Mercedes is joining the all-electric Formula E championship in 2019
Mercedes may have dominated Formula 1 from the past three years, but now it wants to dominate a new sport: Formula E. That’s right, Mercedes is the latest carmaker to jump over to the all-electric racing series, and it’s pulling out of the DTM to do it.
The German carmaker stated it was joining the all-electric Formula E championship yesterday, ending months of speculation about its entry. Last year, Mercedes actually signed up for a provisional place in the 2018/2019 championship, but Motorsport.com understands it deferred its entry to “better understand” the all-electric sport.
Instead, Mercedes is set to join in the 2019-2020 championship, where it will join both Audi and BMW who have confirmed plans to join the sport in the next two years. Of course, Mercedes will also join DS and Jaguar, who already race in Formula E.
As with those brands, it’s clear Mercedes sees Formula E as a way to bolster its image as a forward-thinking company. By being involved in all-electric racing, Mercedes will be able to better market its forthcoming EVs, and frame them in a far more interesting environment than before.
Mercedes will be joining Formula E as the rules are becoming more interesting, allowing teams to further develop their batteries and powertrains. That means, marketing and advertising aside, the huge amount of R&D needed for Formula E could also help Mercedes build better batteries for its road cars, too.
“Formula E is like an exciting startup venture: it offers a brand-new format, combining racing with a strong event character, in order to promote current and future technologies,” said Mercedes’ motorsport boss, Toto Wolff.
“Electrification is happening in the road-car world and Formula E offers manufacturers an interesting platform to bring this technology to a new audience – and to do so with a completely new kind of racing, different to any other series.”
FIA president and former Ferrari F1 boss, Jean Todt, added: “I’m very happy to see yet another manufacturer committing to the FIA Formula E Championship.
“Mercedes-Benz has been competing in motorsport since the very beginning, and in joining this newest chapter of racing history – Formula E – it shows that the vision and concept of the championship [are] aligned with how manufacturers want to develop electric vehicle technologies and bring these innovations to audiences around the world.”
The end for DTM?
Alongside Formula 1, Mercedes’ Formula E programme will now see it cover off both hybrid and pure EV technology, two areas where the road-car market is clearly headed.
“In motorsport like in every other area, we want to be the benchmark in the premium segment and to explore innovative new projects. The combination of Formula 1 and Formula E delivers that,” Wolff said.
But while it’s great news for Mercedes and it makes a lot of sense, it also comes with drawback. Mercedes is pulling out of the legendary DTM series at the end of 2018 to pursue success in Formula E, leaving BMW and Audi to fight it out amongst themselves.
DTM is the German touring car series, and although it’s not that popular in the UK, it’s easily one of the best championships around. The racing is extremely close, and the cars look incredible because they’re adorned with all sorts of fins, blades and wings to increase downforce. And the sound is pretty good, too.
It’s a proper old-school series, and unfortunately that looks to be its undoing. Brands like Mercedes want to be seen as more technology-focused, and that means they’re pulling out of traditional exciting sports like DTM. And in a way it’s very similar to what Audi did, too.
When Audi announced its decision to enter Formula E, it pulled out of the WEC. There were obviously several factors in its decision, but it was partly due to the fact Audi was winning races with a diesel engine – something with less than ideal connotations nowadays.
By moving away from diesel to all-electric racing, the perception of Audi can change. In the same way, it makes sense for Mecedes to swap DTM for Formula E, but it means there will only be two teams in DTM come 2019: Audi and BMW. And both brands are joining Formula E, too.