Head of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd, Toto Wolff, has confirmed that the German team has signed an agreement with Formula E for an option to race in the 2018/19 season. That year will see Formula E run its 5th race season.
While the signing of this agreement doesn’t mean Mercedes will form a Formula E team, Wolff commented that this merely gives the German automaker time to assess the suitability of participating in the all-electric league and the practicality of taking up one of two spots allocated to new teams in 2018.
Said Wolff, “It’s an exciting new series that has come up against all odds and is doing quite okay. Electrification is not going to go away on the road and we don’t know where it’s going to go on the race track.
“There is a large hybrid and electric part in an F1 car already and we are serious in looking at it. We haven’t spent time in the past looking at Formula E properly, but by signing the option it gives us an opportunity to look at things and find out whether it is something suitable for us going forward. You can see there is an interest from many other manufacturers in this series and that is logical if you are looking at what is happening in road car technology.”
Formula E might be new to the racing scene and garner just a fraction (estimated at about 4%) of Formula One’s global audience but its has been steadily seeing support from manufacturers as electrification of vehicles is becoming more common. If Mercedes joins Formula E, they will be following in the footsteps of Jaguar, Mahindra, Renault, Citroen-DS and most recently, Audi, which is leaving the World Endurance Championship to focus on Formula E. Even BMW had recently strengthened its ties with the Amlin Andretti team.
The 2018/19 season is also seen as an important one for Formula E as battery development is expected to allow drivers to finish the race with 1 car instead of having to switch cars as is happening now. Formula E also has recently upstaged Formula One by bagging a city race in New York (subject to final approval).