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Mercedes takes over Brawn GP
By NESHA STARCEVIC
Associated Press
2009-11-17 12:58 AM
Mercedes-Benz is taking over champion team Brawn GP to return to Formula One racing under its own name for the first time in 55 years.

At the same time, Mercedes plans to sell its stake in McLaren, although a partnership with the British team since the mid-1990s will continue with it supplying engines until 2015.

While some leading car makers have pulled out of the sport at the time of the economic downturn, such as Honda, Toyota and BMW, Mercedes was looking to enhance its brand name by racing as the Mercedes Grand Prix and the famed Silver Arrow cars.

"Mercedes-Benz is the most valued and best-known premium automotive brand in the world. This brand looks for competition of the utmost quality in all relevant fields in order to continually improve its performance in the face of such new challenges," said Dieter Zetsche, the CEO of Daimler AG, the Mercedes-Benz parent company.

"We will face the competition in future on the most important motor sports stage with our own Silver Arrow works team. Our new Silver Arrow Formula 1 team is a great sporting and technical challenge and we will tackle this with sporting spirit and full of enthusiasm," Zetsche said during a telephone new conference Monday during which he announced the move.

Mercedes raced under its own name, with drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio spreading the fame of the Silver Arrows, until one of its cars plunged into the crowd at Le Mans and killed more than 80 people in 1955, causing Mercedes to pull out.

It returned in the early 1990s and then formed its partnership with McLaren in 1995, becoming the second most successful Formula One team after Ferrari.

"We look back on 15 successful years of great collaboration with McLaren; in that time, we won four world championship titles and finished 10 times as runner-up in the drivers' and constructors' rankings," said Norbert Haug, vice president of Mercedes Benz motorsport.

"Since the first victory in the 1997 Australian Grand Prix, the modern Silver Arrows have achieved a total of 60 victories in 223 races to ensure that our brand symbol, the star, stands for the greatest successes in Formula 1. We thank our partner and will continue to work with McLaren based on an excellent partnership," Haug said.

Brawn GP, which took over from Honda when it pulled out from the sport in March, had a spectacular first season _ with Jenson Button winning the 2009 drivers' title and the team taking the constructors' championship.

Team chief Ross Brawn had only spent one full season with Honda, in charge of the team's 2008 campaign after 10 years with Ferrari. He will remain at Mercedes Grand Prix, although Haug is expected to be the team's coordinator with Mercedes.

Button was partnered this year by Rubens Barrichello, who is moving to Williams next season.

McLaren's drivers were 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen.

The decision on the two drivers for the new Mercedes GP team "will still take come time," Haug. "We have to consider this carefully."

German media reports says Nico Rosberg, formerly with Williams, is virtually certain to get one of the two seats. The son of former star Keke Rosberg, Nico is a German citizen and lives there.

There has been speculation that the second driver could also be a German, Nick Heidfeld, with some media speculating that Button could form an all-British partnership with Hamilton at McLaren. Button visited McLaren last week.

In terms of shareholding, Mercedes and Aabar Investments PJSC will get 75.1 percent of Brawn GP. Aabar is the biggest single shareholder of Daimler AG at 9.1 percent.

McLaren said it would be buying out the stake in the team owned by Daimler.

"In a transaction structured so as to be completed by 2011, the McLaren Group will undertake a phased purchase of the 40 per cent shareholding currently owned by Daimler AG. As a result, the McLaren Group will become a fully independent stand-alone corporate entity," McLaren said.

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