Toto Wolff has confirmed that Mercedes is close to agreeing a deal with Manor over a power unit supply for the 2016 Formula 1 season.
Manor currently races with 2014-spec Ferrari engines after emerging from the ashes of the Marussia F1 Team that collapsed at the end of last season.
However, it is close to agreeing a deal with Mercedes that will see the German marque retain its set of three customer contracts in F1. Renault’s impending takeover of Lotus is set to bring Mercedes’ association with the Enstone-based team to an end after just one season.
Speaking on Saturday at Suzuka, Wolff praised the Manor project, and said that Mercedes would be open to supplying the team with engines once its parting with Lotus has been confirmed.
“We like Manor a lot because there is a competitive edge to the whole story,” Wolff said. “If Manor gets the right chassis and the right engine it would be a pretty interesting narrative about how the team develops.
“For us at the moment we are a little bit on standby because we need to understand what happens at Lotus as one of our customers and move from there. Manor needs to know what is happening and we need to know to whom we are supplying engines.”
Wolff’s comments were backed up by the team’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, who told Sky Sports that after being approached by Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and advisor Helmut Marko about an engine supply, a breakdown in talks with owner Dietrich Mateschitz paved the way for the Manor deal.
“Christian and Helmut wrote us one letter to say they would like engines,” Lauda explained. “I said ‘yes, but first we have to discuss with Mr Mateschitz’.
“Because Mateschitz, for whatever reason, never liked Mercedes There is something in the past which I do not know.
“So I went to see Mateschitz myself because I know him and asked ‘are you really interested?’ and he said ‘yes, but, but, but…’ – and then out of this ‘but, but, but’ we never continued any talks.
“So we had to take a decision as Mercedes. Where did we go with the engines because are Lotus staying or are they not staying? So we then decided to give Manor the engines.”
2016 F1 season – Possible Engine Contracts
Ferrari – 5 (Ferrari, Red Bull*, Toro Rosso*, Sauber, Haas)
Mercedes – 4 (Mercedes AMG Petronas, Williams, Force India, Manor*)
Honda – 1 (McLaren)
Renault – 1 (Lotus*)
* to be confirmed