Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes allowing Formula 1 teams to run a third car for young drivers would help solve the dilemma of promoting new talent into the sport.

A raft of changes during an unpredictable driver market has left Mercedes frustrated about the lack of opportunities it has available for its young drivers, with Estaban Ocon’s future “really complicated”, while protégé George Russell’s options of moving up to F1 appear to be limited should he win the Formula 2 Championship he currently leads.

In a bid to combat the problem, Wolff suggests teams should be permitted to run a third car that would allow young drivers to be promoted onto the F1 grid.

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“I have a simple solution,” Wolff said. “Give us a third car and make it mandatory to put a young driver in there, with a maximum two years in that car.

“The costs wouldn’t be huge, the grid would be packed and we would have fantastic shows of new kids on the block coming up and fighting hard with the Valtteris and Lewises of this world and maybe surprising us.”

Wolff insists that while big teams are keen to promote their young talent, the risk of compromising their championship aspirations is preventing such bold moves.

“The big teams are not going to take risks with young drivers,” he explained. “Now, you can say ‘well, that’s boring’. I think it’s boring. We should take risks, we should put 18-year or 19-year-old great talents in a top car and give them a chance.

“But the problem is if you lose a drivers’ championship or a constructors’ championship because they have a learning curve then it’s obviously not great. And we haven’t done it and Ferrari haven’t done it in the past so we need to question that.”

But Wolff said running a junior team – similar to Red Bull’s tie-up with Toro Rosso – is not an option for Mercedes.

“This has come to a point now where we need to decide what we want to do in the future,” he added. “Funding a junior team is not an option because putting 80 to 100 million dollars every year in a junior team just to keep your young drivers in place is not what I would want to do.”

And Wolff fears the current climate of the driver market could prompt Mercedes to reconsider its young driver programme altogether.

“I still, being a racer at heart, feel that the best talent needs to be supported and developed and I hope that we find a solution for these guys If we can’t find a solution for these guys I would question the junior programme in the future,” he said.

“And then we go back to a pay driver model. Because today Red Bull who have invented the programme and have been successful in the past have been the main ones at the moment pushing forward but then Ferrari has a junior programme and we have a junior programme and Renault have a junior programme.

“But if you can’t find a place for them in Formula 1 it doesn’t make a lot of sense. And that would be a shame in terms of the driver level in F1. I will discuss that with the board and with the management at the end of the year depending what the outcome is for Pascal [Wehrlein, George and Esteban.”

 

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