The news that Toto Wolff was to leave Williams and replace Norbert Haug as head of Mercedes Motorsport wasn’t an earth-shattering revelation
It’s a very complicated situation and the plot reads like the 1980s sitcom ‘Soap’.
Wolff replaced Adam Parr as the Chief Executive of Williams last year and had some amazing successes. Following their worst F1 season in 2011, Williams won a grand prix in 2012 (Spain) and should have picked up several podiums were it not for the excesses of a fast-but-wayward Pastor Maldonado.
Toto was there to pick up the plaudits but it was work put in by Adam Parr (who seemingly left after a bust-up with Bernie over money) that got the team their renewed success.
It had been Parr who brought in photo-copying king, ex-Mclaren Mike Coughlan and also Chief Operating Engineer Mark Gillan, and also the use of Renault engines that turned round the ship. It was also Parr who got the big bucks from the PDVSA deal that brought Maldonado to the team.
Given the successes of 2012 it was odd to hear that Mark Gillan was leaving the team at the end of the season. Why would he be doing that? The reports that Wolff had hired McLaren’s Paddy Lowe to join Williams (before he got the Merc job) might fit in with that scenario. Lowe, a McLaren man for two decades, would then be hooking up with ex-McLaren man Mike Coughlan.
Asked this week if Lowe had agreed to join Williams Wolff said no, but we didn’t find out if he’d been asked the question.
Now the prospect is that Lowe will be joining Mercedes (or maybe not, he’s still thinking about it) in a senior engineering role, reuniting him with Lewis Hamilton.
Of course Hamilton signed on the dotted line for Mercedes when Norbert Haug (who he’s known since he started at McLaren) was motorsport chief and Ross Brawn was the unquestioned team principal. That was part of the reason for going to the Brackley-based team. Now the carpet has been well and truly removed from under his feet.
Lewis can stroke as many Silver Arrows as he likes in Stuttgart but he can’t be filled with confidence about sudden changes.
Brawn has won World Championships in F1 with Benetton (2), Ferrari (5) and Brawn (1). Wolff has been at the helm for one race win. It’s not exactly inspiring or the kind of thing you want to hear when you’ve put your career on the line.
It’s been reported that Ron Dennis has got the shackles and chains off his wallet and offered Paddy Lowe more money on top of his (Daily Mail) estimated £600,000 salary to stay where he is.
“But McLaren aren’t going to come to blows with Mercedes whether Paddy goes to Mercedes or Paddy stays with McLaren. In 2014 the new V6 turbos are going to be in short supply and McLaren won’t want to upset their engine supplier too much.
Last year we joked that by hiring ex-Renault chief, Bob Bell, ex-BAR, ex-Williams’ Geoff Willis and ex-Ferrari’s Aldo Costa that Mercedes were trying to sign up every technical director on the grid. This week they look like moving one step closer to nabbing another one. Only time will tell.