Mercedes in F1 is ‘not a given’

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Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

When negotiating a very important document like the next Concorde Agreement, teams will remain vague about their long-term commitment to the sport. In fact, long-term commitment is one of the things the Concorde Agreements usually included in the past.

As Formula 1 looks to cement the team agreements, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is circumspect in suggesting that the manufacturer’s presence in F1 is a given. He says he sees no reason they wouldn’t be but it isn’t a forgone conclusion.

“Everything indicates that we will stay. But it’s not a given.

“We are in the middle of discussing the new Concorde Agreement. In connection with this – and independently of it – we are discussing the development of the automobile and its effects on sport.”

Wolff explained what factors are under consideration when it comes to making the decision.
“In which direction is the automotive world developing?” he asked.

“In what form is Formula 1 relevant as an entertainment and technology platform? As a brand whose first car was a racing car, do we want to stay on this platform in the long term?

“There is the Ferrari model that says: ‘We will do it forever. We build racing cars and we build road cars’.

“The other model is to say: ‘We had a very successful run. There’s nothing more to prove. We’re doing something else now’. Both are absolutely plausible strategies.”

There have been multiple angles to every deal in F1 throughout its history. It would be naive to think otherwise. However, I do wonder if others, like me, are growing weary of F1’s unconditional support of every car manufacturers virtuous and financially-conditional involvement in the sport.

After seven years of full-throated praise for F1’s hybrid power unit and their all-new zero carbon footprint initiative—which was immediately endorsed, re-heated and served by Renault—I find it odd for Toto to ask the question regarding the direction of the automotive market.

He’s right, however, in that there is little reason for Mercedes to spend the money they do if it isn’t benefitting them in some manner and its clear that simply winning for brand recognition’s sake isn’t enough. It would seem that the sport itself has to pay dividends in their R&D department and draw distinct lines to their P&L in the road car division.

Those are all understandable goals for companies such as Mercedes, Renault Ferrari and Honda. They most likely mean far less to Red Bull, Racing Point, Haas F1, Toro Rosso and Williams F1 and only secondarily to McLaren, Alfa Romeo and Honda.

What I appreciate about McLaren is I get the feeling they believe their road car division has enough genius to see it through and the racing is all about entertainment and brand exposure. There was a time when Ferrari, and Renault were that way and at some level, I think Mercedes initially were.

Is it realistic to not be rattled by the thought of Mercedes, Renault, Honda or Ferrari leaving the sport if F1 doesn’t retain the $40M hybrid engines? Yes, they are the only four engines in F1. But what if attracting new teams was less of an issue as attracting more engine providers with an affordable engine?

Can you make a hybrid engine to compete with Mercedes that far less expensive? Probably not or at least it would take a long time. I’ve enjoyed the technology innovation of the past but if I’m honest, the pendulum has swung so far to the engineering and manufacturer demands side that I find myself caring less about their presence in F1 and more about how to make privateers competitive and fun to watch.

On the occasional dark and introspective evening, my mind wanders off and considers an F1 where Williams, McLaren, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Alfa Romeo, and Haas F1 all fight each other with 3rd party sourced engines in a truly competitive battle. I fool’s errand I know.

Regardless of my being a Ferrari fan—you all know that—I am a huge fan of the privateer. IT it their spirit that built this sport and in 2009 when Toyota, BMW and Honda all left F1, it wasn’t the end of the sport.

Could Mercedes leave? Is Toto correct? Of course he is, he would know better than most. As the article points out, by extending their engine supply contracts beyond 2021, they are suggesting that they are staying. Regardless, in the narrow battle field of negotiating a deal with F1, all teams must be willing to walk away from it all in order to build their negotiating positions. I think that’s what Toto is doing.

If you’ve read/listened to The Parc Fermé long enough, you’ll know I said this would be the most critical year in F1’s history and so it would seem. One thing I think we can all be certain of with F1’s sustainability announcement this week is that the engines aren’t changing for 2021 and if they bankrupt another team, we have to ask ourselves if we’ve missed the plot…even a little.

Hat Tip: Autosport

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Rapierman

On top of that comes the question: Does Lewis Hamilton want a 7th and/or 8th title? If so, will Mercedes be there to guarantee it? If not, who can? If none, then does Hamilton stay in F1?