Mercedes-Benz motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug has confirmed that the company would be happy to continuing supplying three teams in Formula One, and could provide more if allowed to do so by the governing body.
Speaking to the media at the Singapore Grand Prix, Haug insisted that Mercedes' engine building operation was far from stretched by the current arrangement, which sees it supplying both Force India
and Brawn GP
in addition to its official technical partner, McLaren, but acknowledged that it would require the go-ahead from the FIA to maintain or expand its involvement and operate outside the rule that prevents any one company from supplying more than one customer team.
Red Bull Racing has openly courted Mercedes about a possible supply in 2010, although its pursuit is in abeyance while current partner Renault
ponders its future in the sport. However, with Honda having already departed and BMW
leaving -- complete with its engine supply - at the end of the season, the loss of another manufacturer could prompt a rethink of the regulations.
"I think it depends on the final FIA decision to start with," Haug noted, "It is still in the rules, it still says one customer team, but there is an exception already made. I think the final decision will be made sooner rather than later.
"Capacity-wise, due to the new regulations, due to the freeze, we are doing – including core builds, rebuilds – half of the number of engines we did for our own team two years ago. That is certainly going in the right direction. Capacity-wise, it would be possible to supply three customer teams - it is not certain that we are in a position to so, but capacity would not be a problem."
Williams has also been mentioned as a potential Mercedes customer after being given leave to exit its current agreement with Toyota, but technical director Sam Michael admitted that no firm decision had been taken on a powerplant for next season - much to the design team's frustration.
"From a technical point of view, it is always best to know [the identity of an engine supplier] a long time in front, but we are still in the middle of that decision," he revealed, "That is all I can say, as I don't have any more information on that. As soon as I know [which engine will be used], then I will start designing next year's car around it.
"I guess you could say that Brawn proved this year how late you can go, but I am sure they don't want to plan to do that. It just shows what is possible if you have to."
Conversely, the future shape of the BMW
Sauber team appears to know which engine it will be using, having agreed a deal with Ferrari, but is currently waiting on clearance to take up its place on the grid for 2010.
"It is important now to get a solid entry, either number 13 or number 14," team principal Mario Theissen confirmed, referring to the possibility of the F1 entry being expanded again for next season, "We are in the hands of the FIA more or less and we are working on that behind the scenes, but I do not have any confirmation today.
"For the time being, we will work towards next season in the same way as if the entry was there already. We have been talking to Ferrari
and we have got a very positive response, but the first thing that we need is a place on the grid."