Mercedes is poised to discuss its withdrawal from Formula 1 as a works team at the end of this season, potentially triggering a series of moves that could lead to the team being rebranded Aston Martin and Lewis Hamilton joining Ferrari, according to multiple sources.
Autocar understands from a joint investigation with Racefans that the decision on whether to leave F1 as a constructor will be discussed at the next board meeting of Mercedes parent firm Daimler. A spokesman declined to confirm the date of the meeting, but it's believed to be 12 February.
While no conclusions have yet been rubber-stamped, high-placed sources suggest that the decision to leave the sport is under serious consideration. This comes as Mercedes fights to stem disappointing financial results, redirect research and development investment to road car technologies and alleviate pressure to reduce its carbon footprint.
The German firm is under pressure to make a decision in order to stem spending on 2021’s F1 campaign and give time for new owners to take control of the outfit. It's also under imminent pressure to sign up to a new contract with F1’s rights holders that would require it to give at least nine months’ notice to leave F1; under the terms of its current agreements, it can leave at the end of 2020.
Mercedes has won every drivers’ and constructors’ championship in F1 since 2014. With a significant rules overhaul due in 2021, it faces a significant hike in costs in order to maintain its competitive advantages.
Contacted by Racefans, a Mercedes-AMG F1 Team spokesman said they could not comment without further detail.
Mercedes is expected to continue in F1 as an engine supplier, however; it already has contracts in place with McLaren and Racing Point and potential deals to supply the new owners of the Mercedes team and current customer Williams.
This would allow the company to continue having a high-level presence in the sport through what is believed to be a profit-making channel. Mercedes’ F1 engine division is based in Brixworth in the UK and has also contributed expertise to the firm’s road car projects in the past.
Mercedes has publically set itself the goal of saving 1.4 billion euros (£1.2bn) by the end of 2022 and announced a series of job and investment cuts at the end of last year toward this objective. Although prize money and sponsorship was said to have covered the vast bulk of the F1 team’s expenditure, Daimler’s board is said to be concerned that competing in such an overtly extravagant sport at a time of redundancies and the increasing importance of environmental messaging is inappropriate.