sutil or Glock.

  4. Perhaps this is not just a case of Mercedes seeking an alternative to McLaren, but also McLaren forging an independent path for the future?

    I agree with that comment, Keith. In fact I believe this could be exactly what McLaren are aiming for, they certainly have the wealth and popularity to move in that direction.

    Perhaps Merc will still remain part owner, but I suspect it could be less in by 2012.

    10th September 2009, 10:05

    This is payback for the disastrous mis-management of 2007 by Ron Dennis!!! Giving equal status to a double world champion and a rookie was not the only bone of contention between Mercedes and Dennis!! Mercedes were not happy losing Alonso at end of 07, but the Ferrari Intellectual Property was the nail in the coffin for McLaren! Mercedes will inherit all the facilities that was the Honda works team!!! Last year McLaren resisted attempts by Mercedes to increase their stake, and I saw that as conjfirmation Mercedes would either leave or re-invest elsewhere!…#:)

  6. I have been quite surprised since I first heard about these rumours about Mercedes buying into Brawn. Brawn recently announced they had long term sponsorship deals signed to secure the teams future for the next few seasons at least and they seemed happy enough with just a works engine deal from Mercedes. It has often been said that Mercedes wanted to buy a greater share of McLaren and I suppose this could be the motivation behind buying into Brawn.

    Unless something major has happened behind the scenes between McLaren and Mercedes I doubt much will change in their relationship for the next few years at least. The Mercedes engine is rated the best in F1 so I don’t see why McLaren would want to build their own anytime soon, also despite all the scandals McLaren are still the second biggest name in F1 with arguably the best resources so there is no reason for Mercedes to completely dump them either.

  7. If this is true, it would seem that, Mclaren in bending over backwards to ensure Honda/BrawnGP survives, have also been rewarded with treachery. Life goes on regardless.
    I am a bit surprised by individuals suggesting Mclaren go their own way in developing engines. As far as I know, building an engine is the almost easiest part of it, designing and developing it is where vast amounts of cash disappears into. A road going Supercar revving to only 9,000 or 10,000rpm is no mean feat, but try taking it to even 15,000rpm, and be amazed at friction losses and piston ring leaks.

    They must have a very steady means of income from their road car division before they can contemplate such an adventure.

  8. There’s a particular comment here that in my opinion has a distinct air of racism about it (no names mentioned of course), which if it is the case is disappointing an unnecessary. I hope I’m wrong and if so may I apologise in advance…

    1. You mean Satanic Lair? Yep not in the best taste!

  9. Paige Michael-Shetley
    11th September 2009, 5:51

    I think all the signals, like Keith said, are pointing to McLaren becoming totally independent as a road car manufacturer, meaning they would be building their own F1 engines.

    Remember that Ferrari began as a manufacturer of cars for auto racing. It was only after success in auto racing that they began producing the iconic road sports cars. Perhaps McLaren has the same agenda? It certainly would suit the ambitious personality of Ron Dennis, who now leads McLaren Automotive.

    So, McLaren becomes the new Ferrari and builds their own F1 engines. It’s certainly plausible. They have the resources as is to build their own F1 engines, and they presumably should be pretty successful in their road car business with all the bright minds they have building them. They should get plenty of millionaires nipping at their heels to own one, especially the pretentious ones once they realize their green sports car.

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