BMW Teams Up With Andretti To Join Formula E
The Germans will make their debut in the series in the 2016-2017 seasonby Ciprian Florea, on
Nearly two weeks ago it was reported that BMW and Nissan were planning to join the all-electric Formula E series as early as next season, which is scheduled to commence in October 2016. Today it was confirmed that the German automaker is indeed looking to join the series.
The news comes from BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt, who told Motorsport.com that the team is already working alongside an existing Formula E team. Although he wouldn’t say which squad BMW teamed up with, it’s believed that the Bavarian brand is working with the Andretti team. The American squad joined the series from the very beginning and finished the first two seasons in sixth and seventh, respectively. Although it failed to win races, Andretti scored five podiums and several top 10 finishes.
The report adds that Andretti is expected to announce BMW factory driver Antonio Felix da Costa as the team’s new driver. Da Costa will join Robin Frijns, who raced a full season for the American stable last season.
“We are working closely on the engineering side with one of the teams. So, we have a good insight, but we have always made it clear there are a few things that have to really strengthen and develop. I think it is going in the right direction,” said Marquardt.
While BMW won’t have much say as a manufacturer for now, this will change in the future. However, the Germans will be waiting for Formula E to adopt an F1-style, one-car-per-driver strategy, which is projected to happen starting 2018.
“For sure, the change of car that is still in place is, from our point of view, with regards to the range of electric vehicles is not ideal. But, there is a path to season five to get this into a better solution and we keep monitoring the situation," he added.
The upcoming Formula E season includes 14 venues in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North and South America. Both Montreal and New York will host two races. The current grid for the 2016/2017 season includes 10 teams. The season is scheduled to begin on October 9, 2016, and will come to a close on July 30, 2017.
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Why it matters
Much like any mainstream automaker, BMW will is looking to take advantage of all the benefits that come from running a full-time racing team in an all-electric championship. A playground for improving electric power units and other technologies, Formula E will provide BMW with insight and know-how that will later be implemented in road-going, production cars. Naturally, this will also benefit drivers and the future of the EV market.
“There is huge potential on the marketing side, but there is also a lot of work that needs to be done to lift that potential, to bring the series forward and make it more attractive for people to be involved," admitted Marquardt, hinting that the series is still a few years away from delivering technology that can be used in production vehicles.
BMW Single-Seater Racing History
The German marque joined single-seater racing series as early as 1952 with cars based on the BMW 328 chassis. In the 1960s, several BMW F2 race cars were entered in various Formula Two events. BMW returned to Formula One in 1982 as an engine supplier and powered teams such as Brabham, ATS, Arrows, Benetton, and Ligier. The brand retired in 1988 and returned 12 years later as a drivetrain supplier for Williams. In 2005, BMW acquired Sauber and became a full-fledged constructor. The team was sold in 2009 and BMW retired from the series completely. As an engine supplier, BMW scored 18 wins between 1981 and 2005. The brand scored its best results with Williams, finishing third in 2000 and 2001 and second in 2002 and 2003 in the manufacturers’ championship. As a full-time constructor, it achieved one victory and 15 podiums between 2006 and 2009. In 2007 and 2008, BMW Sauber finished second and third in the championship, respectively.