Niki Lauda has claimed that Tuesday's rumour that Ross Brawn had decided to walk away from the Mercedes F1 team at the end of the season were far from the truth.
The Austrian, currently the Brackley-based team's chairman, admits that there have been talks with the highly-respected team principal, but denies that they have broken down, or that Brawn has decided that, unable to get the assurances he wants with regard to his stature in the inflated Mercedes technical hierarchy, had decided to sever his ties with the team.
“I hate all this bullsh*t,” Lauda was quoted by Britain's Daily Mail
newspaper, “The speculation is total rubbish. The situation is absolutely clear: I spoke to Ross a while ago and we agreed that he will come back to me after the final race in Brazil to tell me whether he wants to stay or go.”
Brawn's position was thrown into doubt in the early part of the season, following the acquisition of Paddy Lowe from McLaren. Many expected the 58-year old to be forced out of his position as team boss, but Mercedes instead opted for a 'soft transition', with Lowe gradually anticipated to take on more and more responsibility as the year wore on. It is thought that Brawn's exit would leave his fellow Briton in charge of technical and sporting matters, with Toto Wolff looking after all business aspects of the team, but Lauda insists that, should Brawn stay, he would remain in charge of the race team.
“I am trying everything I can to encourage and motivate him to stay,” the Austrian insisted, “I want him to do it, but it is not my decision; it is his decision. We are not putting any pressure on him at all, [but] if he stays, he will be team principal – nothing else.
“With a new car and new engine, all the changes next year, I hope he will not leave. Why would he decide to go now, when we are busy fighting in the constructors' championship for second or third place?”
Those who believe that Brawn will
leave at the end of the year also think that he is more likely to take a year out from F1, rather than jump straight into another role elsewhere in the pit-lane. The Briton – who oversaw world championships for Michael Schumacher at both Benetton and Ferrari, as well as one for Jenson Button
at his own eponymous team, took a similar sabbatical after leaving the Scuderia in 2006, and used the time to indulge in his other passion, fishing.
Brawn has been linked to both Williams
since rumours of his exit intensified, but the two teams have both denied pursuing any interest in him.