[F1] Is Mercedes' driver program, seemingly, a failure? - Team VVV
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    Its no secret that Ocon is under pressure to find a seat for next year, with his “Racing Point Force India” drive in doubt.
    On top of that, George Russell (who’s currently leading F2) is waiting in the wings, and Mercedes have recently released Pascal Wehrlien (as they will be no longer competing in DTM).

    Toto Wolff has been very vocal over the matter. Accusing teams of “hidden agendas” and saying they “simply don’t have the balls”.
    But if Mercedes believe in their drivers so much, surely they could encourage smaller teams into giving a seat to their drivers with a cheque or two.
    If you deem your drivers to be future world champions then surely it’s worth the investment, right?

    Toto Wolff on why Mercedes is not willing to pay for a seat:
    “The young drivers, beyond the emotional aspect, also needs to make commercial sense.
    We supported Pascal [Wehrlein] for two years, we did it with Esteban for two years, we helped George come to where he is now.
    But at a certain stage, if the business case doesn’t make any sense, then this is not for us.”

    I guess not…

    In a way, it also smacks of arrogance to lower teams. By not willing to offer incentives to lower teams for giving seats to their young drivers, are they expecting lower teams to do it for free? Or to pay the drivers themselves?
    These teams are struggling to survive as they are, without having to babysit drivers out of the goodness of their heart.
    Pay drivers and team affiliations aren’t done for the sake of it.

    This can been seen as part of a larger problem with F1 and the lack of opportunities to drivers.
    Or that Mercedes’ driver program is relatively young compared to the likes of McLaren, Red Bull, and Ferrari.
    But with Mercedes track record of one driver gone, and two (high profile) drivers struggling to be in F1 (never-mind the Mercedes team), why would a young driver sign up when there looks to be teams better able to promote their talents?

    Alan BoistonAlan Boiston
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    Yes it’s a mess and right now a failure when it comes to the top level motorsports. Ocon is clearly very talented as is George, yet Mercedes will do nothing to secure their drives. Money is not the issue here, so it does create an issue that they are now both surplus to requirements. This situation is exacerbated by the obvious limitation on racing seats available, with half the grid being pay drivers. F1 used to be the best drivers in the world (with a couple of gentlemen drivers), now it’s a handful of good drivers and a range of wealthy also-ran’s to fill the numbers.

    No sign of any new teams till the regulations change and so far the 2021 regulations have failed to alter the key stumbling block, that being the prohibitive cost of the power unit. Until then, we hope drives becomes available in other teams.

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    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.

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