Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff has hosed down suggestions that the German manufacturer has sighted an early exit from the sport as the it begins to ride out the economic tidal wave of Covid-19.
The coronavirus pandemic has put an increasing financial strain on many of Formula 1’s major players. McLaren and Renault have publicly announced several job cuts while former powerhouses Williams has seen the shock departure of title sponsor ROKiT, compelling the Grove-based team to enter a sale process in hope of finding a fresh investment.
Subsequently, Mercedes has been thrown under the spotlight with multiple rumours suggesting the German giants were seeking to sell their race team to pitlane rival and billionaire Lawrence Stroll.
Mercedes parent company Daimler has already refuted the claims as ‘irresponsible’, though this only seemed to fuel more rumours that the company is indeed planning to execute an exit strategy from the sport.
“There’s always some kind of campaign and agenda going on,” Wolff told the official website. “It’s clear that every automotive company faces difficult and insecure times.
“Every single day you open up a magazine or newspaper it’s about Volkswagen or Renault or FIAT or Daimler, and in that respect I completely understand that a sporting platform is being questioned.”
Wolff subtly responded to critics who claim Mercedes as being in F1 as purely a marketing tool, rather adding that the sport plays a valuable role in the development and success of its road car operations.
Ultimately, this synergy means there is little reason why Mercedes will look to leave the sport after a relatively short, yet utterly dominant 10-year stint.
“The top management at Mercedes very much sees Formula 1 as a core activity – we build road cars and we build race cars – and actually the first ever car was a race car,” he said.
“And in that respect we don’t see it simply as a marketing platform that generates valuable marketing dollars but we see it as a co-exercise. There is a technology transfer between the road and Formula 1 and it’s not being criticized within Daimler.
“Nevertheless, we discuss all of our activities and all of our investments every single year and I think we’re just a target of somebody that wants to create some headlines and have more clicks.”
Mercedes are the first team to announce its intentions to run a pre-season test in the lead-up to the revised season-opener at the Red Bull Ring, Austria next month.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas come out of contract at the end of the season, with the defending six-time champion affirming his intentions earlier in the year to re-sign with the Woking outfit beyond 2021.
Bottas meanwhile has been linked to the available seat at Renault, potentially opening a drive for recent free agent Sebastian Vettel to slot into.