Its not just personnel transfers which are the source of speculation at this time of year, but also suppliers. In this new era of V6 Hybrid technology, the powertrains are evidently an integral part of the car. Its no surprise then, that talk of which teams will be supplied by which supplies is high on the agenda of potential talking points, particularly when Mercedes will have one powertrain spare once McLaren partner Honda in 2015. Recent reports suggest that Lotus are currently winning the race to snatch this golden (or should it be silver) bullet, which could have the potential to haul the Enstone outfit back to the forefront of the field.
Initially, eighth place Lotus may seem to be unlikely candidates to snap up the precious Mercedes powertrain, but consider the competition for the unit. Red Bull have declared that they will retain Renault power in 2015, despite being decidedly critical towards the French firm in recent weeks. Their long-term future is unclear, but it is highly questionable as to whether Mercedes would even consider supplying a direct rival such as Red Bull. Hence, the Austrian team, (who are backed by Infiniti) are seemingly toying with the idea of building their own powertrain for 2016 and beyond. However, that is a story for another article
Meanwhile, Ferrari are excluded from the race for the Mercedes engine for obvious reasons. Its not a great endorsement for your company if you are looking for a competitor to supply your engine for you, when you yourselves are an engine manufacturer. There is more chance of me winning the lottery than Ferrari being supplied by Mercedes, (and I don’t do the lottery!)
Consequently, Lotus are pretty high on the list of potential clientèle for Mercedes. There is a possibility that they could supply either Sauber or Marussia, yet this seems unlikely. Plus, with Toro Rosso surly expected to follow the lead of their big sister, all roads point to Enstone.
Enstone’s relationship with Renault has been of a similar ilk to Arsene Wenger’s relationship with Arsenal Football Club – There have been many ups and almost as many downs, but the two have stuck together with seemingly unwavering adhesion. As a result, the suggestion that Lotus would part with Renault is somewhat unthinkable. It’s easy to forget that team Enstone were winning championships in 2005 and 2006 under the guise of Renault. The French manufacturer have been residents at Enstone since 1995, (with the ‘Playlife’ engines from 1998-2000 essentially being re-badged Renault’s.)
However, the relationship will have undoubtedly been rocked after Lotus’ dismal start to this campaign. The team have fallen from being frontrunners in 2013, with both Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen taking regular spots on the podium. In 2014, Pastor Maldonado is currently pointless in his first year with the team, and Romain Grosjean has only amassed eight points in eight races. Clearly, a change is needed and while loosing both Raikkonen and Team Principal, Eric Boullier, over the winter will have taken its tole, Renault’s disappointing powertrains will have also had a significant effect on performance. Consequently, cutting the ties with the out-of-favour manufacturer may change the DNA of the Enstone-based outfit, but it is an understandable development, particularly considering the alternative option that is on the table.