Toto Wolff says that plans for Mercedes to supply Manor next year are currently on hold until it becomes clear what’s happening at Lotus.
Although Wolff has indicated that Mercedes could in fact supply five teams, the situation would be much easier if Lotus moves to Renault power, and Manor slips into its spot. Lotus claims that its Renault sale will be sorted out next week, which would allow the Manor deal to proceed.
“We like Manor a lot,” said Wolff. “Because there is a competitive edge to the whole story, that if Manor gets the right chassis and the right engine, it would be a pretty interesting narrative, how the team develops. But for us at the moment we are a little bit on standby because we need to understand what happens with Lotus as one of our customers, and move from there. So this is where we are.”
Wolff said there no deadline, but that a decision had to be made soon: “We are not in a position to give Renault a deadline or Lotus a deadline, but you’re right, there needs to be a moment where Manor needs to know what’s happening, and we need to know what’s happening, and to whom we’re supplying engines. And we’re very close to that decision. And if they [Lotus] don’t take that decision, we will decide.”
Wolff admitted that a Mercedes young driver such as Pascal Wehrlein or Esteban Ocon (also linked to Renault) could be part of the Manor deal.
However, he suggested that whatever discount Mercedes gave to get a driver a seat could be trumped by an outsider with a big budget, given that a Manor-Mercedes would be a more competitive package than the current car. A supply of year-old engines could cost as little as $8m next year, if a price cap is agreed.
“That could be an interesting scenario, but the harsh financial reality is that Manor needs to refinance themselves and raise the budgets and I’m not sure that we would prepare to place a driver with budgets they could probably raise in the driver markets if we were to supply engines, because it could be an attractive offer for young drivers.
“It’s a bit of a tricky situation. We haven’t got a dedicated driver programme, we have Pascal, who is with us, whose main focus is DTM, and I don’t want to take him away from that focus. He has done a great job for us and he is a very exciting young driver, but I’d rather like to see how DTM pans out. So yes, that’s a possibility, but it needs many pieces of the jigsaw to come together, and it could well not happen.”
Wolff indicated that should GP3 star Ocon want to take up a Renault offer, even for a reserve role, Mercedes would not stand in his way.