SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) - Formula One world champions Mercedes say they will explore closer ties with Force India after that team’s change of ownership, along the lines of Ferrari’s relationship with Haas and Sauber.
Some rivals — notably Renault, McLaren and Williams — have expressed concern that Formula One risks becoming even more of a two-tier championship with manufacturer ‘A’ teams and closely-linked ‘B’ outfits.
U.S.-owned Haas have a close technical agreement with Ferrari while Swiss-based Sauber have a long tradition of using the Italian team’s engines and running drivers contracted to Ferrari.
Red Bull also own two teams, with Toro Rosso the junior outfit, who will both have Honda engines next year.
“Obviously a few years ago when Ferrari spotted the potential in collaborating closely with another team it triggered a thought process with everybody else,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix.
“You can see that, and only Ferrari will know how much benefit that has generated but there is benefit in such a cooperation if it is structured well,” added the Austrian, who also emphasised there were limits.
“No team wants to be a B team, no team wants to be a junior team... everybody will want their own success and this is something you need to honour and to respect in Formula One,” said Wolff.
“If you can meet on an eye level then a collaboration can make sense. But making it happen is not trivial.”
Wolff noted that Force India’s Silverstone factory was just a few miles down the road from Mercedes’ Brackley base and said the champions would “explore all avenues” within the permissible regulations.
Force India already use Mercedes engines, as do former champions Williams whose Canadian driver Lance Stroll looks set to switch to Force India after his billionaire father Lawrence took over at the head of a consortium of associates.
Williams are a family-run independent constructor who have switched engine supplier over the years.
Wolff said he understood the concerns of Renault and McLaren, and it was interesting the Force India situation had triggered such strong sentiments when the Ferrari-Haas position was well-established.
“I think it’s just a matter of the right regulations in place to facilitate collaboration where it saves costs and where you can find synergies,” he said.
“But maintaining the spirit of the Formula One regulations, that this is a constructors’ championship, and should also stay one.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis