Former F1 racer and now pundit Robert Doornbos has added further fuel to reports that Ineos could be set to take over the Mercedes team.
Doornbos has claimed that a 40% stake of the Mercedes team, which is owned by Toto Wolff and, before his death, Niki Lauda, could be sold to Ineos for around £300million.
The claim follows reports that first emanated from Eddie Jordan, published in the Daily Mail, that Ineos, a Mercedes team sponsor, were planning to buy a 70% share.
Team principal Wolff quickly knocked down the speculation, saying: “Ineos has no interest in buying a majority of the team and calling it like this and I have no reason to depart from my shareholding. So plenty of things that are made up.”
However, Doornbos clearly believes there is no smoke without fire and thinks the uncertainty over the ownership of F1’s World Champions and dominant constructor of recent times is creating uncertainty over the futures of both Wolff and Lewis Hamilton.
While Wolff has been saying for some time he is considering moving to a different role from team principal, Hamilton, who is on course to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven drivers’ world titles this year, has yet to be confirmed as staying with Mercedes even for 2021.
Speaking on Dutch TV channel Ziggo Sport, Doornbos, who drove in 11 F1 races in 2005 and 2006 including three for Red Bull, said: “Mercedes’ racing team is, of course, separate from the Daimler Chrysler group, but Mercedes does own it.
“Toto Wolff has 30%, Niki Lauda has 10%. Sixty per cent is with Daimler Chrysler. Now the story goes that 300 million is paid for 40%.
“This means a large minority stake will be sold to Ineos, Toto Wolff will cash in… but will he stay on? Do you still want to sit with Mercedes after 2022 or will Toto Wolff go to Aston Martin?
“So will Max Verstappen have to go to Mercedes in 2022? I never said that, because after six or seven years of dominance it is enough…
“Too many slides are still open. Too many interests in the teams playing and therefore Hamilton has certainly not signed up yet.”
Ineos, one of the world’s largest chemical producers, teamed up with Mercedes at the start of this year, signing a five-year $100m sponsorship deal.