Struggling to find places on the Formula 1 grid for three of their drivers, Toto Wolff says he questions the “future” of Mercedes’ young driver programme.
Mercedes driver Esteban Ocon is on the verge of losing his Force India race-seat, either in the coming weeks or at the end of this season.
Renault recently admitted they were interested in signing him for 2019 but opted against it due to his Mercedes’ ties.
And Ocon isn’t the only Mercedes driver wanting a Formula 1 job.
The team also has George Russell and Pascal Wehrlein knocking on the door, however, they don’t have any space at their own team for any of them.
“[We have] three really talented kids with a lack of opportunities – and this has come to a point now where we need to decide what we do in the future,” Wolff told Autosport.
“Funding a junior team is not an option. Putting $80million, $90m, $100m every year in a junior team just to give your young drivers a place is not what I would want to do.
“And on the other side, if the drivers are stigmatised as Mercedes drivers, then it seems to be not the best selling proposition.
“Being a racer at heart, I still feel the best talent needs to be supported and developed, and I hope we find a solution for these guys.
“If we cannot find a solution for these guys then I would question the junior programme in the future. And then we go back to a pay driver model.
“If you cannot find a place for them in F1 then it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and that would be a shame in terms of the driver level in F1.
“I will discuss that with the board and the management at the end of the year depending what the outcome is for George, Pascal and Esteban.”
Highlighting Ocon’s situation, Wolff admits Mercedes may have to release their drivers in order for them to find seats on the Formula 1 grid.
“Fundamentally why we do this is we take great enjoyment in helping young talent that lack finances,” he added.
“But if our support works until F1 but then it is detrimental for these guys having the right seats, you need to consider these things.
“And then think what does it mean to be a Mercedes driver?
“At the moment, if you are driving for another team you are driving for another team and Esteban is not going to take any shit from me if he is driving Renault, McLaren or Williams, contrary to what has been said.
“So the whole system needs to be scrutinised in my opinion.”