Mercedes-Benz will join the Formula E grid from the 2019/20 season, the German marque has announced.
Having reserved a position on the expanded season five entry list with the FIA in October 2016, it has been confirmed that the Silver Arrows’ first Formula E appearance will be at the opening round of season six. Mercedes’ announcement comes just weeks after long-time rivals Audi and BMW revealed they will be increasing their Formula E involvement to manufacturer status.
While it had been recently suggested that Mercedes’ Formula 1 program may be scaled back with resources shifted to Formula E, the Stuttgart brand has instead make the shock announcement that it will depart the DTM touring car championship at the end of 2018.
Speaking at the announcement, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff described how side-by-side Formula E and Formula One programs will provide the marque with the level of innovation they desire for the future.
“In motorsport, like in every other area, we want to be the benchmark in the premium segment and also explore innovative new projects. With Formula 1 and Formula E, we have achieved exactly this balance,” he said in a media release.
“Formula E is like an exciting start-up venture – it offers a brand new format, combining racing with a strong event character, in order to promote current and future technologies. 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.
“I’m pleased that we were able to extend our entry option for one year to the 2019/20 season. This gives us time to properly understand the series and to prepare for our entry in the right way.”
Mercedes will also join manufacturers such as Renault, Jaguar, Venturi and DS, who already have a presence in the championship.
In welcoming the brand to the series, Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag emphasised the relevance of electric motorsport to changing face of the automotive industry.
“Today is a great day as we welcome Mercedes to the Formula E family – adding to the increasing number of manufacturers joining the electric revolution,” he added.
“This shows how much the world is changing, not only in motorsport, but the whole automotive industry. We’re witnessing a transformation that will first change our cities, and then our roads. Formula E is the championship that embodies that change, and together with all our teams and manufacturers we’ll keep pushing for technologies, to have better and more affordable electric cars.”
While no details were provided on the planned team structure or drivers, it is likely that HWA – the organisation which currently runs all six Mercedes-AMG DTM entries – will oversee the Formula E project. Long-time Mercedes factory driver and current DTM pilot Maro Engel also currently races for Venturi in Formula E, and would have to currently be considered a likely candidate for the new squad.
What is far less clear is what the future holds for the DTM.
Mercedes-Benz have been a constant and successful supporter of both the current DTM and the earlier Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft since 1988, and their withdrawal will see six cars – a third of the current grid – leave the field.
Their departure will also come at the end of the final year of the series’ current V8-based technical regulations.
In the wake of the Mercedes announcement, the ITR – organising body and promoter of the DTM championship – have released an official statement:
“The ITR as the organiser and promoter of the DTM regrets this step by Mercedes. We have to respect the decision in a sporting and fair way. The DTM is one of the world’s most significant touring car series. Mercedes has announced its withdrawal at the end of the 2018 season well in advance. That gives the ITR the time to analyse the situation and to prepare a sustainable concept for the future,” it reads.
As it stands, a turbocharged four cylinder engine package – similar to that used by the GT500 class of Japanese SuperGT – is due to be introduced to the DTM for 2019. Whether Audi, BMW or any new manufacturers will be willing to commit to developing this new engine formula and possibly even run more cars to fill the void left by Mercedes remains to be seen.
Images via DTM and Mercedes-Benz