Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has revealed rivals Red Bull have poached up to 15 members of staff to work in its new powertrains department.
Ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, Red Bull announced it had secured the services of five Mercedes High Performance Powertrains engineers to join technical director Ben Hodgkinson, who will also make the transition to join the team in Milton Keynes.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 at the conclusion of Friday’s running at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Wolff said the number of staff lost had in fact tripled.
“I think they have approached 100 people or so and they have got 15 maybe,” said Wolff.
Responding to Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko’s suggestion that Mercedes had offered to double the pay of its personnel to help stave off the allure of Red Bull’s venture, Wolff added: “Doubling the salaries is one thing but if you triple them you are not going to compete anymore, even for loyalty. It is what it is.
“I respect everybody that wants to defend their business or build the business. The retaliation time has not yet come.”
The developing battle between Mercedes and Red Bull has provided an extra dimension to the showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen for the world championship this season.
However, Wolff conceded he has not been surprised by Red Bull’s recruitment strategy and suggested he is excited for the chance to compete with the rival team on another front.
“I think it is pretty obvious that if you want to set up an engine factory in the UK… there is only one and that is us, we have 900 employees or so there,” he explained.
“If you are fishing out 15 of these or so, that is pretty normal but they went mainly for the manufacturing staff so it is not really performance, I guess they want to build up the company.
“Credit to the project, it is a Mount Everest to climb and I would like to have a fight with Red Bull Power units.”