Mercedes F1 team is set to be brought out by British petrochemical giant INEOS, according to outspoken ex-team owner Eddie Jordan.
Jordan has fuelled the hearsay that INEOS is set to take over the team with a £700 million ($1.3 billion NZD) buyout scheme.
The brand was unveiled as sponsors of Mercedes at the start of this season, with their name embossed on the cars in burgundy in a deal believed to be in the region of over £100 million ($191 million NZD).
INEOS are already the naming sponsor for several large UK sporting teams in yachting and cycling, and now Jordan has claimed in an interview with the Mail on Sunday that the company’s CEO and the UK’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe has a takeover of the defending Formula 1 world champions as his next priority.
“The ownership of the team is going to be taken over by Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS,” Jordan claimed.
“The INEOS name is already on the side of the car anyway and they have this technological partnership, so this is a nice way out for Mercedes.
“The team will be called INEOS but it will still be run from the factory in Brackley and Mercedes will retain a 30 per cent share in it.
“It will not be known as Mercedes anymore and Toto Wolff, the team principal, will no longer be in charge.”
Mercedes have yet to stabilise their immediate plans for their future in F1 with the German manufacturer holding a 60 per cent stake in the team and the rumour mill suggesting its parent company Daimler are considering pulling out of the sport, feeling like it has nothing left to achieve.
But Team Principal Toto Wolff commented on the interview at the recent Tuscan Grand Prix and firmly denied any allegations that INEOS would buy out the Mercedes F1 team, reiterating Daimler’s and Mercedes’ commitment to the future of the sport.
“People pick up bits and pieces and construct a story around it,” said Wolff.
“(Mercedes parent) Daimler has no intent in giving up the team and Ineos has no interest in buying a majority of the team and calling it like this and I have no reason to depart from my shareholding. So, plenty of things that are made up.
“The future of the team is absolutely clear. It’s the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team and nothing is going to change that.”
Even if it doesn’t buy out the team, INEOS can still strengthen their involvement in the operations of Mercedes with the purchasing of the 10 per cent stake currently owned by the family of the late Niki Lauda. This could pave a way for a buy out later down the track should Mercedes decide to pull itself away from F1.
Mercedes currently holds a mammoth 152-point lead in the constructors’ championship and has one hand on a seventh successive crown.
The next round of the world championship will be the Russian Grand Prix held over September 25-27.