Mercedes Benz GP Ltd has reserved an entry to Formula E from the 2018-19 season. It’s an option to join the franchise for electric-powered racers before all the slots are taken. But, quite coincidentally, it might also be a useful bargaining slot for the Mercedes team’s continued participation in F1 beyond the expiration of the current deal. One of the high priority tasks facing F1’s new owners Liberty Media will be renegotiating with the teams about their involvement beyond the expiration of the current deal at the end of 2020.
In Malaysia Force India drivers Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg were reported to have played joint hardball with the team about their contractual position to continue into 2017. With a place on offer for the former at Haas and the latter at Renault, there were certain outstanding matters to be cleared up before their ’17 deals could be considered solid. Owner Vijay Mallya (below) was persuaded to free up the team’s cashflow and the official announcement of Pérez’s continuation with the team duly came the following Monday. Hülkenberg remained unconfirmed, however, and it soon became clear why. On October 14, it was revealed that the German had agreed to join Renault as lead driver on a multi-year deal – and a not inconsiderable salary reported to be £17m.
“Maybe if Renault were to give us free engines we might do it,” said Christian Horner in Japan, in response to questions about the French firm trying to find a way of getting Red Bull to release Carlos Sainz to lead the Enstone team next year. It was said in jest, but was reported in some quarters as being a realistic prospect that was actually being considered. Given that Renault Sport charges Red Bull about 30 million euros per year for a supply of its V6 hybrid power units, that would have been one expensive driver signing. In reality the Renault Sport programme does not have anything like
the budget that would be needed to meet Horner’s off-the-cuff demand.
Lewis Hamilton walked out of a Mercedes media session on Friday at the Japanese Grand Prix, refusing to take questions in response to criticism of his actions during the Thursday FIA press conference when he was accused of being disrespectful to the assembled press by not fully engaging (he was taking photographs with his phone for use on his Snapchat social media account). The team’s Niki Lauda dismissed the idea that Mercedes had any problems with Hamilton’s actions.