sport

Mercedes exit was discussed

Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche has confirmed top-level discussions were held over whether to pull Mercedes out of Formula One.

In Mercedes' fifth season in F1, following a buy-out of title winners Brawn GP at the end of 2009, the team is now finally at the top of the sport's tree following a dominant start to this campaign.

Such success has resulted in the announcement in Monaco on Saturday of a new multi-year, multi-million pound title sponsorship agreement with Malaysian oil and gas giant Petronas.

But the early years in particular were tough for Mercedes, even with seven-times champion Michael Schumacher as one of their drivers, and there was talk the Daimler board considered pulling the plug.

Zetsche, however, maintains it was always Daimler's intention to stay in F1 for the long haul, and they have now signified their intent with the new contract with Petronas, understood to run to the end of the current decade.

"Racing is our hobby, but beyond all emotion it has to be an intelligent business decision, and of course the motivation is marketing," explained Zetsche.

"We want to present our brand, and we believe there is no better place to do that than in our core business, which is engines, cars and therefore racing, so that's us.

"Still, you have to justify your spending, and for that reason we had to have independent discussions about the pros and cons, and they took place.

"There was not one person in the board against racing and others who were in favour, but we had to discuss all aspects and make the right decision in the interests of the company and our shareholders.

"That's where we always came to the conclusion we are not a company for the short run, but for the long run, and when we are not successful we work harder to become successful.

"That's true in our core business, that's true in racing.

"Ultimately there was never a conflict or a battle in the board, but after discussing all pros and cons we always came to the conclusion we would continue.

"We are still here, and we are all satisfied we took the right decision."

In claiming all five pole positions, all five race wins, and four consecutive one-two finishes, there is now grumbling Mercedes have made the sport even more boring than during Red Bull's recent four-year run of success.

Zetsche, however, counters - as Red Bull often did as they won title after title - that it is up to their rivals to close the gap, not for Mercedes to ease off the gas.

"First of all we've had four years in a row of one team winning the championship," he said. "Now we are talking about five races where one team has won.

"I've heard less comments after four years about boring racing than I heard after five races.

"But it's very clear we have two top-notch drivers who, after two hours of racing, are within a fraction of a second, which is unbelievable.

"We saw in Bahrain especially, and not only there, there is fierce, extreme fighting between these two drivers for the number one position.

"That in itself is a lot of excitement, which for me is sometimes more than I can bear, but also for other people watching as well.

"On top of that we have a lot of other position changes within the other teams.

"Last but not least, it's not our task to take that issue on. It's the task of our competition. We will not try to help them.

"We are aware others will try to reduce and close the gap, but we will not support that effort."