More Mercedes McLaren fallout?
Published rumor has the German racing company HWA entering Formula One in 2009, in collaboration with and backed by Mercedes-Benz. HWA has been the builder of Mercedes’ racing cars for the European DTM series since 2000. The head of HWA is a former chief executive officer of Daimler itself, Jurgen Hubbert. Moreover, HWA is the company selected by Mercedes to join with it in the production of the successor to the McLaren Mercedes SLR.
Presently, of course, Mercedes’ position in Formula One is through McLaren, in which the company is a 40% owner. Team “principal” Ron Dennis actually owns only about 10% of the company. Hence, the speculation has it that Daimler/Mercedes is looking for a mechanism to take control of their own Formula One destinly.
Whether, however, there are ulterior motives behind the link with HWA or whether this is merely a method for positioning Mercedes to take advantage of Formula One regulations designed to permit manufacturers to sell customer cars to outside entrants remains to be seen. Pro-Drive announced only last week that it was shelving plans to enter Formula One with a customer McLaren, after legal action was instituted by Williams.
Still, Daimler cannot be happy with the past season or the prospects of the McLaren-Mercedes team for the next season. The diversion of the Ferrari theft controversy not only damaged the team’s public image, but it also may have cost the team the Driver’s Championship, as well as the Manufacturer’s Championship. The effect of such outside influences on team organization is difficult to calculate. Moreover, the enhanced scrutiny of McLaren promised for the future suggests that this distraction will continue into the next season, at least.
The simple way around this, for Mercedes-Benz, is to ditch the McLaren name and, of course, Ron Dennis. Though the “concorde agreement” under which Formula One has operated has given the teams a value through limiting the ability of outsiders to enter Formula One, the rules changes that allow outsiders entrance with customer cars promise to reduce the significance of current participation in the series. With the control which Mercedes already exercises as 40% owner of McLaren, it should be easy for the team to gradually shift the operation and identity of that team elsewhere, thereby eliminating the disadvantages currently presented by the McLaren name.