ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has responded to new speculation about Ross Brawn’s future as principal of the Formula One team by repeating his wish for him to stay.
Brawn’s position has been open to conjecture since early in the year when Toto Wolff took over as Mercedes motorsport head and the team signed Paddy Lowe from McLaren in a senior executive position.
Mercedes declined to comment on media reports that Brawn had now decided to leave after the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix next month, but Lauda spoke of “total rubbish”.
“The situation is absolutely clear: I spoke to Ross a while ago and we agreed that he will come back to me after the final race of the season in Brazil to tell me whether he wants to stay or go,” British media quoted him as saying ahead of Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“I am trying everything I can to encourage and motivate him to stay. I am the one who asked him to stay. I want him to do it but it is not my decision,” added the retired triple world champion.
“If he stays. He will be team principal - nothing else - or he will retire.”
Brawn is one of Formula One’s most successful bosses, winning both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships with his own Brawn GP team in 2009 after previous owners Honda had pulled out.
He also masterminded Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles with Benetton and Ferrari as a technical director and strategist.
Brawn stayed on after Mercedes bought Brawn at the end of 2009 and survived management changes after Schumacher’s three-year comeback with the British-based team ended disappointingly last year.
In January the 58-year-old spoke of a “succession plan” and said he wanted to see how things went before making any long-term commitment to Mercedes.
“It’s rather like my succession plan at Ferrari. When I decided I was going to stop at Ferrari, we built a succession plan and I am part of that, I’ve talked to Paddy, we know the situation,” he said at the time.
The Briton’s position has evolved over the course of the year, without him giving any hints about the time frame for any departure.
“There is a transition going on. We’re just determining what will be the best timing for that,” he told reporters at the Indian Grand Prix last week.
“I want the team to be in the best possible place for next year, so I think when the time is right we’ll let everyone know what we’re doing.”
The BBC said on Tuesday that sources close to Mercedes were saying that Brawn and Mercedes had failed to agree a role in which he would have been happy to stay and that Lowe and Wolff would run the team in tandem.
Sky television commentator Martin Brundle added on Twitter on Wednesday: “Speaking with Niki Lauda last night he’s determined to keep Ross Brawn at Merc if he can. That will take some doing to change Ross’s mind”.
Editing by Ed Osmond