By Alan Baldwin
SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Mercedes are interested in supplying engines to Formula One tail-enders Manor Marussia next season once Renault and Red Bull have sorted themselves out.
"We like Manor a lot," Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff told reporters ahead of Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
"Because there is a competitive edge to the whole story, that if Manor gets the right chassis and the right engine, it would be a pretty interesting narrative how the team develops.
"But for us at the moment we are a little bit on standby because we need to understand what happens with Lotus as one of our customers, and move from there. So this is where we are."
Manor have Ferrari engines but Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso have been talking to the Italian manufacturer about a supply after their partnership with Renault reached breaking point.
Renault are meanwhile in talks with Lotus, who currently have Mercedes engines, about taking over that financially struggling outfit.
If all the deals come off, Lotus would relinquish their Mercedes supply while Ferrari -- who supply Sauber and their own team and also have Haas F1 coming in next year -- would be expected to shed one customer.
Asked whether Mercedes might give Lotus a deadline, Wolff said there would clearly come a point when Manor and the manufacturer needed to know what was happening.
"We are very near to that moment and close to that decision," he said. "And if they don't take the decision, we will decide."
Wolff played down a suggestion that Mercedes could put German reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein into a Manor seat to gain experience, even if it would be an "interesting scenario".
Manor require their drivers to bring sponsorship with them and Wolff said the team might be better served by using the attraction of a competitive engine to bring in a driver with significant backing.
"It's a bit of a tricky situation. We haven't got a dedicated young driver program, we have Pascal, who is with us, whose main focus is DTM (German Touring Cars), and I don't want to take him away from that focus," he said.
"He has done a great job in testing for us and he is a very exciting young driver, but I'd rather like to see how DTM pans out."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Patrick Johnston)