17 September 2013
Kate Walker: Brawn a no-brainer for Williams?
Kate Walker files her latest column for Crash.net as the 'silly season' extends beyond the drivers....
Used to keeping her eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes Formula One a political melodrama, Kate Walker ponders the paddock rumour that sees Ross Brawn buying into Williams ahead of the 2014 F1 season...
At some point in your childhood, you will have been told that something that seems too good to be true usually is.
It's a vital message when it comes to critical thinking skills, and of the wisdom of letting your heart's desires overrule what your head knows to be plain good sense. But – like most lessons in life – there are always exceptions to prove the rule. (Another moral straight from primary school.)
A Formula One truism that fans and insiders alike laugh about is the fact that, in our sport, if it seems to make sense then it's probably wrong. The laws of physics are bent by aerodynamicists at seemingly every race, so what hope does simple logic have?
Over the Italian Grand Prix weekend, the paddock was humming with a story – first written by Mark Hughes – in which the esteemed journalist painted a very logical picture of just why Ross Brawn was readying himself to invest in Williams, the team that gave him his second F1 job.
Hughes' logic was infallible – Toto Wolff had jumped ship from Williams to Mercedes, leaving a gap at the top in Grove while making life in Brackley rather crowded. Wolff has a serious stake in Williams which he needs to offload, and Brawn is a wealthy man following the sale of his eponymous team to Mercedes. Why not swap Wolff for Brawn, tying up a number of sticky loose ends in the process?
If Brawn is able to do for the flagging Williams what he did for Honda/Brawn, he could retire in a feathered headdress, never mind add a feather to his cap. The Briton was instrumental in Ferrari's revival, he was able to do with Brackley what Honda's millions never achieved, and he delivered Mercedes with their first grand prix win in more than five decades. Adding the rebooting of Williams to that already impressive CV would guarantee Brawn's place in the F1 history books.
But the problem is that it's all too neat. And the inner workings of the F1 machine are nowhere near as tidy as the spic-and-span paddock and garages.
Brawn's CV hardly needs further garnishing. As things stand, the Mercedes team principal is a wealthy man whose personal fortune is not subject to the peaks and troughs of a team's successes on track. He could choose to buy into Williams, taking a top tier role at Grove, but to do so would involve considerable – and personal – financial risk.
Williams could yet set their sights on the man who has revived all fortunes, but Brawn is not a cheap hire, and the Grove racers already have a succession plan in place. Deputy team principal Claire Williams spends a lot of time fundraising for the team. Would she really want to divert a significant amount of the team's budget to the salary of a single man, particularly a man likely to subvert her own ambitions as team principal?
It might make perfect sense on the surface, but that's just another way of saying too good to be true.
As is always the case in such matters, no one's talking on the record. Which is why the Singapore paddock will be the scene of thousands of hushed conversations, of small huddled groups, as media and power-players alike try and get to the bottom of what promises to be a very interesting story.
Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to Crash.net. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, she keeps an eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes Formula One a political melodrama.
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