The shareholding held by Mercedes-Benz in former Formula One partner team McLaren has been downsized following its decision to set up its own 'works' team in the shell of reigning world champions Brawn GP.

Although Mercedes had previously supplied engines to teams other than McLaren, it was the furthering of its own individual assault on the F1 world championship - and McLaren's decision to take on the German giant in the 'supercar' market - that finally brought the situation to a head, with McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh confirming that a phased buy-back programme had been agreed over the next couple of years. Approximately 29 per cent of the 40 per cent stakeholding has now been re-acquired by the Woking team.

"I think it is about eleven per cent that is still owned by Mercedes, but it's not an important or significant number," Whitmarsh told Reuters during the launch of McLaren's new MP4-12C sportscar, before revealing that the shares were now owned.by the McLaren Group rather than any of the teams other shareholders.

Whitmarsh also confirmed that the McLaren Group was looking to grow its road car range in a bid to increase revenue.

"At some point, some of that money will come back into F1," he noted, "The structure of our group is that they are stand-alone businesses so McLaren Automotive has to pay licence to use its brand. In the longer term, we will hopefully have a successful, mature, developed automotive company with a range of products and we may then choose to invest back in racing."

Ron Dennis, now chairman of McLaren Automotive, and Saudi business partner Mansour Ojjeh each own 15 per cent of the business, while 30 per cent is owned by Bahrain's state holding company Mumtalakat. Dennis, who stood down as F1 team boss after last year's Australian GP in favour of Whitmarsh, admitted that, while there was risk in diversifying, it was a step the McLaren brand needed to make.

"We know it's a competitive market, [and] we know many small car companies have come and gone, but we are not going to be one of them," he stressed, "We are here to stay.

"There are some frightening statistics which have been burnt into my brain over the last few years. I think the most frightening is that since 1966, since McLaren first entered grand prix racing, 106 F1 teams have come and gone. Therefore, for me, staying solely and exclusively an F1 team is almost surely going to lead to extinction, so I think there is an imperative need to broaden the commercial basis of this company. Our pedigree, our history and our brand can definitely support an entry into this segment of the market."

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