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Lewis Hamilton’s dream of working with one of grand prix racing’s most revered figures hinged last night on talks back at his old team, McLaren.
Ross Brawn, who is a power behind many championship successes, including those of Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button, waited cruelly on his fate. So did Hamilton at his home in Monaco.
Brawn, 58, appears to have no future at Mercedes if the German team exercise their will by bringing in Paddy Lowe, the 50-year-old technical director from McLaren. Lowe is sought by Niki Lauda, the three-time world champion who is head of Mercedes’ motor racing board and charged with turning around the operation, to replace team principal Brawn as the team’s engineering leader.
McLaren do not want Lowe to go. 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.
So much so that the McLaren chairman, Ron Dennis, yesterday 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. A $10million-a-year deal (R88.4-million) and a four-day week was Newey’s reward for staying.
Sportsmail understands that the figures in this instance are far less. Lowe earns around £600 000 (R8.4-million) a year at McLaren and could expect £900 000 (R12.6m) at Mercedes. 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.
The irony is that if he leaves he would be reunited with Hamilton, who only this autumn left the team at which Lowe was a key figure. Lowe would form a double act at Mercedes with 41-year-old Austrian, Toto Wolff. He was named this week as Mercedes’ executive director, with responsibility for the commercial and political half of Brawn’s team principal’s job. Wolff, it can be revealed, will move to the team’s base in Brackley, Northamptonshire. His presence itself will cast a shadow over Brawn, a multi-millionaire who may decide it is time to spend more time indulging his love of fishing.
BIG BLOW FOR HAMILTON
Lauda believes that Brawn has failed to deliver anything approaching enough success during his tenure at Mercedes - one race win in three years. But for Hamilton, who cited Brawn as a reason for joining Mercedes, his departure would be a massive blow before he has even turned the wheel of a Mercedes in anger.
Lauda’s overtures to Lowe follow a second failed attempt to bring in Newey, the architect of Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel’s domination of F1 for the last three seasons. -Daily Mail