Brawn ‘lost trust in Wolff and Lauda’ at Mercedes

2016 F1 season

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Ross Brawn says he left the Mercedes F1 team because of a breakdown in trust between him and fellow team bosses Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda.

“I couldn’t trust this people, so I saw no future unless I was willing to go to war and remove them,” explained Brawn in a forthcoming book he has written with ex-Williams CEO Adam Parr. “I saw no future with people that I didn’t feel I could trust.”

Mercedes took over Brawn GP at the end of 2009 but Brawn remained at the team until the 2013 season. Following his departure Mercdees went on to win three consecutive constructors’ championships and dominate the drivers’ championship battle too.

“Niki would tell me one thing, then I would hear he was saying something else,” Brawn explained in the book.

The arrival of Paddy Lowe from McLaren drove another wedge into the relationship between Brawn and the Mercedes top brass.

“In early 2013, I discovered Paddy Lowe had been contracted to join the team and it had been signed off in Stuttgart. When I challenged Toto and Niki, they blamed each other. I met them to have it out with them. And they both pointed to each other.”

“Clearly the trust had broken down,” he added.

Parr and Brawn’s book “Total Competition” will be published by Simon and Schuster on November 3rd.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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78 comments on “Brawn ‘lost trust in Wolff and Lauda’ at Mercedes”

  1. Since you brought in Lewis “Call of Duty” Hamilton… He will soon join you the sideline

    1. Not once was LH mentioned in the article but you some how found a way to include him.

      1. Indeed, Hamilton is bigger than F1 at the moment, whether people like it or not. If Ham left F1 the viewing numbers would take a major hit.

        1. “If Ham left F1 the viewing numbers would take a major hit.”

          Is this a fact?

          Do you have a source?

          Or was this a message wrote on the back of your shirtless hamilton poster?

        2. A lot would depend on how Hamilton left, if he was forced out for some trumped up reason, then yes, I can see that might be the case, but otherwise no, I don’t see lots of people refusing to watch F1 races simply because Hamilton isn’t there to be seen.

        3. You do realize that F1’s viewing figures were at their peak circa 2003, before Hamilton was even in F1, right? Simply because right now Sky has became the Lewis Hamilton show does not mean that Hamilton is as big as F1. Formula 1 was here long before Hamilton and will continue to exist long after he retires.

        4. Attentional bias at its peak.
          Are you kidding?

          Of course, attentional bias affects a lot more people other than Traverse :P

    2. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      20th October 2016, 10:31

      How does this article have anything to do with Lewis Hamilton, smh.

  2. I always thought something shady was going on inside the Mercedes team. That’s not a fitting way to treat a man like Ross Brawn.

    1. There was never anything shady going on at Ferrari when Brawn was there. No, nothing!

      1. Management wise Ferrari seemed better organized then than Mercedes now IMHO.

        Mercedes current domination is in great part due to decisions Brawn took prior to the 2014 season. I don’t think Mercedes will continue to dominate next year, with Lauda and Wolff (who was with Williams during their worst years) leading the team.

        1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
          20th October 2016, 10:33

          @paeschli are you joking? Mercedes may not be the happy family that they like to try and convince the world they are but it’s head and shoulders above the axe wielding hierarchy and fear culture from which even their 4 time world champion is not safe at Ferrari, you seem to have pulled that comment out of the wind mate.

          1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
            20th October 2016, 10:34

            Not to mention the resources available to both teams are roughly the same and Ferrari havent managed to win 1 race all season. Results speak for themselves, as does the team principle’s sulky face at almost every race.

    2. They seem to be doing alright without brawn at mercedes…

      1. Mainly because Brawn did the groundwork. Success is never instant. Brawn’s championship winning car was the work of Honda.

        1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
          20th October 2016, 10:36

          Groundwork done in 2013 does not guarantee double world championships 3 years later. Yes business decisions do but also small factors like championship winning prize money and technical expertise just maybe?

  3. Next year is going to be the acid test for if pushing Brawn out was the right thing to do. He deserves credit for shaping the team to be the current dominating force it is, but credit to Toto, Niki and Paddy that they’ve maintained momentum for 3 years. But it’s hard to gauge if they’ve made a mistake losing Brawn or not.

    If next year they still come flying out of the gate then is would show their management model works.

    1. I don’t think Brawn had any involvement in HPP, though. Which is arguably the biggest factor in their recent success.

      1. It certainly is arguable, since after 3 years of hybrid-turbo we are yet to see another Mercedes powered car win a race.

    2. By winning the title three years in a row there is no doubt that while Brawn had an initial effect on that, the team has continued to be dominant without him. Ross Brawn is an F1 legend and he initially shaped Mercedes but I don’t think that effect has been running for 3 years since his departure. Plus next year is a whole new kettle of fish, even with Ross there is no guarantee of success with the massive regulation changes.

    3. credit to Toto, Niki and Paddy that they’ve maintained momentum for 3 years

      Eh? More like credit to the Mercedes factory for their untouchable turbo engine.

      1. And credit to the FIA’s poor rule making for preserving its dominance.

      2. Eh? More like credit to the Mercedes factory for their untouchable turbo engine.

        Can’t all be the engine. Otherwise we would have a 4 way battle for the title between Mercedes, Williams, Force India and Manor. A fair bit has to be the car too.

        1. Or at least have had one of those other teams at least win one race in the last 3 years… instead of Renault and Ferrari engines.

          1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
            20th October 2016, 10:37

            Great point, hadn’t even considered that NO other Mercedes engined car has won in this entire era!

          2. Well to be fair the Williams drivers binned a couple in 2014

      3. In Brixworth, Northamptonshire.

  4. Well, intresting. Some good insight in to how Brawn works. Issues of trust very important to him.

    Lol funny considering Nikki Lauda is all about his word.

    But in any case, what they have done is awesome. How long will it last if in 2013 they were unable to trust eachother?

    Maybe they fixed the underlying issues. Maybe they have not, sometimes Mercedes team does appear incoherent.

    But they are the best in business right now.

  5. Nikki Lauda seems to be the weak spot. His ever changing remarks are totally untrustworthy.
    Not sure if his input serves the team interests any longer.

    1. But then from our armchairs, hearing only a mere fraction of his comments, usually post-race and still a bit in the heat of the moment, it’s awfully hard to know the effect of his input, which I’m sure they value.

    2. Miss Direction
      19th October 2016, 22:40

      If Lauda’s changed his MO since re-emerging, I missed it. I think there’s a fair bit of good cop, bad cop between he and Wolff.

  6. “In early 2013, I discovered Paddy Lowe had been contracted to join the team and it had been signed off in Stuttgart.”

    That sounds late?

    Didn’t Lewis say one of his reasons for making the deciding to join Merc was that Lowe was going to join with him from McLaren back in 2012 (after Singapore)?

    1. No he didn’t, at no point did he mention Paddy. Paddy was meant to be joining Williams, then it all changed when Mercedes let Haug go and replaced him with Toto.

      1. If Paddy was contracted early 2013, you can be sure he was in talks in the months leading up to that, and Singapore is late 2012. I’m pretty sure i remember Hamilton mentioning something about Paddy being apart of the whole package that convinced him want to switch, i could be wrong, but i’m sure i remember it.

        1. You are wrong, as has ben said. It was however well known Mercedes were well ahead of the curve with the new hybrid engines and in fact Brawn had focused his efforts on this reg change fairly early. Lewis joined on the basis the Merc would be a winning car from 2013.

          1. Am i?


            “Lowe was originally recruited last winter…

        1. It was meant instead of the word ‘deciding’ in my first post :]

          ..Still no edit feature on this site!

    2. No.
      He said Brawn was the reason for him going, not Lowe. Which is why he expressed disappointment when Brawn eventually left.
      There’s an interview where he talks about chatting with Brawn over the kitchen table at his mum’s house.

      1. Yeah i remember that interview. But i didn’t say Lowe was ‘the’ reason for going to Merc, i said, i believe Paddy going was part of the whole ‘package’.

  7. I’ve never trusted Niki Lauda in a management role and personally (granted, as an outsider) I struggle to see what he brings to the team. But I accept that something must be going right in order to secure three WCC’s in a row in such a dominant fashion. Personally I would credit Brawn for the initial foundations and Wolff and Lowe for maintaining the momentum.

    I have endless respect for Ross Brawn, who has always come across as remarkably intelligent, polite and a thorough gentleman. A master technician, tactician and manager to whom the entire Mercedes (previously Brawn) team owe their livelihoods.

    I’m really looking forward to reading this book – I’d gladly read anything that Ross takes time to write.

    1. If hello kitty turns up to the first 2017 race in a AMRB001, she will win!

    2. I couldn’t agree more Ben. It’s hard to proffer an opinion on someone’s character when you’ve never met them but Ross always seemed like a pretty stand up bloke to me. I’m not going to pass judgement on Wolff or Lauda but what Ross says concerning their ”management style” and their ”it’s not me….it’s the other guy” way of working sounds very plausible.

  8. I’ve always heard that Brawn wanted to continue running the Mercedes team tightly under his singular control, whereas Mercedes wanted to make it more corporate structured, which was why they took away the notion of a singular team principal and replaced it with a committee (Wolff, Lowe, Cowell and Lauda).

    That makes me wonder whether the decision to bring in Paddy Lowe wasn’t solely by Lauda/Wolff, but it was someone higher up like Dieter Zetsche who moved it in that direction.

    As a company investing millions in a team, I would be nervous about having single-person dependencies on a single person, irrespective of the calibre and temperament of that individual.

    Normally, committees staffed by average people tend to be inefficient compared to gifted individuals, but the last 3 years have proven that it is a model that works.

    1. That make Lewis’ remark on ‘higher power’ seem plausible. Is Dieter Zetsche really above the committee?

    2. @phylyp That’s how I remember it too. Brawn stepped down because he couldn’t be the man in charge as “the point of reference”.

  9. Evil Homer (@)
    19th October 2016, 12:04

    Interesting comments from Ross Brawn and not too surprising to be honest. I think most were thinking Mercedes were getting too ‘top heavy’ and that may suit them but I didn’t think Brawn would last long under that structure. Its like telling Adrian Newey he is head of the design but he has other people his equal- doesn’t work with guys like that.

    Lauda is the ‘outsider’ at Merc isn’t he!? I always like Toto’s comments and he seems solid and pretty honest, but with Niki you don’t know which one you are going to get. He makes some pretty out there comments post race just as the Merc PR giant are saying something opposite back in the pits! It does make good viewing, but as asked above what ‘value add’ does he bring to Mercedes? Or as a shareholder and 3 x WDC does he just get a free say?

    I know Ross is very wealthy, so doesn’t need a job, and probably tired of it all but I cant help but feel F1 would be in better shape if he were in some kind of officiating/rule making role.

    1. I know Ross is very wealthy, so doesn’t need a job, and probably tired of it all but I cant help but feel F1 would be in better shape if he were in some kind of officiating/rule making role.

      +1 to that, @evilhomer. May I nominate him as the permanent steward? Calm and level-headed.

      I always like Toto’s comments and he seems solid and pretty honest, but with Niki you don’t know which one you are going to get.

      Toto comes across as very forthright, and while he’s humourous you can always sense the steel that lies beneath. And I admire him for all of that.

      Niki seems like a loose cannon, but appearances can be deceptive. I don’t know whether he is really just a liability as a loose cannon, or if he’s able to make calculated and provocative statements that the Mercedes white-collar leadership would like to but cannot say! Sort of like how Bernie throws verbal hand grenades every once in a while just to shake things up and see how things shape up.

      1. Evil Homer (@)
        19th October 2016, 12:29


        Maybe Red Bulls version of Marko- get some controversial comments out there to prove a point………. Niki just a much friendlier of Red Bulls !!!

        1. Evil Homer (@)
          19th October 2016, 12:31

          friendlier version of Red Bulls.

        2. @evilhomer – yep, agreed :-)

  10. I’m fine with how things have turned out at Mercedes particularly with their equal treatment of their drivers. Brawn was involved in the one-rooster concept at MS/Ferrari which I thought and will always think is the wrong way to go for the audience’s sake, and if Brawn would have made LH the one rooster it would have been more of the same with not just one team dominating but only one driver allowed to win. Of course I can’t say if that is something Brawn would have pushed for had he stayed, but as I say I have complete and utter respect for Mercedes who get that taking the harder road of managing two roosters is by far the better way to go…the respectful way for the viewers, and both drivers.

    1. @Robbie – that is surprising to hear. I admired the way he handled the Merc pair at the 2013 Malaysian GP, even as Red Bull failed miserably. I’d therefore have thought he would have been fair to both drivers. Are there any instances of him favouring a driver in his post-Ferrari years?

      I wonder if his ‘one-rooster’ approach was more a Ferrari thing than a Brawn thing? Until the Vettel-Kimi pairing occurred, it seemed Ferrari always had a favoured #1 driver who they spoiled silly.

      1. @phylyp That’s fair comment. As I said in my comment I can’t speak for what RB would have done with LH/NR, but I do know I am so pleased with what Mercedes have done. And for sure the one-rooster thing has been more of a Ferrari thing, but it’s hard not to associate that with Brawn particularly in the MS years, and I haven’t heard/read anything about any resistance to that from Brawn in those years.

  11. I thought he left not only Mercedes but F1 as well because he just got tired of travelling around the globe regularly after doing it for a long time etc.

    1. I’m pretty sure that’s what he said when he left Ferrari as well…

  12. Evil Homer (@)
    19th October 2016, 12:35

    That was his diplomatic way of saying it at the time :)

  13. So Toto and Niki can’t be trusted you say Ross? No surprise there.

    1. No he said he couldn’t trust them with respect to decisions they were making on how to proceed with the team at the time. A very specific set of circumstances. That does not mean Toto and Niki are completely and utterly and forevermore untrustworthy people. Without being flies on the wall it’s hard to know if TW and NL could have or should have handled Brawn differently, but certainly the direction they went has worked, not that with Brawn it wouldn’t have as well. As far as trustworthiness, some find it hard to believe Brawn’s claim that he didn’t know about Ferrari’s veto power until relatively recently, so again, without being flies on the wall…

  14. This side of the story from Brawn adds another dimension to the Colin Colles blackmail attempt which was occurring roughly at the same time.
    Perhaps Brawn is being diplomatic in this official book version of events.

  15. This is from an outside position, granted, but I can totally see what Brawn means. Lauda is notorious for being sly when it suits him. Wolff, slick businessman that he is, seems to me to lie and hoodwink whenever he needs. Charm and lies. Brawn is not charismatic, but he is the sort of person you let them do their task they will do it brilliantly. The other two are snakecharmers. I can imagine the friction.

  16. It was clear that something is not good when Paddy come in.
    Lauda and Toto wanted to remove Brawn and take all fruits themself. They are always keep silence about Brawn and Norbert Haug as for the success in 2014 and onwards. They didn’t do anything for that success.

    1. Yeah they didn’t do anything. If they were absent the team would be just as successful. It was all Brawn and will be forever. The others are just ugly bags of mostly water.

  17. Brawn found right persons for Merc -> structure in 2009-2010, MS in 2010, Aldo Costa in 2011, etc …
    It’s very pitty that MS didn’t get Aldo’s car in 2012 , that car come only in 2013/2014 and with MS input. Aldo knew well what MS was needed.

    I just wonder who had invited Lauda in 2012 in Mercedes ?
    Lauda is nothing else as a joke , take a look at his previous ability in 2001 season, Lauda was a team principal of the Jaguar and was made redundant in 2003. It was clear who invited Lauda wanted to remove Brawn.

    1. And look what has happened to Mercedes F1 since RB has been gone and NL has been there. The only joke is the people from their armchairs so willing to call an F1 icon a joke.

      1. Pehaps I wasn’t clear enough about Lauda – he is not a joke as a driver – that’s for sure.
        But he is now, in his role in Merc and in 2001 in Jaguar.

    2. @Nik_F1 Schumacher has no input in the W04 (2013) car.

      1. Do you know when Merc or other teams started working on 2013 car or on 2014 car?
        Or you think the car (W04) was build in 2013 just one month before the test start in Jerez 5 February 2013 ?

        Why Brown had hired Aldo ? They had to had 2 development teams for the current season and further seasons like RB, Ferrari, Mclaren who had already had that kind of structure.

        In 2014 there was major technical changing and all teams started working on this car at least in 2012. Here is a public link:
        According to it, in April 2013 – Merc were already working on 2014 car and prepared to switch their focus, up to 50% of the team in May 2013. MS made his last race for Merc at 25 November 2012. Any thoughts ?

  18. Well of course Nikki and Toto are not to be trusted. Ask any Lewis Hamilton fan…

  19. I always taught that Ross was as old school as Ken Tyrrell, but you can’t trust those investors anyway.

  20. I don’t trust them either, Ross!

  21. This doesn’t surprise me at all. Now i know why Hamilton has so many ”bad luck”

  22. If there was ever a need for an ex driver as a team executive surely it would call for one that coaches young drivers. What else can they bring to a world class organisation? Mercedes has 2 drivers that don’t need coaching.

    In fact the time after the Malaysian GP, Niki stated ‘Lewis will come with me to Japan in my plane’. So what good did Niki’s influence actually do because Lewis arrived in Japan a little flustered… albeit I admit we don’t actually seee his influence.

    Post race though we can see his input and more often he simply states the obvious but with a dash of emotion thrown in, providing feedback like a race pundit on a commentary show: ‘driver who finished ahead did a better job today’. Pretty trivial comments made public and doesn’t serve to do anything…
    I may be a bit harsh in my interpretation but this must be a window into the management dynamics behind the scenes which to me is unnecessary.

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