Mercedes Benz Grand Prix are set to join the FIA Formula E Championship, signing an option agreement with series management to take one of two additional team slots to be introduced for the 2018-19 season.
With the recently announced new control battery supply tender – won by McLaren, who will replace existing supplier Williams – taking force at the same time, the race formats for the championship will change to see drivers completing entire ePrix in a single car. With pit stops no longer required, the field will be expanded to 24 drivers from 12 teams, up from the 20 drivers from 10 teams competing in seasons one to four.
Currently the dominant force in Formula 1 – a position they have held since the beginning of the hybrid era in 2014 – taking up the option to enter would see Mercedes become the eight ‘mainstream’ car manufacturer to join the championship, alongside incumbents Renault, VW/Audi, DS Automobiles, Jaguar, Mahindra, Venturi and BMW.
Given the recent announcement of German automotive rivals BMW partnering with Andretti Formula E (who field BMW DTM driver António Félix da Costa) for the 2016-17 season, and VW/Audi – through its AudiSport brand – have been in partnership with the Abt team since season one, it may not be a complete surprise for Mercedes Benz to also be interested in the championship.
Head of Mercedes Benz Grand Prix Toto Wolff says the potential benefits of running a Formula E program to complement Mercedes’ road car development provided the impetus to investigate and sign an agreement with the series.
“We have been watching the growth of Formula E with great interest,” he said. “At the current time, we are looking at all the options available in the future of motor racing, and we are very pleased with an agreement that secures us an opportunity to enter the series in Season Five.
“Electrification will play a major role in the future of the automotive industry – racing has always been a technology R&D platform for the motor industry, and this will make Formula E very relevant in the future.”
For Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag, the likely addition of Mercedes is another marker in the continued growth of the series, and its relevance to the automotive industry.
“We are delighted to confirm that we have reserved one of our two new entries in season five for MGP,” he added.
“Formula E wants to become the platform where car manufacturers test and develop the technologies that they will then introduce on their road cars. Having the chance to include a brand like Mercedes in our championship in the future would be a major boost to achieve that objective.
“Formula E is becoming an exciting mix of consolidated manufacturers like Renault, Citroën-DS, Audi, Mahindra or Jaguar, and new futuristic brands like Faraday Future, NextEV, or the likes of major component manufacturers like Schaeffler and ZF. Mercedes would be a great addition to that growing line-up.”
Whilst season five of Formula E and the mooted debut of Mercedes GP is still two years away, both entities will be on circuit this weekend. The third season of the FIA Formula E championship will commence on the streets of Hong Kong this Saturday, while the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team will be on track for the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix at Suzuka.
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team