A Thawing of the Resistance?

Can the differences between two of the top teams in Formula 1 be settled and put aside for the good of the sport? That is the question that is being asked as news that Mercedes might consider supplying power units to Red Bull from the 2017 season onward.

For quite awhile, there has been a resistance by Mercedes to form a partnership with Red Bull to supply them with power units.

“There is an agreement in place [between Red Bull and Renault] and we do not want to interfere in legal matters between the parties.  However, if I wear the hat of Mercedes-Benz motorsport and I speak on behalf of Formula 1, I must say that it is an attractive option because it would tie a brand that has appeal among young people with one that is winning.  But of course, as head of the team, it’s not really ideal to strengthen a competitor who knows how to build winning cars.” – Toto Wolff – Head of Motorsport and Executive Director of Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team

Could this mean that the door is opening to the possibility of Mercedes supplying Red Bull with power units starting in 2017?

I hope so.  A partnership between Mercedes and Red Bull would have a couple of big benefits for the sport.

It would be beneficial for Formula 1 at a time when the sport is trying to find ways to appeal to young people who have a myriad of sporting options available for them to watch.

Most importantly, the partnership between Mercedes and Red Bull would also be beneficial to Formula 1 because it would keep Red Bull in the sport.

Currently, Red Bull and its junior team, Toro Rosso, have four cars on the grid.  If Red Bull were to lose Renault as its power unit supplier after the 2016 season and not be able to secure another supplier for the 2017 season, the sport would lose four cars from an already small grid which would compromise the quality of racing.

Today, young people know of Red Bull and the many sporting events and athletes that the brand sponsors worldwide but they may not have had much exposure to Mercedes, success in motorsport, and it’s full product line.  As the age of executives and entrepreneurs gets younger,  they are probably more familiar with Red Bull than they are with Mercedes because Red Bull’s target market is younger.

It would be a great thing for Mercedes, Red Bull, and Formula 1 in terms of increased exposure across different demographics that each brand may have had trouble reach previously.  Cars, cans, and tickets would get increased marketing power as a result of the partnership.

The downside is that Mercedes would be strengthening a competitor that can build winning cars.  Yes, that is true.  There is also the strong possibility that the racing would get better and strengthen the entertainment value of the sport when that value has almost hit rock bottom.

For me, a partnership between Mercedes and Red Bull would mean all of the things mentioned above and an end to the frosty relationship that exists between the leadership groups of both teams.  I have thought that the frosty relationship was a bad thing and, have for a long time, hoped that the two groups would reach a resolution to their disagreements for the good of the sport.

The question now becomes, does Toto Wolff form a partnership with Red Bull to be their power unit supplier in 2017? I think that he should because it would show that he has confidence in all of the parts of his team to build winning cars and stay ahead of the competition.  It could be a source of motivation for the team to strive to stay on top in Formula 1.

Of course, Red Bull would have to understand that the power unit that they get from Mercedes may not be the same one that the works team has.  They would also have to realize that if things go wrong with the power unit that Red Bull cannot solely blame Mercedes as they have gone with their current supplier Renault.  Red Bull is well known for blaming others instead of taking some of the blame themselves when things go wrong and taking all of the credit and accolades instead of sharing them when things go right.  That must change.

It is important that if this partnership with Mercedes happens that blame be shared equally when necessary.  If this is done by both parties, a healthy working relationship can be maintained.

A chassis redesign may have to happen in order for the Mercedes power unit to fit in the Red Bull chassis.  The Red Bull chassis are very compact in order to get the maximum aerodynamic benefit possible and, until there is a perfect marriage between power unit and chassis, performance issues could occur.  Those can be overcome.

All of these new challenges would also push Red Bull Racing to strive to overcome them.  In the end, Formula 1 would benefit because two of the bigger teams currently on the grid would have to use their resources in an attempt to stay one step ahead of each other.  This would hopefully mean more exciting action on track.

The battle between the two teams in 2017 could end up providing the sport with season long fireworks and drama at a point when it desperately needs it.

A Mercedes-Red Bull partnership is beneficial for both brands and, most importantly, for the sport of Formula 1.  It must never be forgotten that maintaining a healthy Formula 1 grid with exciting racing is what this proposed partnership is about at it’s most basic level.

In spite of all of the potential risks, the upside for the sport is greater.  it needs to happen Toto.

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