At the end of 2009 the Formula 1 programmes of two major motor manufacturers headed in opposite directions. Both brands had won back-to-back championships during the past five years; both had been tarnished by '-gate' scandals - Mercedes via its shareholding and technical partnership with Spygate-hit McLaren in 2007, Renault with Crashgate the next season - and both operations wished to reinvent themselves.
Mercedes had won grands prix and titles with McLaren and, in 2009, with Brawn. That was one of the most tumultuous seasons ever, one in which the teams threatened to form a breakaway championship and collectively pushed for a more favourable Concorde Agreement*, the provisions of which shifted power to them and returned around 50 per cent of the sport's underlying revenues to the competitors.
As solely an engine supplier, Mercedes had no input into the process whatsoever - despite its then motorsport director Norbert Haug being rather vocal about the situation - and effectively rode along on the back of its scandal-hit partner in which it (then) held 40 per cent, but no executive sway due to the voting structure.
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South African-born Dieter trained as industrial engineer before holding down a variety of senior motor industry marketing and manufacturing positions. At the age of 40 he decided to follow his passion, and became the first and only South African journalist to cover Formula 1 regularly. Dieter joined AtlasF1 at the beginning of 2004 – a year prior to its merger with Autosport – and his regular column offers an intriguing analysis of F1’s politicking and commercial chicanery. Although now also proudly Belgian, he gives his domicile as "Wherever F1 duplicity lurks".@RacingLines More features by Dieter Rencken