A curious tale of Wolff, Stroll and the future of Mercedes in F1

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Over the weekend, another speculative story emerged regarding the future of Mercedes' works team in Formula 1.

After winning six straight double championships, rumours have been gathering that the German manufacturer could be about to pull the plug on its operation at Brackley.

Initial whispers suggested talks had begun between Mercedes and Penske owner Roger Penske over a possible takeover, but this was quickly denied by the American motorsport mogul, who himself recently completed the buyout of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But now, German journalist Ralf Bach has reported for F1-insider that current team boss Toto Wolff could be deliberating a takeover with Racing Point owner and businessman Lawrence Stroll.

According to Bach, the two men are regularly seen together in the paddock and Wolff has had to reconsider his future plans after Ferrari allegedly vetoed him replacing Chase Carey as F1 CEO unless he went on three years of gardening leave.

Stroll, meanwhile, is currently in talks to claim a 20 per cent stake in Aston Martin worth around $260m and, should that deal happen, it is claimed he could team up with the Austrian to rebrand the Brackley-based squad.

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All of this comes as Mercedes is having to restructure their motorsport activities, having recently joined Formula E, and could decide they have nothing else to prove as a constructor in F1 but still remain as an engine supplier.

“The fact that Mercedes has not yet signed the new Concorde Agreement for 2021 onwards is strange," Bach commented.

"But why should Mercedes continue to spend so much money when they’ve already won everything? In terms of image, the group is completely satisfied with marketing the hybrid engines."

This year will also see the added cost of developing this year's car alongside the all-new design for 2021 and Mercedes haven't exactly been supportive of the changes coming into effect.

“Toto wants to be prepared if Mercedes gets out (of F1) and remains in the top flight only as an engine manufacturer,” the report quoted former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone as saying.

The German also linked this to McLaren's investment in a new windtunnel at Woking, saying Mercedes had wanted to see the British team show its intent before agreeing to a works-style partnership from 2021.

A deal was announced last September and at the time there were questions over whether this was a return to their previous collaboration between 1995-2014, that was denied however.

Another element is Max Verstappen's decision to sign at Red Bull until 2023 earlier this month, this apparently caught Wolff off guard, as he was keen to try and keep Mercedes' interest by hiring the Dutchman but that now won't happen.

When trying to analyse whether the Stroll/Wolff takeover story has much legitimacy there is one factor that constantly comes back into mind, Racing Point.

Sure, the Canadian has plenty to money to splash around and there is a budget cap coming in will limit investment, but the Silverstone-based operation is typically one of the most efficient on the grid and Stroll has already spent heavily in upgrading the factory and facilities.

Brackley, on the other hand, will have to downsize to meet the new budget cap and that could hurt performance if that process isn't done well.

Of course, there's no reason why Stroll couldn't have a stake in a team owned by Wolff if he wanted to, sorry to say, perhaps have leverage for Lance's career prospects, or even offer Toto a team boss role at Racing Point.

But there's nothing he could do with the current Mercedes operation that he can't do with Racing Point in the future.