Gossip and speculation has a habit of feeding off itself in the FI business. The most recent and pressing frenzy surrounding whether or not Mercedes-Benz is poised to take a controlling interest in the McLaren Group.
It was eight years ago that Mercedes purchased a 40 per cent stake in McLaren for a sum estimated at the time to be around $300m. The deal opened the way for McLaren to become the first independent outside contractor to build road cars for the German manufacturer in the form of the 200mph Mercedes SLR McLaren supercar.
But Mercedes made it clear that it retained the option to buy a controlling interest in McLaren, even though this was demoted temporarily to a low priority as the car maker wrestled with the commercially disastrous partnership with Chrysler in the United States. More recently, another 30 per cent of McLaren has been sold to Mutalakat Holdings (the trading company of the Bahrain government), leaving Dennis and Mansour Ojjeh of the TAG organisation, controlling just 15 per cent each.
Putting a price on the extra 11 per cent which Mercedes would have to add to its stake to gain complete operating control will be difficult, but might be accelerated by the unfortunate events which engulfed the team in 2007. Last week the German media got itself hugely excited, predicting that M-B will amass a 60 per cent stake in McLaren by the start of the new F1 season in Melbourne on March 16. My contacts close to McLaren say this is not the case and the status quo is just that. The status quo. My view? All about as likely as Ralf Schumacher getting behind the wheel of a DTM Mercedes, I would have thought. By the way, Ralf was very quick at Estoril testing a CLK last week.