“We are in this for the long-term” were the words used by Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff to describe the team’s expanded principal partnership with INEOS. 

The new major collaboration for Mercedes, initially announced as a performance partnership in December, was officially revealed as a five-year deal during a press conference at London’s Royal Automobile Club on Monday. 

It comes following months of speculation suggesting that Mercedes - the all-conquering force of F1’s V6 hybrid era - and its parent company Daimler, were considering pulling the plug on its operation at the end of the 2020 season. 

The length of the contract with multinational chemical company INEOS, in a deal understood to be worth £25 million per year - a similar region to its existing title sponsorship with Petronas - serves as the strongest indication yet that Mercedes is here to stay. 

That was certainly the demeanour exuded by team principal Wolff, who was quick to hit back at recent reports claiming Mercedes was on the verge of quitting F1, describing such talk as “nonsense”. 

“F1 has always been a great provider of headlines over the winter break,” Wolff said. 

“And by the sheer lack of racing results and the controversy on track, dropping a bombshell of a headline always sells.

“And in that respect, I'm always surprised that there's just some lunatic out there that writes something on an internet page and it's being picked up - which was a complete nonsense story - which was put straight by the CEO of Daimler the following day.” 

On top of the question mark over Mercedes’ continued stay in F1, there has been mounting speculation surrounding the future’s of star driver Lewis Hamilton and Wolff himself, both of whom are out of contract at the end of the year and have been linked with departures to Ferrari and F1 respectively. 

However, both are expected to remain at the six-time world champion squad and Wolff revealed he will resume negotiations with Hamilton at the start of this season, before switching attention to his own future.

Wolff insisted a Hamilton-Mercedes collaboration was the “obvious pairing going forwards” and spoke of his delight and personal pride of being tasked with spearheading the German manufacturer’s F1 operation as he gave off no sense of an impending exit. 

For INEOS founder Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s third-richest person, an extended stay for Hamilton at Mercedes was not a crucial factor for sealing the deal. 

“I’ve only ever met Lewis and his dog for five minutes so I don’t know him but I am a great admirer,” Ratcliffe said. 

“I think he is one of the greatest drivers to ever stride on the earth. He is an extremely talented man but in terms of the future that decision is down to Toto and not me.”



But there was a sense provided that this deal is in place for the long haul, and not just a flash-in-the-pan agreement. As Ratcliffe points out and knows all too well, all element of sport comes with some risk.

Prior to expanding its connections to the fast-paced world of F1, the petrochemicals magnate’s Team INEOS has won cycling's Tour de France, while it is also involved in sailing through Ben Ainslie’s bid to win the 2020 America’s Cup. 

“All sport is a risk” Ratcliffe explained. “It’s a bit like if you look at our America’s Cup challenge, we are trying very, very hard to get to the start line with a boat that’s competitive, and it’s quite expensive to get there. 

“But even if we get to the start line with a competitive boat with Toto’s help, it’s still a sport. Is Ben going to win or isn’t he going to win if he’s in a boat that’s as quick as the Kiwis. 

“You can’t take risk out of an acquisition. You have to apply some rigour and at the end of the day some common sense.” 

The biggest sticking point that remains is ongoing discussions over the next Concorde Agreement and 2021 regulation overhaul, but Mercedes finds itself in the same position as the other nine teams currently competing in F1. As of yet, no team has signed up to a new agreement. 

Wolff admitted there are still “quite some topics” to be sorted out but said Mercedes’ new partnership is “clearly something that indicates our wish to continue our successful journey in F1.” 

And that journey could result in yet more history coming its way in 2020, with Mercedes on the cusp of setting a new benchmark by winning seven constructors’ titles on the bounce, while Hamilton is one championship away from matching Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven drivers’ world titles. 

Creating further success is the driving force behind Mercedes’ desire to continue to reach even higher standards in F1 with its ever-growing list of achievements. 

“Every year we try to set the right objectives, objectives that are being understood throughout the organisation, and I think it’s so important to wake up with a purpose and I don’t see a lack of motivation or purpose within the organisation,” Wolff explained. 

“The pain of losing is so much more intense and lasts so much longer than the joy of winning, and this is in a way what drives us strongly. The sheer thought of losing makes you forget about all of your previous achievements. 

“Last year’s record doesn’t buy us any credit for the 2020 championship, so all lap times and all points go to zero and we are yet again in front of another challenge. 

“In a way, there was a reason why six was a world record, because it’s bloody difficult, and we want to push that needle further. 

"We have a great group of people that has just found partners that share the same values and who will be pushing us also to be successful.” 

For now at least, all the stars are aligning towards a prolonged Mercedes stay in F1. 

 

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