The term “commercial sense” also strikes me.
To me, it hints that its more than money/cost. Its that Mercedes don’t see them as big enough “commercial stars” to invest in.
They don’t carry the same levels of hype or branding than the likes of Hamilton. Or, for a younger example, Max Verstappen. Or, for a future example, possibly Mick Schumacher. Funnily enough, two drivers Mercedes have expressed interest in.
Lewis won’t drive for Mercedes forever, so they know they’ll need someone to fill those shoes once he’s gone.
They don’t just want someone who’s fast; but someone who brings eyes to the product. And maybe they don’t see that in Ocon or Russell.
So if they’re not to be Mercedes’ Number 1 “Star”, why invest so much into them? Especially as they could easily nab a top driver from another team. After all, they’re Mercedes.
It also increases my doubts regarding Mercedes team’s future involvement in F1.
They seem pretty blasé regarding F1’s problems. Not interested in lowering costs to help smaller teams and F1’s sustainability, but want to do the opposite by increasing the size of teams and the costs involved.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Mercedes dropped F1 if they feel the new regulations don’t suit them, or if Liberty planned to implement something that Mercedes don’t like. Almost like Mercedes are willing leave F1 once it stops being about them.
As far as marketing goes, the project has worked. Mercedes have reestablished their reputation (after their 2000s dip), with F1 dominance as a marketing symbol of their prominence. So a F1 team (going forwards) could be surplus to requirements.
After all, if there were budget limits or regulations that allowed competition to become closer with smaller teams, the mighty Mercedes would start to look normal.
I think you’re a bit harsh saying half the grid are pay drivers (I’d consider three drivers, of the current grid, to be money-over-merit). But I get your point on drivers requiring significant financial backing to get drives in F1 and promising talents missing out.
And I still don’t think we’ll hear any potential teams plan to enter F1 until after we know Liberty’s future plans (regarding the layout of F1) in full. Too many unknowns right now.