Mercedes Set To Enter Formula E In 2018
Mercedes Grand Prix inks option agreement with Formula E Operations Ltdby Kirby, on
With its success in Formula One not waning anytime soon, Mercedes-Benz is looking to take its dominance in motor sport racing to a new playing field, and it may have just found one in Formula E after announcing that Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd has signed an option agreement with Formula E Operations Ltd that includes reserving a seat in the Formula E table for the automaker in time for the 2018 season.
Mercedes joins a long list of automakers that have signed up for Formula E, considered as the next big thing in motorsports that even has the potential to supplant Formula One as the pre-eminent racing series in the world. Despite only being two seasons old (the third season kicks off in Hong Kong October 9), Formula E has already attracted a who’s who of the automotive world. Audi, BMW, Citroen, Jaguar, Renault, Volvo, and even Faraday Future are already involved in some capacity, either with a team of its own or as a partner with an existing racing team. Meanwhile, Nissan, Porsche, and Mugen, Honda’s racing arm, have also expressed interest in joining the series in some form in the future.
The growing popularity of Formula E, combined with the platform it offers in the development of electrification, has made it very appealing in the eyes of these automakers, who themselves are gearing up their own EV road offerings. It’s a perfect marriage that combines competition and the pursuit of new technology, something that Mercedes is all too familiar with given its dominance in Formula One.
Formula E’s plan to expand its teams from 10 to 12 opened the door for Mercedes to get on board and while it still needs the go-ahead from the 10 existing teams in the grid, the German automaker’s clout in the auto industry and motor sports should make its addition to the series a foregone conclusion, effectively making Mercedes Grand Prix the 11th Formula E team.
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This is a bigger deal than most people think
If you thought that Mercedes signing up to join Formula E is all about competition, you’d be right, but not in the full context of what the automaker is also trying to accomplish off the track. The reality is that there are a number of layers tied into the German automaker’s decision to join Formula One. The obvious reason is competition, something that the company has embraced dating back to the last century.
But there’s also the platform that Formula E provides that makes it so appealing for a company like Mercedes. It all ties into the evolving state of the auto industry today and the large future that electric vehicles have carved out for itself. Similar to how Mercedes uses Formula One to help develop technologies that can be incorporated into its production cars, the same opportunity is available in Formula E for EV cars. It’s no coincidence that this agreement was signed on days after the German automaker launched its EQ nameplate at the 2016 Paris Motor Show to signal the start of its electric vehicle business. Electrification is expected to play a major role in shaping the future of the automotive industry and there’s no bigger platform of competition that can embrace that future than Formula E.
From the perspective of the series, having Mercedes on board is a huge coup in strengthening the credibility that it has fostered since the inaugural season started in 2014. We’re not talking about a niche brand here or a well-renowned racing team; we’re talking about Mercedes-Benz, arguably the one company that has more experience in motor sports than any other automaker in the world. Its recent dominance in Formula One further strengthens the clout it’s going to bring to Formula E when it joins the grid in 2018.
These are the kind of things that not only helps Mercedes take advantage of the platform the series provides, but it also gives Formula E an extra layer of credibility by having one of the most recognized auto brands and racing teams in the world. It’s a win-win scenario for both sides and I’m sure Mercedes and Formula E can leverage the carmaker’s entry into the sport into bigger and better things for the future.