In the Autumn of 2016, Mercedes confirmed reports that they had signed an agreement to enter the 2018/19 season of the FIA Formula E championship. Since this announcement, there has been a lot of speculation regarding their commitment to the series. Let’s take a look at why the decision might make a lot of sense.
For starters, Mercedes have confirmed that they plan to have an electric car in their showrooms by 2019 under its new EQ brand, and teamed up with Chargemaster – the UK’s largest provider of EV infrastructure – in November 2016
In addition to this, Mercedes want to have a plug-in hybrid option for every model in their range by 2020. This was done in response to their German rivals Volkswagen, BMW and Audi, all of whom have introduced an electric vehicle onto the market.
This alone would be enough for people to be convinced by Mercedes’ commitment to electric vehicles, but there is more evidence from their recent motorsport activity.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag expressed his views on a Mercedes entry in the series: “I think the interest [from Mercedes] is very strong but for 2018/19 if they come, they will not be a manufacturer”. Agag continued: “They will need to come with somebody. For 2019/20 they could come as a manufacturer still”.
This helps to explain why since signing the agreement with Formula E, Mercedes have been working closely with HWA on the project, who currently run their works team in DTM. In November, HWA sent Mercedes-affiliated engineers to the Marrakesh ePrix. They could be seen around the Mahindra garage.
More recently, HWA returned to the paddock alongside Mercedes team director Ulrich Fritz at the Brooklyn ePrix to explore their options further before committing to the series ahead of the deadline in October.
Eddie Jordan recently claimed that Mercedes would pull out of Formula 1 after 2018 as their main sponsors, Petronas and UBS wouldn’t renew their contracts. Mercedes – who are contractually bound to stay in F1 until the end of the 2020 season – strongly denied this, claiming “Petronas is committed to Formula 1 and Mercedes for the long term”. Petronas’ president Datuk Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin was quick to follow suit, stating “We intend to stay the course [of our contract]”.
Petronas then announced that they Malaysian had indeed renewed their contract in a partnership which has seen them win 57 Grand Prix since the start of the Hybrid era in 2014.
It also worth noting that when asked about FE in September, Mercedes Executive Director Toto Wolff said the following: “Electrification will play a major role in the future of the automotive industry. This will make Formula E very relevant in the future”.
Given how Mercedes have responded to the rumors regarding where their priorities lie within motorsport so far, it is viable to suggest that Mercedes could also consider managing both F1 and FE simultaneously.
This is proven by the fact that Renault are currently doing so, although at one point, they were linked with handing over their FE team to Nissan; a rumor which has since been proven to be false.
Should Mercedes opt to confirm their entry for the 2018/19 season, they will join Manufacturers Audi Sport (with the Abt team), BMW (Andretti), DS Automobiles (Virgin), Jaguar, Mahindra and Renault in addition to NextEV and Penske on the FE grid.
Considering the aims of Mercedes in the foreseeable future, FE would be ideal in their development of a powertrain for their road cars and seems they’ll join in sooner rather than later.