BRITAIN’S Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes are primed to break Red Bull’s Formula One stranglehold next season, despite the departure of team principal Ross Brawn.
The English-based team yesterday confirmed the long-anticipated move, which sees control pass to Toto Wolff, the former Williams executive who oversees the business, and ex-McLaren technical chief Paddy Lowe.
Brawn, who led his eponymous team to the drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 2009, initially struggled following the Mercedes buyout but last season helped make them Red Bull’s closest challengers.
Former world champion Hamilton, who won one grand prix this year but still finished fourth in the standings, hailed Brawn’s influence and predicted the team would improve further in 2014.
“Massive thanks to Ross Brawn. He’s been a great leader and teacher for me. Ross has built the foundations for us to succeed in 2014! #Legend,” the 2008 title winner wrote on Twitter.
“Toto and Paddy are fantastic guys and strong leaders for the team. I’ve started my training already and can’t wait for 2014!”
Niki Lauda, former track great and current Mercedes director, said he tried to persuade Brawn, whose future has been the subject of paddock speculation for more than a year, to reconsider.
But the Englishman, 59, cited new F1 regulations as a factor in his decision and backed Hamilton’s claims that the team is now “uniquely positioned” to challenge Red Bull’s four-year reign.
“2014 will mark the beginning of a new era in the sport,” he said.
“We therefore felt this was the right time to simultaneously begin a new era of team management to ensure that the organisation is in the strongest possible competitive position for the years to come.”
Hamilton and German Nico Rosberg, who won two races in 2013, are to remain the team’s drivers for next season.
All teams are set to switch to 1.6 litre turbo-charged engines as part of several rule changes that are expected to pose a major threat to Red Bull and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel’s continued dominance.
On Sunday, at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix, Vettel crowned his fourth consecutive drivers’ championship with a record ninth successive win.