INEOS buying the Mercedes F1 team could be a disaster
I've got a bad feeling about this...
I'm sure quite a few of you have seen Eddie Jordan's thunderous proclamation that Mercedes will be bought out by Sir Jim Ratcliffe's INEOS corporation (already the team's biggest sponsor) and that it would lead to the resignation of Toto Wolff by now. It's quite a bold prediction to say the least and something that nobody else has really talked about besides the former team owner. The scary thing, however, is that it might be true and if it really is, it could spell disaster for the team that's currently the most dominant in the sport since Ferrari was under the helmsmanship of Jean Todt and Ross Brawn.
Whilst it's easy to dismiss what Eddie Jordan's been saying as baseless because, well, it's Eddie Jordan, we have to remember that he's been surprisingly accurate about things like this in the past. Jordan, remember, was the first person to report that Michael Schumacher would be returning to Formula 1 in 2010, as well as Felipe Massa's departure that same year and Lewis Hamilton's move from McLaren to Mercedes following Schumacher's second and final retirement in 2012. They say that a stopped clock is right twice a day and Eddie Jordan is definitely not a stopped clock. With the amount of F1 contacts and inside sources he still has, there is every chance that he is absolutely right.
Eddie Jordan potentially being absolutely correct is where the scary part starts. As far as I can tell, Sir Jim Ratcliffe (the owner of INEOS and the man who would become the owner of the team should a complete buyout like Jordan is predicting happens) has absolutely no experience with motorsport. You can say what you like about Lawrence Stroll and his mountains of cash but he's a man who owned a racing circuit before becoming a member of the consortium that saved the Racing Point team at the end of its Force India days. Dorilton Capital, the new owners of Williams, know a bit about racing too as James Matthews is a former British F3 champion, winning the title in 1994 for Manor (another team that had a run in F1, albeit one that was very short-lived). Red Bull has been involved in various different forms of motorsport since the 1980s. Sir Jim Ratcliffe, however, has only been involved with motorsport since February this year and he's not even slightly involved in the running of the Mercedes team!
There is one thing that Sir Jim Ratcliffe has much more experience with than any kind of motorsport; vanity projects. Sir Jim loves a good old vanity project. He's poured huge amounts of money into sailing and cycling teams as well as running challenges because of his frankly alarming obsession with all of those sports. He owns two football teams, FC Lausanne-Sport and OGC Nice, because everyone knows that when you have far too much money there is no bigger way to flex that money than by buying a football team and the fit and proper persons tests don't always get it right (*cough* *cough* Flavio Briatore *cough*). He also is the instigator of the Grenadier 4x4, a vehicle which I've already voiced my distaste about for reasons that made a lot of people very upset. With all of his other options to flex having already been done, what's the only big flex he has left? Unfortunately, that is buying a Formula 1 team.
Why am I so worried about what would happen if INEOS took full control of the Mercedes F1 team, you ask? Well, if Eddie Jordan's prediction about Toto Wolff leaving in the event of a buyout really is true, then I think we could end up saying goodbye to several other key players in the team. These losses could absolutely include Lewis Hamilton. It's often been said that Wolff's relationship with Hamilton has been a key reason as to why Hamilton has stuck with the Mercedes team since 2012. With Wolff no longer being a part of the team under a new INEOS leadership, it wouldn't be out of the realms of possibility to suggest that Hamilton would want to take his ball and run home as well. With no other teams apart from maybe Ferrari wanting to pay up for the kind of salary that Hamilton demands as an almost certain 7-time world champion and his ever-increasing hints that he wants to start his long-awaited music career soon, we could see Hamilton leave F1 altogether for other ventures much like Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen have done in the past. That would be a real shame for the sport. Love him or loathe him, Lewis Hamilton is the greatest driver F1 has ever seen and he's brought about a lot of positive change, positive change that could all come undone if he was to leave the sport prematurely following an INEOS takeover.
There's also the big worry that, without any experience of anything to do with motorsport, Sir Jim Ratcliffe could charge headlong into his brand new vanity project with the same kind of naivety that Andrea Sassetti did back in 1992 with his Andrea Moda team. The story of Andrea Moda has already been more than covered so I won't spare you the details but it was a story of utter incompetence that eventually resulted in the team being banned for the rest of the 1992 season. Whilst Mercedes likely wouldn't reach these levels of poor management, I have a bad feeling that with somebody like Sir Jim at the helm it could come close. With basically no experience in motorsport whatsoever and potentially not only losing one of the sport's best team principals but also one of the sport's best drivers to ever walk this earth, it really could come crashing down for Mercedes and hand its biggest rival Red Bull an open goal for Max Verstappen to dominate like Sebastian Vettel did in the early 2010s. Whilst Christian Horner would absolutely love this, I wouldn't.
In short, I am very worried for Mercedes right now. Eddie Jordan isn't exactly wrong about big journalistic firsts like this and if he is 100% accurate, we need to brace ourselves for another big shift in Formula 1 and not one that'll change things for the better. I genuinely, genuinely hope Jordan ends up being wrong because a Formula 1 team run by a man with no motorsport experience at all, without the guidance of one of the greatest team principals ever and potentially without the greatest F1 driver of all time as their number 1 driver has all the ingredients for an F1 team to come crashing down to earth harder than maybe even Williams did. I don't want to see a future where the former Mercedes team is yet again relying on poor pay drivers like it did at the end of the Tyrell era and the beginning of the B.A.R. era, or ends up caving in altogether. We deserve better than seeing Mercedes become another HRT, Marussia or Caterham.