The presence of a lot of heavy-hitters from Stuttgart was noted in Abu Dhabi with the whole board of Daimler AG rumoured to have been present, in addition to Manfred Bischoff, the head of the company’s supervisory board. There were also a lot of lawyers. This was not a tea party. Although everyone was wandering around smiling like game show hosts, it is clear that there some serious meetings going on about the future relationship between Mercedes-Benz and McLaren and my sources tell me that the purpose of all of this was to terminate the special relationship as quickly as possible so that Mercedes-Benz can paint the Brawns silver and take a more important role in the team. The word is that they are fed up being junior partners in McLaren. This all makes sense, given that McLaren blocked Mercedes-Benz from advertising Brawn’s success this year – and launched a supercar straight into one of the major Mercedes markets. A supercar with a McLaren-branded engine. Some of my German colleagues have come up with figures being asked for a settlement with McLaren hoping to recover its 40% stake for free, be paid something in the region of $300m and be given free engines for two years. This may sound wildly expensive for Daimler AG but these are the kind of figures that one would expect given the company’s apparent desire to get out of the arrangement.
The financial windfall for McLaren would give the team the money it needs to invest in its own engine programme so that it can continue with its strategy of becoming a totally independent car manufacturer, promoting its products in Formula 1.
I would not expect anyone involved to say anything at all until the deal is done but my German colleagues say that this is now close and that we may be getting an announcement by December 1. They are generally pretty good at sourcing information so watch out for that happening.