Following the successful collaboration model between Ferrari and Haas in F1, Mercedes have put the feelers out about creating a similar model with another midfield F1 team.
Haas, the American team who joined the Formula One grid for the 2016 season, formed a technical partnership with Ferrari, the result of which sees Haas supplied with power units, transmissions, suspension components, hydraulics and electronics. Essentially, all components which are legally allowed to be supplied by Ferrari, have been supplied by Ferrari.
Outsourcing these components gave Haas the opportunity to be competitive straight away; they scored points in three of their first four races and have so far seen a year-on-year pace increase.
The success of this partnership was in stark contrast to the demise of Formula One’s most recent additions to the grid – Manor, Caterham and the Hispania Racing Team – since the start of the decade.
However, rival teams have taken issue with this partnership and have previously called on the FIA to look into the working relationship between Ferrari and Haas.
Despite this, the success of the model is evident, and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff suggested that Mercedes may follow suit, supplying either Williams or Force India, who already use Mercedes power units.
“We have seen that the system between Ferrari and Haas has worked, it has worked for both,” said Wolff. “It’s an interesting revenue filler for Ferrari, and I think in terms of synergies, there is a lot you can work on, and it has functioned for Haas.
“They are a very competitive team without having built on a legacy, or without having built on know-how that would have taken years and years to collect. So far the system is very successful, and of course our thinking goes in that direction – whether it is Williams or Force India to collaborate.
Whether or not either Force India or Williams might choose to expand on their existing partnerships is debatable. Both are proud to be F1 constructors and have fiercely defended the current model against the creep of customer car teams in F1, which is in the interests of the manufacturers, but not the independent constructors.
For wealthy individuals or investors looking to own an F1 franchise without the need to have staff numbers of 400+ and the overheads that come with it, customer car teams would be attractive.
Williams are the third-oldest team in the sport and have always been the designers of their own cars, but it is a team currently in a transitional period.
Paddy Lowe was brought in from Mercedes to lead a change in car design philosophy, which has so far proven tricky to execute. If this year’s car continues to be troublesome, could Williams use this model – instead of persisting with a design that isn’t working – as an interim solution from next year before an overhaul in the regulations for 2021?
Force India meanwhile are a much younger team and would probably consider such a partnership as less of a knock to their heritage. Whilst they have been resistant to the idea, they’ve stopped short of completely ruling it out.
The potential cost-saving would be beneficial to either team. Williams have their Advanced Engineering arm of the business, but also receive backing from their drivers Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin. Meanwhile, Force India receive backing/discounts for using Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.
Despite Mercedes toying with the idea of a more in-depth partnership, Wolff added that whilst they would have capacity for 2019, they are in no rush to sort something out.
“But we are in the middle of a tough fight for this 2018 championship, so we need to prioritise.”
“We can do something for 2019. We have certain capacity.”
“We are not that far,” said Wolff. “The devil is in the detail. It would be a long-term project and not something where you can expect a huge impact for 2019. You need two or three years to ramp up.”
All images: Motorsport Images
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