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By Alan Baldwin
BRACKLEY, England, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Ross Brawn looked forward to a long-term future as Mercedes Formula One team principal on Thursday but indicated it would depend on his motivation and how recent managerial changes panned out.
“I know all the plans for the future of the team and I hope I‘m going to be a part of them for a very long time. We are entering a really exciting period,” he told reporters as Britain’s 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, joining from McLaren, toured the factory.
“I know the situation completely. Mercedes want a long term commitment. And obviously with a lot of additions, I want to see how things go before I make a final long term commitment,” added Brawn.
The burly Briton’s position at the Mercedes works team has been called into question, despite his reputation as the brains behind Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles with Benetton and Ferrari and role in convincing Hamilton to join, after a managerial overhaul.
BBC pundit and former F1 team owner Eddie Jordan reported on Tuesday that McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe was set to follow Hamilton and effectively take over from Brawn in running the ‘Silver Arrows’.
Norbert Haug has departed as Mercedes motorsport head since the end of last season, paying the price for disappointing results on the track, with Austrian Toto Wolff coming in as 30 percent shareholder and executive director. His compatriot Niki Lauda is making his presence felt as non-executive chairman of the board.
Brawn gave a strong indication that Lowe was part of the team’s plans and compared his own situation to his later years at Ferrari, when the Italian team began preparing for a new generation to lead them on in the post-Schumacher era.
“It’s rather like my succession plan at Ferrari,” he said, playing down the notion that his role was under threat.
“When I decided I was going to stop at Ferrari, we built a succession plan and I am part of that. I’ve talked to Paddy, we know the situation. I‘m planning on being here a very long time,” he repeated.
Asked whether that was still as team principal, and whether Mercedes hoped for the same thing, he replied: ”When I say ‘hope’ I mean that I continue to find the excitement and the motivation and the reasons to go racing, because racing gives me a buzz.
“We have our difficult days but it’s a really exciting period, the car is coming together well, we have set some tough tasks over the winter, we are meeting them. A lot of things are behind us now.”
Brawn stressed that he was still the main man at a team that had been criticised even before recent events for having too many managers and a blurred chain of command.
“I am the team principal. I am in charge of sporting, technical and racing matters,” he said.
”Toto is coming and there is another side of the business that quite frankly I don’t want to get involved in - the commercial activities, the support we need to give Daimler (Mercedes’ parent) on a day-to-day basis and there’s a lot of things Toto will be doing which are complementary to what I will be doing.
“But you have to have one reference, everybody knows the only way a racing team will work is to have one reference, and I‘m that reference.”
Brawn took a year’s sabbatical after Schumacher retired from Ferrari in 2006, spending time fishing and travelling.
He returned as principal of the Honda team which he then led to both titles in 2009 under his name as Brawn GP after the Japanese pulled out.
The team was sold to Mercedes in 2009, making Brawn millions, but has failed to shine with Schumacher making a disappointing comeback before retiring again at the age of 43 after Hamilton was signed.
“I don’t feel the time is right for me to stop. I‘m motivated, I‘m excited by what we’re doing. I want to do it,” said Brawn.
“Failure is actually one of the greatest motivations. We’ve had some poor years and that has driven me even harder to make sure we do things right.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)