Niki Lauda has defended Mercedes' involvement in F1 after shareholders criticised the amount of money being spent on its pursuit of success.
The marque returned to motorsport's top flight after buying the title-winning Brawn outfit ahead of the 2010 season, but has managed just one win since then, when Nico Rosberg triumphed from pole in last year's Chinese Grand Prix. For 2013, seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has been replaced by Lewis Hamilton, but the team knows that it has a lot of work to do to pull out of the slump that engulfed it at the end of 2012.
While Rosberg's win will have gained publicity for the Three Pointed Star around the world – estimated by the Daimler group to have been worth around €50m in advertising value, the company is though to be investing around twice that for every season of competition, with the balance of the team's believed €200m budget coming from sponsorship and TV money.
The lack of results – and perceived benefit for the wider Mercedes brand – has caused several shareholders to air their concerns about the F1 project, with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
newspaper carrying negative quotes about its continued participation, and the amount of money being thrown at the team.
“Mercedes has been behind for years, and F1 is expensive and brings nothing to the [Daimler] group,” Michael Muders, head of fund manager Union, said, while DWS' Henning Gebhardt headed off on another tack, referring to participation in races in China and Bahrain, amongst others, when claiming that 'F1 no longer enhances the image [of Mercedes], especially if we are in countries criticised of human rights violations'.
Lauda, who was appointed to the Mercedes F1 board after the 2012 season, disagrees, and countered with his own views, published in Bild
over the weekend.
"There is no doubt that F1 has been undergoing a positive development for decades,” the 63-year old insisted, “There are more and more TV viewers, more and more countries entering the championship. This is an incredible growth and it has benefited Mercedes.
"The marketing value is always there but, clearly, the value grows with the success. Ferrari is in the same situation as us – we must catch up, but we are building the team around strong components, and our shareholders will have to wait."
Although the new Concorde Agreement hasn't been fully ratified, Mercedes is understood to have reached an agreement with Bernie Ecclestone to remain in the sport until at least 2020.
“Our involvement in F1 is not up for debate,” Daimler spokesman Jorg Howe insisted, “We have created new structures to ensure long term success and will soon be on top. We do not
want to pull out of F1, quite the contrary.”
Lauda, meanwhile, remains equally confident that the Stuttgart marque can be battling the sport's biggest teams before too long, claiming that he believes the team is already a match for its more successful rivals.