By Berthold Bouman, F1 correspondent
The German Daimler AG and their financial partner the Abu Dhabi-based Aabar Investments PJS today confirmed the complete takeover of the Mercedes Grand Prix team. Together they have purchased the remaining 24.9% shares which were until now in the hands of the team management, among them are team principal Ross Brawn and chief executive Nick Fry, and Nigel Kerr, Caroline McGrory, John Marsden and Gordon Blair. The move is not a complete surprise, there were already rumors Daimler would buy the remaining shares earlier this year, but all parties denied the rumors at the time.
Daimler have increased their stake with 14.9% to 60%, while Aabar increased their stake with 10% to 40%, together they now own the Mercedes Grand Prix team. The 56-year old Brawn sold the first 75.1% of his successful Brawn Grand Prix team to Daimler and Aabar in November 2009 for 130 million Euro, but it is unknown how much they have paid for the remaining 24.9%.
The good news about the complete take-over is of course that it means Mercedes intents to remain in Formula One for the long-term. Dr Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, "This majority stake holding demonstrates our determination to build a long-term Formula One involvement on an even more successful platform." And he added, "Our company's founders invented the automobile 125 years ago and the very first Mercedes was a racing car. These are the reasons why we see our Formula One program as an important element of our brand history."
Chairman of Aabar Investments PJS, His Excellency Khadem Al Qubaisi stated: "Aabar's and Daimler's joint investment in Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix is a further testament to our strong commitment to the sport of Formula One and to Aabar's strategic partnership with Daimler. As Abu Dhabi is increasingly placing itself as a recognized host of international sporting events, and particularly in light of the continuing success of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Aabar is proud to be supporting one of the most successful Formula One racing teams in the field." And he added, "Aabar wishes Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix a successful start to the 2011 season."
Dr. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Group Research and Development Mercedes-Benz Cars, and Chairman of the Board of Mercedes Grand Prix Ltd. confirmed Daimler is fully committed to Formula One. "Our acquisition of the remaining 24.9% together with our partner Aabar underlines our long-term commitment to Formula One, the pinnacle of motor racing and the best international motor sport platform for demonstrating our willingness to compete and our technical expertise," said Dr. Weber. And added, "This step will bring the colleagues from our Formula One chassis and engine groups even closer together and thereby help to develop our team step-by-step into a winning Formula One outfit."
Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Norbert Haug, "It is a logical step to acquire the remaining 24.9% of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix together with our partner Aabar. Daimler and Aabar will be joint owners, in the ratio of 60/40, of our Formula One company and Silver Arrows works team. This lays the foundations for a successful long-term involvement at the pinnacle of motor sport."
The takeover also means Brawn will have more time to concentrate on the technical side of the Mercedes GP team. Dr. Weber stated: "We now also fulfill Ross' wish of being in a position to focus wholly on the complex technical challenges of Formula One and on his role as our team principal."
Brawn about the takeover, "Daimler and Aabar's acquisition of the remaining 24.9% stake in Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix will be a further step in the consolidation and strengthening of our team for the future. Motor racing, particularly Formula One, is a very specialized industry, and we are privileged to have such strong and understanding partners as Daimler and Aabar to support our joint ambitions."
Brawn about his future role within the team, "I remain fully committed to our team for the long-term, along with the management team and all of our employees. We all look forward to the challenge of making our team successful, and proudly representing Mercedes-Benz and the racing tradition of the Silver Arrows."
The former Brawn Grand Prix team won the Constructors' and Drivers' Championship in 2009, after Brawn managed to revive the team after the Japanese Honda Motor Company had decided to leave Formula One as a result of the world -wide economic recession. Thanks to the clever, but now banned, double diffuser, Briton Jenson Button took over the championship crown of his compatriot Lewis Hamilton in 2009.
Seven-time World Champion German Michael Schumacher joined the Mercedes team in 2010 after Button moved to McLaren-Mercedes, and he was joined by German Nico Rosberg, son of 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg. However, Mercedes failed to impress last year, Rosberg scored a few podium finishes for the Silver Arrows team, but Schumacher's performance was far under par.
Daimler and Aabar have sent a strong message to the world: they still believe in the future of Formula One, and despite the economic crisis that also has hit Mercedes, they are willing to invest money in the sport, a sport they see as an excellent opportunity to showcase their technical innovations and technical know-how. Whether Mercedes Grand Prix will perform better this year can only be answered after the season has kicked-off on March 27, when all 12 Formula One teams will be at the start of the season-opener: the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne.