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Mercedes keen to establish what it means to Formula 1
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 May 2012   |  10:33 am GMT  |  84 comments

What is Mercedes’ place in Formula 1? Is it one of the great names of the sport, given that its cars were winning Grands Prix in the 1920s and 30s, before F1 was even invented? Or is is another flighty car manufacturer which comes and goes as it pleases and as the markets dictate and which was absent from the sport from 1955 to 1993?

This question is at the forefront of people’s minds at the moment as the German manufacturer is at odds with commercial rights holders CVC and Bernie Ecclestone over its place in the sport and what rights and benefits should follow.

Mercedes believes that it deserves better than it is being offered by the commercial rights holder, claiming its history in the sport is significant and its role as a supplier of engines to three teams is fundamental to the running of F1. There is also the question of the history of the Brackley based team that it took over, which was originally Tyrrell, bought by British American Racing, which became Honda, then Brawn then Mercedes. Somewhere in all of that there has to be a bit more added value, surely?

F1 is heading for a partial flotation in the Autumn on the Singapore Stock Exchange and that is why teams are being signed up for 8 years and the issue is focussing minds.

F1 always likes to head for deadlines. Former FIA president Max Mosley used to like impose sudden, short deadlines as a way of getting things done. This one around the flotation is important because its about taking F1 as a business public, selling shares to institutions and private investors. It needs its ducks in a line. I has to look its best when it comes to market and that’s why there have been some tidy back room deals done lately with Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren, tying them into the sport for the long term with all manner of financial ‘sweeteners’ and even a seat for each of them on the F1 board. Meanwhile the midfield teams have resigned themselves to reality and accepted whatever was the best offer they could get.

Mercedes is isolated. Its not willing to accept the terms on offer because they do not reflect the team’s position among the elite with Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren. So what to do about it?

One option is to quit the sport, or at least threaten to, in order to put pressure on the other side. Mercedes could survive without F1. It would be tough because it’s been such an important part of its marketing plan for 20 years, but life – and business – goes on.

F1 would lose some prestige without Mercedes, undoubtedly. But they’ve only been present as a team since 2010, so how do you quantify it? It would miss its engine supply, that’s for sure. It would leave only Ferrari, Cosworth and Renault as engine suppliers. In 2014 everything changes with a new engine formula and it’s not yet clear what Cosworth’s part in that will be. They are supplying HRT and Marussia, who as I understood it recently, haven’t yet got a Concorde Agreement deal on the table for the future.

There is PURE, of course, a mysterious engine programme which involves Craig Pollock and Gilles Simon and who knows, perhaps that programme was inspired by the powers in F1 knowing that they may lose Mercedes before 2014?

Mercedes has denied the stories which emanated over the weekend from The Times about the team being ready to quit F1. Motorsport boss Norbert Haug has said that the story is untrue.

My veteran French colleague Jean Louis Moncet, who has sometimes been ahead of the curve on Mercedes news in the last few years, has written in his Blog in the last few days that, “The Mercedes board will vote on whether to stop the F1 programme at the end of 2012, and consequently (Mercedes) will not sign the agreements offered by Bernie Ecclestone.”

But there are many doubts about whether this is actually the case. This looks like a story that did not originate with either Mercedes or Ecclestone, but has been carried by the “Internet echo” where stories are picked up and gain momentum. There are some heavy duty negotiations going on behind the scenes, but it doesn’t feel to me like Mercedes are on their way out of this sport any time soon. Also they announced today a new sponsorship agreement with deluxe watch maker IWC Schaffhausen, starting in January 2013.

If Mercedes were to leave it would leave no major manufacturers participating in F1; FIAT is present via Ferrari, but it’s to promote Ferrari not FIAT, while Renault is there only to make money as an engine supplier. Toyota, Honda, BMW are all gone. There remain lots of small volume car makers like Lotus, Caterham and Marussia. None of the troublesome OEMs which made life so difficult for Ecclestone and the FIA in the last ten years.

No doubt there will be plenty of discussion about this in Barcelona this weekend.

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Merc get out now – save a wad of cash stick to DTM & go prototype racing against Audi & Pug.


I think Bernie and CVC best not test Mercedes Benz too far & undo the good work in signing them in 2010. I thought Mercedes are said to be in for the long haul, that could change real quickly if their brand is diminished through the concorde agreement..

Anyone that places Red Bull ahead of them would be doing just that.

I agree that as brand Red Bull Racing despite their success do not have the pedigree Mercedes do .

But Im sure its about current investment in F1 thats prevailing here & this where I think F1 is failing ATM, F1 is slightly faultering as a brand as it is putting politics and dollars ahead of the Sport !.


Just read that Ross Brawn is not attending this weekend, due to illness, is this because there are issues with him and Bernie? Seems like a convenient time to be ill, with all the share issues going on.


As if it wasn’t already too much about money. Once it hits the share market alot more bad decisions are going to be made regarding the sport.

When F1 first started over sixty years ago, it was about enthusiasts building and racing cars for the love of it alone. For example, Enzo Ferrari only sold sports cars to sustain his racing endevours. The only financial income that was required, was enough to keep racing; pay for the car, the team wages, drivers and travel/logistics expenses. Race to race and season to season.

If only the SPORT of F1 was run in this non-profit manner, it would be so much cheaper for fans to attend races, view on TV, and we wouldn’t be losing the classic circuits for these new ‘glamorous’ street tracks.

But, it is a greedy world full of a few greedy individuals who run the show.


Whatever the history or future of Mercedes F1, I am looking forward to visiting their factory on Friday!


What has brought that about?

James Clayton

This situation, regardless of what Mercedes end up doing, will slowly and surely tear the sport apart from within.

A sport with some, but not all, teams present on the board of directors. Different teams having different amount of shares and dividends which they are locked into for 8 years; regardless of how successful they go on to become?

If Lotus or Williams (or HRT, whatever) win the next 3 constructors and/or drivers championships, they’re going to start feeling a little irked that they are still considered a second rate team in the eyes of ‘the company’.

And can you EVER see *any* other manufacturer wanting to get themselves involved in F1, knowing that they will always be treated as second-class?

This will be a long, slow demise: Teams feeling bitter towards each other, no chance of new manufactures entering, no real reward for future success.

It’s going to be ugly. I wonder just how many years into this deal the cracks will start to appear?


Was thinking of the same. Whole idea of floating is somewhat flawed for F1 as a sport while it will be only in interest of F1 Commercial Right Owners (CVC, Bernie and co.)

F1 can live without Mercedes and same goes Mercedes. Somewhere down the line, I feel F1 is strong enough too even lose Ferrari some other day. 😛


Why do all the “backroom” deals??? They do nothing but cause trouble, as we’re witnessing!!!


I fail to see how come Renault and Mercedes aren’t considered much more elite then Red Bull? Red Bull is for not just a moment. Renault probably has over 15 championships either as an engine supplier or a team, while Mercedes has 5 championships as an engine supplier, plus countless wins, plus supplying third of a field with engines, plus it’s past successes.

I’d always see a manufacturer like Mercedes as a far more elite then some fizzy drinks company. No matter the fact that they had few last good years.


If its about history and heritage in the sport then why are Red Bull included? They only came about in 2005. The are after all only a fizzy drinks company and a glorified sponsor, world champions or not.

Surely Willams deserve a seat if its about what a team has done for the sport?!?

Ferrari and Mclaren are two of the biggest and most successful, but why should they get more money and influence than any other team?

The rules have changed this year to level the playing field when the teams are on track, but away from the race weekends the odds are stacked against the smaller teams. How can it ever be viewed as a fair sport unless everyone is given a fair chance and a fair share of the winnings?

I am a huge F1 fan and have been for many years but even I am getting a bit tired of the politics. Bernie is playing too many games to line his already well lined pockets even more. How about the powers that be all take a step back and do what is best for F1 and F1 fans for once?!?


merc bought a top team, and a top driver, and the results have been poor.

RBR bought a poor team, vettel was a near rookie and webber was brought in to dev…and with an unknown horner, and now they have 2 WDC and WCC and some runner ups.

I think Brawn is a good salesmen. Convinced merc that the team would power on into the future, just so he could pocket a tonne of $$, when infact it was a skeleton team surviving on previous big dev and investment by Honda, Dome and super aguri.. Thats why team brawn faded off at the end of the season..

i personally don’t like RBR, because they pretend, or used to pretend, as though they were laid back and fun, but infact they are as cold as ferrari (treatment of webber etc).

bring back super aguri.


Well when your best mate MadMax sells you F1, that was not his to sell in the first place, for just a handful of dollars, you get to set the rules of the game, even though teams are those who deserve much more say in the thing, and surely the most money, since they are the only ones really putting any money in it, not just milking it like current owners.

James, one very serious question:

Can some judicial body or something similar, take F1 away from Bernie since there was obviously a conflict of interest when Max sold the F1 and did seeming irreparable damage to the sport itself by giving it to some third party to abuse the power in order to get financial gains.


The legal agreement is totally binding. It’s the first thing Jean Todt checked when he became FIA president


Me thinks Bernie’s move on not making Merc on the same league as Ferrari / RBR / McLaren is shooting the message to manufacturers: don’t just come and go, if you come, stay.



Amazing the name Williams hasn’t been mentioned in this conversation yet. Will they receive a benefit for their long, successful lineage, or will having BMW in their name a few years ago exclude them?

With regards to Mercedes, I think the things that make up “Mercedes” are special and the sport would suffer from their loss (Brawn, Ilmor, etc.) but the Mercedes name is skin deep and not important. Isn’t Mercedes just trying to attract younger buyers and F1 is seen as a way to appeal to these viewers. Except they have 43 year old driver


I would not blame Mercedes for chucking in F1. The way f1 is going I Can see most of the teams losing interest. Hopefully they will stay in for a few more years and Lh can drive for them. Tyres and politics are ruining the sport I have watched for years. The only reason Rb are in is because of Bernie and his involvement/love of the team. I would not be surprised if it is more than that. F1should be about driving the fastest cars flat out for 2hours. That is why some drivers are loved by the fans and others manage their tyres for 2 hours.


It is just business. Mercedes are negotiating their Concorde terms and it just got a bit distorted via the media. They will come to some kind of agreement with CVC/BE as did the other teams and this will be forgotten.

Stephen Hughes

I guess one problem here is that if you let one in, where do you stop. I’m actually fairly surprised Williams aren’t being included here – I know their last decade hasn’t been so good but they had a fair bit of long-term success.

If Merc get in then Williams would surely ask for the same, Sauber have also been around for a fair while when you think about it so they could put in a ‘claim’ as well….

I think the problem really is the fact they have included Red Bull which makes it so much harder then to omit many of the other teams. I’m sure Mercedes has put far more in to the sport over the last 20 years than Red Bull and while they may not have the same level of success as a team, overall their pedigree is surely higher.

Tornillo Amarillo

We need Mercedes in F1 as a team, engine supplier and to give room to Schumacher and eventually maybe Hamilton, Di Resta, Hulkenberg or the likes in the future.

We need Mercedes also because they were with Juan Manuel Fangio and other legends in the sport.

Both parties should negotiate a seat for Mercedes in the new F1 board with rihgt to TALK but not to VOTE, for some years and if they remain in the sport then negotiate more :))

It’s not big deal :)), but they are past, present and future in F1.


There’s no way Mercedes will be left out at the end of the day i think through history and in recent years in particular through engine supply.

They defo deserve top rating and will only as a whole bring more and more to F1 in the coming years if treated fairly, probably more than any of the other teams so if bernie p****s off Mercedes as such.

I feel the whole F1 circus has more to lose than the now kicking and screaming again Mercedes corperation (but god there cars were bad for 10-15yrs) carefull thought required Bernie.


James, can you remind us what was Mercedes plans/intentions regarding the new breed of engines from 2014? Have they demonstrated heavy investment in developing one, or, would this be a good time for them to Get Out before having to?!


Yes. I went to Merc engine factory in Brixworth at Christmas and they definitely have a big investment in it. They’re also doing the SLS E Cell electric supercar


So it’d actually be better for F1 if it included Merc on the board, since they can transfer electric power knowledge to F1.

Bernie and F1’s game to lose then.


Electric is the future its got to come sooner or late so why not sooner rather than get lagging behind by other formula’s in the future? and no personally i am not a fan of electric as such BUT it will certainly be faster and more reliable over time 🙂


I don’t see the point of discussing whether Mercedes is or is not, one of the Grandees of F1, a point that can only really be based on their participation in the 1950s and the last two years, since the tattered lineage from Tyrell through BAR/Honda/Brawn isn’t worth a damn historically. I doubt if Bernie even looks at it. The real point, surely, is whether they can honestly sign an 8 year Concorde when the main board might decide to leave F1 at any time?

There’s no reason why they shouldn’t continue to supply their engines; after all, Renault supply engines without being an F1 team. Perhaps there’s a profit in it, there’s certainly good publicity to be had – and without paying for it.


Will it rain in Spain? The temperatures are rising in Catalonia and may well result in a downpour on Sunday during the GP. It could be a very wet race! Check the forecast for the Catalunya Circuit:


I think losing Mercedes will hit F1 hard.

What do you say to non-f1 fans?– that Ferrari won over cosworth or pure??

We will make a fool of ourselves when talking to new people about F1. It doesn’t sound great, does it?

Bernie, can argue that the numbers are only going up even though BMW, Toyota, Honda are gone… But this is Mercedes for god sakes


Hmmm, in answer to your first paragraph, I disagree that Mercedes are one of the great names of the current sport.

Legendary absolutely, but because of the history, not because of their 21st century results.

On that basis, can I include Achille Varzi, Antonio Ascari and Tazio Nuvolari as Italian WDC.

Mercedes have links to the 20’3 and 30’s, as does Audi, via Auto Union and Ferrari also, after all Enzo Ferrari used to run the Alfa Romeo efforts in that era.

When people talk about Ferrari being the longest serving F1 team, they forget their links to the pre-war era also.

Mercedes pulled out after their Le Mans 1955 accident and didn’t race in F1 until they became an engine supplier in 1993.

Even then, Mercedes didn’t design and manufacture the engines, they paid Ilmor to badge the engines Mercedes.

They bought Brawn and re-badged it and haven’t had the success they believe they deserve.

Let’s be completely honest, this current Mercedes outfit has as much right to their “history” as the recent Team Lotus shenanigans.

If Lotus won a race with Fernandez or as Renault/ Lotus, would it count to their 73 wins in their history?

There is no Neubauer, there is no Moss or Fangio racing there. Lotus has no Chapman, or Senna or Mansell, Clark or even Herbert connection.

Honda built their own engines and chassis at different times, Renault also.

Mercedes are as committed to F1 as BMW, Toyota, Honda, Ford, Peugeot…


You could argue Mercedes bring more to F1 currently than any other current brand despite there excellent recent 20yr odd engine supply and clearly on average the best engine at that! Quite a brand to have in a sport and available to the masses generally.


Well, in that case, can we argue that Ford is actually needed back. After all their V8 won over 150 races from 1967.

They paid $100,000 to Cosworth who built them an engine that dominated F1.

Essentially it’s the same thing.

Mercedes engines are designed and built in Brixworth, not Stuttgart


Still the biggest related/desirable even close to realistic brand to the public in F1 right now people don’t dream about a can of redbull they dream about Ferrari’s maybe but 99.99% know they will never be able to realistically afford one

Mercedes is different desirable but realistically affordable whether it be new or 2nd hand for that reason F1 partly works for them and for F1 its a very good related brand to have buzzing about there spectacle.

Mercedes quite simply the best single related companion to compliment F1 just now the likes of RedBull its just a fizzy drink in which i doubt the public will be consuming on near the same scale in as little as a decade that’s going to be the most interesting team to keep tabs on in yrs to come whether it be resale or major sponsor cover.


Hi James,

In case Mercedes does quit F1, what do you think will happen to the team and Ross Brawn? Are there any chance someone else could step in and take over the successful team built by Brawn?



I think Mercedes has a longer and richer history in F1 than does Red Bull. Red Bull may be significant now because they have won championships back-to-back with one of the biggest names on the sports driver roster but their involvement in the sport isn’t as significant as Mercedes. Let us not forget that the other team given a deal like Red Bull is McLaren, a team that’s won championships with the power of Mercedes engines. Furthermore, the people making up Mercedes at the moment include the big names that made Ferrari dominate the sport a decade ago. Mercedes was its team boss’ former team he named after himself, a team that dominated the sport in 2009 like a fairytale story.

Mercedes has all the right to think they are the forgotten and unappreciated ones in F1, at least with respect to this issue.


Is it possible that Mercedes will just quit F1 as a team and go back to just being a engine supplier? I cant see them leaving totally

James Clayton

I doubt they’d do that. There’s more than a small amount of corporate pride at steak here.


Give Mercedes what belongs to Mercedes

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