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Mercedes responds to 'unfounded and irresponsible' F1 exit reports

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Mercedes' parent company, Daimler, has denied it is planning to quit Formula One after a speculative report in Germany claimed a plan had been hatched to sell the team to Aston Martin owner Lawrence Stroll next year.

The report in Auto Bild and on F1insider.com claimed Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff would stand down from his operational role this year, but retain his 30 percent stake in the team as Stroll takes over Daimler's shares. It went on to cite Aston Martin's recent appointment of ex-AMG boss, Tobias Moers, as a crucial link signaling Daimler's intent to trade the Mercedes F1 team for an increased share in Aston Martin, of which it already owns five percent.

However, within 24 hours of the report going live, Daimler moved to rubbish the story in a statement issued to the media.

"Speculation regarding a potential withdrawal from Formula One continues to be unfounded and irresponsible," it said. "The sport has taken the right measures to address the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and its future financial sustainability, and we welcome these steps.

"It is our clear intention to continue competing in Formula One as a Mercedes-Benz works team in the years to come, and to do so with our managing partner Toto Wolff."

It is not the first story to link Aston Martin with Mercedes and Wolff. In addition to Moer's appointment and Stroll's plans to bring the Aston Martin name back to F1 by rebranding his Racing Point team, the speculation has been fuelled by Wolff's recent investment in Aston Martin, which will ultimately represent a 0.95 percent stake in the company. However, Wolff claims the investment is "personal" and has "nothing to do with F1" while, as recently as January, Mercedes denied a different story that claimed it would leave F1.

Thursday's denial also referenced F1's recently-published plans to introduce a $145 million cost cap for teams next year. While Mercedes initially warned such measures would result in redundancies among F1's bigger teams, Daimler appeared to welcome the news in Thursday's statement, which can be read as further proof of its commitment to F1. It is believed the budget cap, which is due to reduce to $140 million in 2022 and $135 million in 2023, could allow Daimler to break even or even turn a profit on its F1 involvement thanks to reduced costs.