F1 » 29 November 2013
Kate Walker: What next for Ross Brawn after Mercedes F1 exit?
Kate Walker: "At present, Brawn's future is a matter of speculation, not fact. The only certainty is that if he does leave F1 it will be because he wants to, and not because he has to..."
Used to keeping her eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes F1 a political melodrama, here columnist Kate Walker ponders what Ross Brawn will do next following confirmation he will leave the Mercedes F1 team at the end of this year...
It's official. As had been rumoured since the start of the year, Ross Brawn will be leaving Mercedes at the end of 2013. But where will he go?
The last time Brawn made a high-profile departure, the Briton took a year off to enjoy himself, fishing and exploring his options. But this time around he is older, and it is less likely that the prospect of twelve months' leave followed by the transition period at a new team will appeal. Either Brawn will retire, or he will quickly find a new home within the paddock.
Despite a plethora of paddock rumours suggesting a return to Ferrari, the gossips at Maranello say Brawn won't be joining them in 2014. But ever since Toto Wolff lured Paddy Lowe away from a prospective job at Williams, Brawn has been linked with a move to Grove in the younger man's stead.
Williams could prove to be a good fit for Brawn. While at Ferrari he worked with Felipe Massa and (briefly) with Rob Smedley, both of whom are confirmed to be moving to Grove. Rekindling old working relationships makes for an easier bedding in period at a new team, and Brawn is far better qualified to succeed Sir Frank than is current deputy team principal Claire Williams. But one thing is certain - should Brawn end up at Grove, it will be as an employee of the team, and not an investor in it.
But there is another option, and one that on the surface would appear to make more sense: joining McLaren with a view to replacing (or succeeding, to put it more politely) current team principal Martin Whitmarsh, whose current lack of results has engendered significant criticism. Brawn has a long history with new engine suppliers Honda, and a previous title-winning partnership with Jenson Button. He also has a proven track record when it comes to turning around the flagging fortunes of a once-victorious team, which is precisely what McLaren need after a woeful 2013.
The odds of Brawn moving further down the grid are slim. The teams can't afford him. But he became a very rich man when he sold his eponymous team to Mercedes, and could decide to take on the challenge of turning a current backmarker into a points' scorer and possible race winner. But if that's the sort of challenge Brawn craves, Williams would be his best option, as it is an outfit rich in both legacy and facilities.
At present, Brawn's future is a matter of speculation, not fact. The only certainty is that if he does leave F1 it will be because he wants to, and not because he has to.
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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