What the Papers are saying on the 'power struggle' at Mercedes ahead of new season
Daily Mail claims Paddy Lowe is yet to decide if he will leave McLaren
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 23/01/13 10:29am
Winter testing doesn't begin for another two weeks, but F1 has already made its first appearance of 2013 on the backpages following claims that McLaren Technical Director Paddy Lowe could be on the verge of leaving the team to replace Ross Brawn at Mercedes.
While it may not be a surprise to find The Sun starkly describe Mercedes as being 'plunged into turmoil' by the prospect of Brawn being ousted in a potential power struggle, both broadsheet and tabloid are united in depicting the situation as potentially ruinous for Lewis Hamilton's hopes of success with his new employers.
'The wisdom of Hamilton's switch from McLaren to Mercedes was coming under renewed scrutiny on Tuesday night with Brawn's future as team principal plunged into doubt as confusion swirled around the new management set-up at Brackley,' summarises The Daily Telegraph's Tom Cary.
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Inevitably, the saga is invariably depicted from Hamilton's perspective, with accounts of the ongoing upheaval typically depicting Mercedes' new recruit as signing up for one management set-up, only to discover that an entirely new structure is in the process of being constructed just as he prepares to make his first public appearance for his new team.
'Hamilton will embark on a round of publicity meetings tomorrow wondering just who is in charge after leaving McLaren believing that he would be reporting to Brawn, the man who mentored Michael Schumacher to seven World Championships,' writes Kevin Eason in The Times.
'The easy way to draw a red line through the speculation would be to issue flat denials, but it seems McLaren's silence means that Lowe has either decided to go or they are trying desperately to persuade him to stay just two weeks before the 2013 McLaren takes to the track for the first time.'
And, that according to The Daily Mail, is precisely what McLaren are doing as they seek to keep Lowe out of Mercedes' clutches.
'Not only is their pint-sized boffin respected for his work, but he is now the pawn in a Formula One power struggle: McLaren v Mercedes,' writes Jonathan McEvoy. 'So much so that the McLaren chairman, Ron Dennis, has opened up the famous company cheque book - the one that kept his then brilliant designer Adrian Newey out of Lauda's, and Jaguar's, clutches 12 years ago.
'Dennis has offered Lowe a rise but not so much that it gravely distorts the company's pay structure. The argument was put to him that he might prefer to stick to purely engineering matters rather than involve himself in a wider role of hiring and firing and balancing budgets.
'Lowe had not made his mind up as of last night.'
Lowe's reputed indecision will only add another layer of doubt and confusion to a saga which already poses any number of unanswered questions.
'What is unclear is Mercedes' strategy, the chain of command with so many chiefs - and what Hamilton makes of it all', questions Cary. 'Was Hamilton aware that Mercedes intended to shake things up to this degree? After all, when he signed Hamilton made a point of saying how much he was looking forward to working with Brawn.
'Or perhaps Hamilton was aware all along? There have been rumours circulating for some time that Brawn was on thin ice. Niki Lauda's arrival as non-executive chairman appeared to be a sign that Stuttgart intended to wrestle back control of the team and Lauda was reportedly instrumental in the negotiations with Hamilton.'
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In his analysis of the ongoing commotion at Mercedes for this website, Sky Sports F1 pundit Ted Kravitz confirmed as much, revealing 'it was Lauda who made all the moves in convincing Lewis to join Mercedes in the first place [and] the rumour is that Niki sealed the deal with Hamilton by text over the Singapore GP weekend.'
All of which begs a beguiling question: did the vision of Mercedes sold to Hamilton by Lauda exclude Brawn?
'It seems unlikely,' concludes Cary. 'But with Wolff's sudden arrival on the scene, and with Lowe reportedly waiting in the wings, it is not beyond the realms of possibility.'
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