Mercedes is keen to forge a collaboration with Force India in Formula One that it hopes will offer similar benefits to Ferrari’s relationships with Haas and Sauber.
After falling into administration at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Force India came under new ownership over the summer break. The change in ownership created fresh concerns among some of Mercedes’ rivals that the world champion team might consolidate its power in the sport by turning the relaunched Force India outfit into a B-team.
Aside from the technical and cost saving advantages, there are also concerns that the collaborations between teams create blocks of power in F1’s system of governance. McLaren and Renault are particularly sensitive about Mercedes and Force India joining forces, and Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul said he had raised the issue with F1’s owners.
“It is true that we have sought reassurance from the commercial rights holder that in future it will not be a requirement to be part of a group of teams in order to be able to fight for championships or to fight for wins,” Abiteboul said. “That’s definitely our ambition, to be in that position, but we don’t have right now the capacity or the strategy to form any particular alliance such that we would have a junior team or a partner team.
“We have a partnership with McLaren on the engine side, which could be expanded with more technology, but that’s not really something that we want should be imposed on us as a model in order to be successful.”
But Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Ferrari’s model with Haas, in which the teams share as many of the Italian team’s components as possible, and a new engine and sponsorship deal with Sauber had sparked the idea of Mercedes doing the same. Red Bull has also had a B team in the form of Toro Rosso since 2006 and Wolff said collaborating with Force India, which it already supplies engines and gearboxes to, holds a certain logic.
“Obviously a few years ago when Ferrari spotted the potential in collaborating with another team it triggered a thought process for everyone else,” he said. “You can see that and only Ferrari will know how much that has generated but there is benefit in such a cooperation if it is structured well.
“No team wants to be a B team, no team wants to be a junior team, everybody will want their own success and this is something you have to honour and respect in Formula One. But if you can meet on an eye level then a collaboration can make sense. But making it happen is not trivial.
“All of us are structured, all of us have processes in place that make sense and evaluating potential opportunities is something that we will clearly do. Force India is eight miles down the road from us and they are a team that has punched above their weight class and the result in qualifying confirms my respect for them in terms of racing and within the permissible regulations we will explore all avenues.”
Asked if he understood the concerns of Renault and McLaren, Wolff added: “I absolutely understand that. It’s interesting that the administration of Force India triggered these strong sentiments. That collaboration existed before between Ferrari and Haas and then Sauber joined the close party, and then on the other side Red Bull and Toro Rosso have existed forever.
“But I completely understand the worries of McLaren and Renault on the other side, and I think it’s just a matter of having the right regulations in place to facilitate collaboration where it saves cost and where you can find synergies but maintaining the spirit of the Formula One regulations that this is a constructors’ championship and will stay one.”