Ross Brawn will be at liberty to decide as to whether there is a number one and a number two driver at Mercedes Grand Prix in F1 2010, the Stuttgart manufacturer has confirmed – fuelling speculation that returning seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher will be afforded preferential status and treatment.
Brawn and Schumacher benefit from a long history together – with the Englishman having helped to expertly guide the record-breaking German to each and every one of his drivers' world championship crowns, firstly at Benetton and then Ferrari – and that has led to fears that the Kerpen native will be able to waltz back into F1 and simply reassume the de facto
number one status that was his for the majority of his career from 1991 to 2006.
If Nico Rosberg had signed up for the Brackley-based outfit expecting to be team leader, say the conspiracy theorists, then he'd better think again – as the arrival of the most successful driver in the top flight's history alongside him has changed everything. And Mercedes – which purchased a majority stake in 2009 double world champions Brawn GP late last year – has done little to quell such talk.
“We have a team manager for this,” revealed Dieter Zetsche – chairman of the three-pointed star's parent company Daimler AG – in an interview with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport
. “Ross Brawn is one of the best. If he wasn't then he wouldn't have won both titles last year, despite his team being in their debut [season]. He will decide, and it will be the best for the drivers and the constructor.”
Zetsche also sought to allay fears that after three years out of the cockpit, Schumacher's mental and physical fitness might no longer be quite as razor-sharp as they once were, and will consequently hamper the 41-year-old's efforts to take the fight to – and beat – the new young guard of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso et al.
“We are convinced that Michael will do well and that he'll win again,” the German underlined. “Maybe not immediately – let's give him some time – but an ace never disappoints. I've been impressed by his enthusiasm. Rather than a return, it seems to me like a new debut.”