Mercedes-Benz’s may tell Formula One next month that it plans to leave the sport, according to a report Wednesday from Autocar.
Autocar and Racefans broke the news, and sources told the publications that the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team may be rebranded as an Aston Martin team and its lead driver and six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton could move to Ferrari.
Mercedes-Benz may leave the sport in an effort to counter disappointing financial results, funnel research and development money to its road cars, and to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, according to the report. Late last year, Mercedes announced job and investment cuts as part of a goal to save more than $1.4 billion by the end of 2022.
The decision would have to be made soon to take effect for the 2021 season because Mercedes has to give F1 nine months notice before it may leave the sport.
Mercedes’ decision to leave the sport on top may be a surprise. It’s won the constructor’s championship every year since 2014. However, with rules changes and a new car design set for 2021, the automaker may leave F1 to avoid the costs of developing a new car to comply with those rules.
Despite the possible move, the report says Mercedes would continue to supply power units to other teams. It currently supplies Williams and may re-up that contract, and it also supplies Racing Point with a Mercedes power unit. Aston Martin, if it buys the remnants of the Mercedes team, assuming it finds new investors, could also become a customer. Aston Martin last year sponsored Red Bull’s team, which was powered by Honda powertrains.
Mercedes returned to F1 in 2010 after a 55-year hiatus, buying the team from Ross Brawn, who now oversees the sport. Mercedes’ lineup has included former F1 world champ Michael Schumacher, and Nico Rosberg who won the driver’s championship in 2016. Hamilton has won five driver’s titles at Mercedes since replacing Schumacher in 2013.
Lewis Hamilton after winning the 2019 Formula One World Championship at the United States Grand Prix
The report says Hamilton would replace Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari if he moves.
Mercedes’ decision to leave the sport could have a greater impact in the automotive industry. While one scenario has Mercedes-Petronas team principal Toto Wolff teaming up with Racing Point team owner Lawrence Stroll to take on the new team, another scenario includes Chinese automaker Geely—which owns Volvo, Polestar, and Lotus—investing in both the new team and Aston Martin. Aston Martin has struggled in the face of an uncertain Brexit and investments in four new vehicles, including its first SUV, the DBX. The DBX could be what the brand needs, but an infusion of cash from Geely would also help stem the tide.
This is a developing story and we could know more on Feb. 12.