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Space to be the final frontier for Mercedes?

NEWS STORY
29/06/2020

With seven consecutive drivers' and constructors' titles under their belt, one would think that Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff might allow his team a little respite.

Instead, at a time most of those around him are looking ahead to a season which could witness yet another brace of titles, the Austrian is looking a little further afield.

While rivals are struggling financially, having to take full advantage of the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme as well as looking to sell off the family silver, the Brackley-based outfit is flourishing, meaning that not one of its 968 staff was put on the scheme.

However, at a time McLaren reveals that it will have to lay-off 70 staff next year, as part of a drive to reduce its Group workforce by as many as 1,200, so too Mercedes will have to reduce its headcount, courtesy of the budget cap.

However, in a bid to ensure that as few personnel are laid off as possible, the German team is looking at alternative projects... and seemingly nothing is off the table.

"Space is a very early-stage discussion," he tells This is Money. "We are not going to build a rocket," he adds, "but we might provide services to somebody who wants to build a rocket."

Though he is not prepared to give much away, at a time Elon Musk's SpaceX is in the headlines - the first time NASA astronauts to go into orbit using a commercially built and operated spacecraft - and the likes of (Amazon founder) Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic are vying to send people into space, including, hopefully, paying customers, Wolff sees this as a significant opportunity and admits that a space travel operator has already expressed an interest in partnering with his team to apply its F1 know-how to such a programme.

"We see ourselves as a high performance engineering boutique," he says. "What we do is enhance performance on land, sea, air... and possibly space.

"The cost cap means there will be redundancies," he admits, "but we are giving it our utmost efforts to find interesting opportunities for the people we won't be able to accommodate."

Back on terra firma, the Austrian is fully confident moving forward, though he is unsure that the 2020 race schedule will witness anything like the sort of numbers F1 is looking for.

"I think we are going to get to 15 races," he says, revealing that as long as there are at least 12, parent company Daimler will not need to inject any further cash.

"Discussions that we are having with potential sponsors are at a high," he says, confirming that not a single sponsor has pulled out since the pandemic brought the season to a screeching halt.

That said, despite the negativity surrounding the car manufacturing industry and the pandemic, Wolff can see some positives.

"What we are seeing in the auto industry with Covid-19 is that the youth who normally say, 'I don't need my own car, I can rent one or I will take public transport' are now saying, 'I don't want to go on any public transport and I don't want to take a plane to fly somewhere'.

"It is almost like being back in the 1970s where owning a car meant freedom," he adds. "And there is a pretty big chance that these potential clients are looking for a Mercedes because it is winning in Formula 1."

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1. Posted by trackrecords, 29/06/2020 23:21

"Germans and rockets... if only the team had a national historic skills-base on the subject that they could fall back on..."

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