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Mercedes remaining in F1 "not a given" admits Wolff

NEWS STORY
13/11/2019

With none of the teams having yet signed up to race beyond 2020, it is understandable that there is speculation over whether one or two might take the opportunity to leave the sport at the end of next year.

In recent months speculation has centred on three teams, Haas, Renault and Mercedes.

Having openly criticised the fact that F1 is essentially two leagues, with those in the lower division having no genuine chance of promotion, his team's inexplicable loss of form this year is sure to give Gene Haas cause to think again. Indeed, many point to the fact that Romain Grosjean has been retained for 2020 as a sign that the American outfit is merely biding its time.

While the recruitment of Pat Fry and Dirk de Beer took many of those confident that Renault would quit (again) by surprise, Interim chief executive, Clotilde Delbos recently told analysts that Renault is examining all aspects of its business, including its participation in F1.

And then there's Mercedes.

The German team has none of the issues Haas and Renault face, indeed it is its success, its almost total domination of the sport that is the problem.

Having recently secured its sixth title, heading into 2020 as odds-on favourite to add another, one has to wonder what more can the German team achieve. A seventh successive Constructors' Championship would beat Ferrari's best-ever run, and would surely be the ideal time to say 'job done, auf wiedersehen'.

Though Toto Wolff, who owns 30% of the team, is confident the team will continue in 2021, he admits that it is "not a given".

"Everything indicates that we will stay. But it's not a given," he told Motorsport.com. "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.

"In which direction is the automotive world developing?" he continues. "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."

In terms of the team having achieved all it needs to, he says: "If you do a survey today to see which Formula 1 teams are the most successful, most people will say Ferrari. That's simply because Ferrari has been at the forefront and competitive for fifty years.

"I think at a time when everything is so short-term, it's the sustainability of success that makes the strategy much more credible than fast in and out. Success can also fluctuate at times - it can also happen that you come third.

"Of course, as a brand used to success, you have to endure keeping your own expectations realistic and calibrating that you can't win every year. That's not easy. I have to start with myself: How can I endure that?"

Worryingly, at a time there are fears over whether Honda will remain in the sport, Wolff admits that should Mercedes decide to leave F1 it would almost certainly mean as an engine supplier also, a move that would come as a major blow to Racing Point, Williams and (from 2021) McLaren, not to mention F1 bosses.

"We have four teams that we supply, including ourselves," he says. "You can be only pregnant or not pregnant, not half pregnant. So either we participate in the platform or we do not."

Asked if the team leaving the sport would necessarily mean the engine division following suit, he said: "I don't think anyone would decide that. But if that were to happen, it would be a consequence."

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1. Posted by alvarezh3, 15/11/2019 10:42

"@Spindoctor:

I am all with you on your last paragraph, but it doesn't seem as is going that way, at least as MB is concerned.

It has just been recently reported that Daimler's CEO Ola Kallenius's speech at the conglomerate's recent investors meeting in London, that the company was pleased with it's fruition in F1. This do to the fact that they had won the constructors title six times in a row and that this accomplishment had more than paid off in publicity, etc. Also that by this achievement, their investment in the sport had been dully justified (not his exact words).

It looks like -for the time being- MB might not be too keen on leaving F1 as Wolf likes to convey by declaring that their staying in the sport is not a "given".

Was his declaration to mean that they will stay as long as they are wining the championship? As he didn't clearly defined what he meant, neither what ultimate result he was seeking by making such declaration, nor what criterium/circumstances must be met in order for the team to stay, it allowed for the free interpretation of his words and/or intentions to the listener/reader.

If you go by Mr Kallenius's words -at this moment in time-, it seems that their staying in the sport more of a "given" that Mr. Wolf's "not"."

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2. Posted by Spindoctor, 14/11/2019 16:41

"@alvarezh3 is probably correct in assuming that Mercedes leaving F1 will in itself have little effect on F1 as a a whole, but I don't actually think that's the point.

Wolff was merely stating the obvious. 'Sporting' considerations aside F1, as currently operated by Liberty, is hardly a compelling attraction for Manufacturers
F1 is no-longer as attractive as it was 10 years ago. F1 is eye-wateringly costly (if you want to win). MB has dominated F1 for years. Formula E is an attractive proposition - being both 'futuristic' , hi-tech and run in cities, something which is apparently desirable.

I'd guess that Renault & maybe Honda (though honour may require a few more wins 1st) are thinking similar thoughts. This might be a positive for F1 - leaving only the smaller teams (& Ferrari) competing on a cheaper & more equitable basis. That assumes they can find someone to supply motors...."

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3. Posted by alvarezh3, 13/11/2019 16:18

"MB was out of F1 for more than half a century, meanwhile the sport grew into the hundreds of millions of viewers. Since it's comeback the sport's audience has diminished.

I should think their staying or leaving would have no noticeable impact on the future of the sport even if they stop producing their engines, just like history has confirmed, others will fill their vacuum.

Between 1967 and the advent of turbo engines the Ford Cosworth DFV was the "jewel" of F1, it was used by 13 teams. It came and then it disappeared, F1 audience continued growing as if (the engine) never existed.

The biggest four auto manufacturers at this moment are Toyota (who was just 8 years in F1), VW, Hyundai and GM, the last three have never been in F1 yet the sport has survived proving it does not need them. Daimler is ranked thirteenth just ahead of BMW who has come and gone a few times since 1950 mostly as an engine provider. As a full factory team it lasted four years (2006-2009), what damage did their leaving inflict?

MB has just left DTM, has it disappeared?

Mr. Toto inducing fear in order to pressure FOM to get his wishes fulfilled, this akin to Ferrari's threat to Ecclestone a few years back that got them their veto power and special 100 mil bonus.

Are we to believe that Mr. Toto thinks it to be wise to leave F1 and see his 30% stake on the team become practically worthless like Toyota, Honda and BMW did? Doubtful. What about his retainer as MB's Sporting Director and F1 team's Principal reported to be a cool US$ 6 mil, wouldn't he be risking this amount to be decreased as there is much less work to do?

I don't wish that any team leave the sport, but a team should realize that even if they could be fulfilling a necessity, maybe they may not be as indispensable as they would like to think."

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4. Posted by imejl99, 13/11/2019 14:40

"Haas, Renault (&engine?), Mercedes (&engine?), fears over Honda dominoes to Red Bull & Toro?
Leaving Ferrari to race against itself
Collusion to force Prancing Horse make Concorde concessions ?

Curiouser and curiouser..."

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5. Posted by Chester, 13/11/2019 12:41

"Mercedes leaving F1 would be good for all other teams."

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