Mercedes looks like it’s about to step back from its Formula E program ahead of the introduction of the Gen3 era, Motorsport.com reports.
The team still hasn’t actually agreed to the terms of the Gen3 car, which will serve as a significant change in the series’ technology, and it signed a delayed option that meant it wouldn’t have to commit to the terms of the agreement right away. Apparently, that was because the team wanted “clarification” on “important details regarding the structure of the series.”
Whether or not those details were received, we don’t know. But it looks like the Daimler boardroom has decided that Formula E may not be a worthwhile venture.
Here’s more from Motorsport:
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff confirmed to Motorsport.com that “a decision has been taken” with regards to Gen3.
Wolff said: “If Mercedes were to leave, which we haven’t said, then, of course, you need to work on alternative strategies.
“We are in the sport not only because we guys like to compete and drive around in circles.
“But it is mainly a marketing and communications platform.
“And therefore, like everything we do, is under constant evaluation in terms of the benefits that any platform is able to generate for Mercedes-Benz.
“Apart from the let’s say marketing value that it generates, it is about technology transfer and these two need to go hand in hand: technology and marketing.
“This is why everything is permanently evaluated and is this really still contributing to where we see the brand?”
As per the same interview with Wolff, the series officials are aware of whatever decision that has been made.
This is only Mercedes’ second season in the sport in a manufacturer capacity, with the brand initially making its first foray with the HWA Racelab team. The team finished last season second in the points, and driver Nyck de Vries led the championship for much of this season. So it’s not that the team wasn’t functional; as Wolff noted, there’s more nuance to the decision than there appears.
Should Mercedes leave, this would be a huge blow to Formula E. The series has already lost Audi and BMW, two other big-name automotive companies that brought credibility — and a little bit of hope — to the series. It appears that many companies aren’t interested in investing the time or money into developing a vehicle to FE’s Gen3 specs.
Basically, the Gen3 car will be building on everything FE has learned so far in its tenure as a sport — but it requires a serious investment in development in a very short space of time. Batteries will have a higher output but will also need to be lighter and smaller. The batteries need to be capable of a mid-race, quick-charge pit stop — a technology that doesn’t yet exist for road cars. Regenerative braking will also see a significant increase.
While all of those technologies could have great benefits when translated between racing and road cars, the fact remains that it will require serious investments of both time and money to make the new car competitive. After all, no one wants to perform a piano recital on the global stage while they’re still practicing their new song.