Toto Wolff admits there is an element of “risk” in Mercedes and McLaren agreeing a new supplier-customer deal for engines, as if the latter continues to improve then they could represent a threat for the Silver Arrows.
The two organisations split six years ago, with McLaren subsequently receiving their engines from Honda and then Renault. However, the partnership is to be revived from next season onwards with the new deal set to run until at least 2025.
McLaren have established themselves as ‘best of the rest’ in 2019 so far, making fourth place in the constructors’ championship their own. Wolff can see them eventually challenging Mercedes if this upturn in development continues - especially after the regulation changes coming in 2021.
"A new era is going to start in 2021 with compressed grids, with more competition, and we believe that from a PU side there is more learning for us in this exercise, with more competitive customers adding to the two [Racing Point and Williams] that we have,” the Mercedes team principal said.
"And we rate McLaren strongly. The steps that Zak [Brown, McLaren F1 CEO] and Andreas [Seidl, McLaren team principal] have initiated certainly look very promising.
"The advantages outweigh the potential deficits of fighting a hard competitor like McLaren in the future."
Wolff claims that Mercedes have taken into account the pros and cons of adding another strong customer to their ranks, and that the advantage of having another power unit present on the grid was one of the deciding factors.
"We learned it was an advantage having more power units out there," he explained.
"There's maybe a process and logistic question, because everybody needs to be supplied at the same time, but there is more upside in it going forward.
"There is a financial upside, so it's a cashflow question which is helpful on the power unit side.
"Overall, many pros. There is one risk in this: that if McLaren does a good job, they will push hard, and maybe benchmark us in a way to say 'that's the same power unit, and you guys are not doing a good enough job'.
"But where we are now, seven years into the hybrid era, we are ready for that step."
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