Find myself in agreement with Mercedes-Benz, but less so with Ferrari regarding future possible developments in F1.
Mercedes are being understandably cagey about the possibility of their taking an equity stake in the current championship leaders, Brawn GP, but if they do it would make perfect sense for them.
It would be great for the sport, of course, possibly blazing a trail which might see four Merc-powered teams – McLaren, Brawn, Force India and Red Bull – on the grid next season, which, should it happen, would represent a significant vote of confidence for the world championship at a time when Honda and BMW turned their back on the sport.
Daimler AG, the Mercedes parent company, owns a 40 per cent share in the McLaren group with 30 per cent controlled by the Bahraini Mumtalakat holding company and 15 per cent each by TAG’s Mansour Ojjeh and the Formula One team’s former team principal Ron Dennis.
“Mercedes-Benz’s engine supply contract (with us) is a very long standing one,” said a McLaren spokesperson yesterday. “In its 15th year, in fact, and it will continue to run for many years to come.”
He added: “However, we are supportive of our partners’ plans regarding engine supply of other teams in formula one, and we were delighted earlier this year that a Mercedes-Benz engine supply deal was able to be done with Brawn, thereby saving that team from likely extinction.”
In fact Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren team principal, operating in his role as a member of the newly established Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA), very much took the initiative in facilitating the Mercedes engine contract with Brawn in the interests of maintaining a healthy number of competing teams on the grand prix starting grid.
However, while the thought of four Mercedes-engined teams on the grid is positive for F1’s continued health, I agree firmly with Frank Williams, who is less convinced about the merits of the top teams fielding a third car, an initiative currently being supported by Ferrari as a means of encouraging Michael Schumacher to guest from time to time in a third car.
“If you have two or three elite teams with great resources and almost unbeatable cars, they will occupy the first 4 and a half rows on the grid,” said Frank. “If you are team number five in the pecking order you have no chance of getting near the front of a grid. It’s not healthy.”
Absolutely correct, Frank. Absolutely correct.