Mercedes F1 exit possible UPDATE #2 (GMM) Norbert Haug has been playing down the speculation in Bahrain, but back in Germany it is clear that Mercedes-Benz's involvement in formula one is very much in doubt.
The CEO of the Stuttgart marque's parent, Daimler AG, has told a German news magazine that the 'lie-gate' affair could have terminal consequences in terms of Mercedes' F1 project.
"If circumstances should change, perhaps because of an unreasonable punishment by the FIA, it is possible that we could consider our engagement," Dieter Zetsche told Focus.
The Focus publication added that the Daimler executive committee will meet to discuss possibly exiting formula one on Monday, two days before the World Motor Sport Council considers fraud charges against team partner McLaren in Paris.
04/23/09 (GMM) As McLaren mechanics put the finishing touches on the Bahrain pit garage, speculation ramped up in Germany about the future of engine partner Mercedes-Benz.
Helmut Lense, on the supervisory board of the Stuttgart marque's parent Daimler, openly admitted to Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper that the formula one engagement is very much in doubt.
Mercedes is suffering amid the auto industry slump and the global recession, leading Lense to muse that the McLaren money might be better spent.
Key to the speculation is that Mercedes-Benz might prefer to remain in F1 merely as an engine supplier.
"Daimler has the goal to be prominent with 'green technology'. Does formula one fit? Would it be the right signal to step out of F1 now and instead concentrate on pollution-free propulsion technologies?" Lense mused.
Mercedes owns 40 per cent of Woking based McLaren.
Worsening McLaren's woes is the looming World Motor Sport Council meeting, where penalties for fraud may result from the 'lie-gate' affair.
A source with one of the team's big sponsors told the Telegraph: "I can say that if a disproportionately large penalty were given to McLaren on April 29 then the sponsor that I am associated with might leave." 04/22/09 (GMM) The future of Mercedes' formula one engagement is constantly under review, Norbert Haug has admitted.
"At least once a year the F1 project is presented to the executive committee and decided for the future," the Stuttgart marque's racing boss said in interview with the SID news agency.
The report said one possibility for Mercedes, this year powering six of the 20 cars on the grid, would be to focus on being a mere engine supplier.
Honda pulled out of the sport at the end of last year, and observers wonder if the economic recession and slump in new car sales will convince another carmaker to follow suit.
"There is no special situation for formula one, nobody can predict in this crisis what the future brings," German Haug admitted.
Haug admits the 'lie-gate' affair, to be probed by the World Motor Sport Council next week, is not good for Mercedes' image. It is clear the marque is therefore not entirely happy about the current shape of the McLaren collaboration.
"We stand with our partner (McLaren) and the current view is that in 2010 we will still be together. But the crucial functions of the team are not engaged by Mercedes," he added.