By Alan Baldwin
SILVERSTONE England (Reuters) - Mercedes want to continue supplying engines to four Formula One teams next season, with Lotus expected to take the place of McLaren.
Asked by Reuters about a likely Lotus deal, Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff offered a carefully-worded reply after qualifying at the British Grand Prix on Saturday.
"I think nothing has been communicated yet," he said, smiling when the word 'yet' was repeated back at him. "Obviously we have had four teams this year and you build up a structure for four teams.
"We'd rather have four teams than three."
McLaren are in the last year of their Mercedes agreement and will be powered by Honda next season in a deal guaranteeing them exclusivity for some time to come.
Mercedes also supply Force India and Williams as well as their own championship-leading factory team.
Renault, whose engine has been out-performed by Mercedes this season, could also benefit from being more narrowly focused.
Red Bull principal Christian Horner said earlier in the week that the French manufacturer should have concentrated its development on his team.
Shedding Lotus would leave just champions Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso along with strugglers Caterham on Renault's books.
"If it is three teams next year it will be less of an income from customers but not at a level that will prevent us from doing the job we want to do next year or the year after," Remi Taffin, Renault's head of trackside operations, told the autosport.com website.
"If anything Renault would cover this and would even help more than that to help Renault Sport to get back to the top."
Ferrari are Formula One's third current engine manufacturer and supply Sauber and Marussia as well as their own team. They are also expected to power the new U.S.-based Haas team when it debuts in 2016.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)