Earlier today, TJ13 published an article highlighting the paddock rumour circulating during the Russian GP after the announcement that McLaren will return to Mercedes power in 2021 – the rumour being that Mercedes quitting F1.
In the article, we quoted the former Bridgestone man Kees van der Grint’s thoughts on Dutch TV, highlighting some interesting points including McLaren’s sudden investment in a new wind tunnel, under advice from Mercedes themselves MORE ON THAT HERE.
McLaren had worked with Mercedes for 20 years before they decided to make a fresh start with Honda for the 2015 season. McLaren wanted to become a factory team because they thought they had a better chance at the World Championship if they didn’t have to play second fiddle behind a manufacturer as a customer. The irony of the decision to drop Honda to be a customer of Renault, then Red Bull Racing taking up works status with Honda and winning races had not been lost on anyone.
In 2021, however, the McLaren and Mercedes engine alliance will be reunited, but does this indicate that Mercedes will withdraw from Formula 1 at the factory and McLaren will become the new “factory team”?
Not at all, claims Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff saying: “There is a factory team. And that’s an engine customer relationship – not the start of a factory deal and that we won’t be there anymore”.
In the recent past there have been speculations about a withdrawal of the brand from Formula 1. With an expected total of twelve World Championship titles in six years, the Silver Arrows have won everything there is to win and set a new dominance record. In addition, the manufacturer is entering Formula E this year, where a whole new field of development is opening up.
But the new deal with McLaren is not a guarantee that Mercedes will remain in Formula 1 as an independent team: “These two things are not connected,” says Wolff, stressing the long and successful past as an engine manufacturer. “At this point, we can’t say that we may stay as an engine manufacturer, but not as a factory team,” he continues. “We like to be a factory team.”
“According to the current status, we want to understand the direction Formula 1 is taking and how it is developing. We want to continue – and preferably as a factory team,” says Wolff.
The question is why Mercedes has secured another customer with McLaren. Currently they are already equipping two more teams with Racing Point and Williams. Of course, this is a money issue: “More customers means more income for Daimler,” Wolff admits openly.
“The more engines we use, the more we will learn. We recently saw a few defects at Kubica in Spa and at Perez in Monza. That’s part of the learning process,” the Austrian continues.
This would inevitably make them a competitor to the silver arrows. Further, a deal with McLaren had already been rejected once after their end with Honda, just like a deal with Red Bull.
“We almost had our team to the point where they could finally win, and I was against it,” Wolff recalls, while Chairman Niki Lauda had even supported a deal with Red Bull.
But when the opportunity arose with McLaren, Lauda intervened: “He said to me that I had to stick to my point of view and concentrate on the factory team,” Wolff said.
In 2021, however, the situation was different: “We have a new era with a tighter field and better competition. From an engine point of view, we think we can learn more,” he says. “The advantages outweigh the potential disadvantages of competing against a strong challenger like McLaren.
“But of course there is a risk for us: If McLaren does a good job – and that’s what they do – then they’re a yardstick for us. Maybe we have to say that our performance is not good enough – precisely because they have the same power unit. But we are now seven years into the hybrid era and ready for this step”
Some have hinted that the infamous McLaren / Ferrari Spygate was the beginning of the end of the successful McLaren Mercedes partnership, whereby in 2007 the team were fined heavily and stripped of constructors points by the FIA.
“That was a dark time for McLaren and Mercedes. It cost us both a lot of money to fix the actions of individuals,” says Wolff.
“But no one is more resentful in this respect,” he continues. “We are away from it, twelve years have passed. It played no part in the decision.”
Joining dots: Mercedes set to exit F1, McLaren return to works status?
Former Bridgestone F1 guru Kees van der Grint was interviewed on RTL GP Slipstream program recently on Dutch TV, and put forward a persuasive argument pointing toward a Mercedes exit from Formula 1.
Grint has connections to the paddock and speaks to many inside teams and has confirmed the existence of a rumour that has been….. READ MORE