Clever move by MB:
Manor will run Mercedes power units for the 2016 Formula 1 season after the German marque decided to help the smaller team to boost the “strength in depth” of the sport, according to the Mercedes boss.
Red Bull can only look on enviously as a supply of up to date Mercedes power units was conferred on the minnow team, that came out of receivership at Christmas to race this season on a shoestring budget.
Christian Horner remarked quizzically at the weekend in Japan that he struggled to understand why Mercedes would choose to supply Manor rather than them. For Mercedes the reasons are twofold – Manor will not challenge the works Mercedes team and nor will they criticise the engine if they don’t win.
But it runs deeper than that; when Mercedes was called up in front of the FIA’s International Tribunal in June 2013, over the three day test session they ran in May that year with Pirelli, it was Red Bull and Ferrari who lodged the protests and Red Bull that attended the hearing and argued that the FIA should throw the book at Mercedes, docking them championship points. This has not been forgotten.
Manor has run Ferrari engines since the V6 turbo regulations were introduced at the start of 2014, but as the car is essentially the 2014 model with 2015 crash structures, it also uses the 2014 spec Ferrari engine which is a pale shadow of the unit the Scuderia has developed for this season.
The Mercedes deal is a huge boost to the Manor team and it paves the way for them to run one of the Mercedes young drivers. DTM championship leader Pascal Wehrlein is the first cab off the rank, but reigning Euro F3 champion Esteban Ocon is also under contract and very highly regarded.
Mercedes’ motorsport boss, Toto Wolff, explained that the manufacturer had decided to supply Manor ‘for the good of Formula 1’,
Wolff said: “Mercedes-Benz has a clear Formula 1 philosophy based around our works Silver Arrows team and supplying benchmark power units to independent customer teams.
“We believe this approach provides Formula 1 with greater strength in depth and ensures a deeper level of competitiveness throughout the field.”
The subtext is clear; don’t punish us for refusing to give a potent rival like Red Bull a lifeline, but look at what we are doing for the sport, helping to make small teams competitive.
The switch from Renault to Mercedes power for Williams moved them from 9th in 2013 to third in 2014, although it did coincide with a new technical team at Grove.
The supply to Manor is the one that has been used up to now by Lotus. That team is being acquired by Renault to become the works Renault team once again.
Mercedes was known to be in negotiations with Manor but progress was halted by the uncertainty surrounding the Lotus team and its takeover.
Wolff said: “In anticipation of Renault’s takeover of the Lotus F1 Team, we are pleased to announce Manor Marussia as a new customer of Mercedes-Benz.
“It is a tenacious team with a fantastic competitive spirit, and we are all excited to see what step forward they can make next year with their new car coupled with the Mercedes-Benz hybrid power unit.”
Manor’s team principal, John Booth, explained that there were a number of things the team needed to consider when choosing its 2016 engine partner.
He said: “Although there were many factors governing our selection of an engine partner to help power us towards our long-term ambitions, ultimately the strength of the Mercedes-Benz package speaks for itself.”
Mercedes is keen to promote its junior driver, Pascal Wehrlein
, who currently leads the DTM championship standings for the marque, to F1, and a race seat for the 20-year-old German may well have been a factor in the deal.
Under the new arrangement, Manor will use Mercedes’ 2016 engine and not a year-old unit as it did with Ferrari this season. The British team will also run the same Petronas fuel as the works Mercedes squad and resume a technical partnership with the Williams team, which will supply Manor with transmission and suspension components.
Booth expressed his desire to see the team make progress up the grid in 2016, as it could not capitalise on scoring its first ever points in 2014 because the team was placed in administration before the season was over.
He said: “Although [this year] we have not been able to make the incremental strides in competitiveness that the team has enjoyed in previous seasons, we have put in place a strong foundation from which to progress.
“Together with the potential we are seeing with our 2016 car in the wind tunnel, the Mercedes-Benz power unit will assist our return to aggressive performance development with effect from next season.”
With Renault expected to complete its purchase of Lotus, the only remaining engine supply deal to be confirmed is which manufacturer will supply Red Bull and Toro Rosso for 2016.
Senior figures at Red Bull have repeatedly said it will pull out of F1 if it cannot get competitive engines for next year and the company is holding a crucial meeting this week
to decide its future in the sport.