Mercedes are currently preparing for their maiden foray into Formula E as a constructor. Following the unveiling of their new car and their drivers, F1 boss Toto Wolff confessed that he “didn’t believe” the electric series would survive.
As of now, the all-electric series will be heading into its sixth season in November in Saudi Arabia. This year, Mercedes will be one of 12 teams lining up on the grid for the 2019-20 season.
At the Frankfurt Motor Show on Wednesday, the team unveiled its latest beast, along with their driver line up. Former McLaren F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne returned to Formula E, after racing with HWA Racelabs, a Mercedes-affiliated team. This year though, he will be partnered by Formula 2 driver and championship leader, Nyck de Vries.
With their maiden Formula E season set to commence, Mercedes will be the only manufacturer competing in both FE and F1.
Speaking to Autosport, Toto Wolff professed, “First of all, I didn’t believe that Formula E could make it.”
“When Alejandro [Agag, FE CEO] and Jean [Todt, FIA president] started the championship I didn’t give it a lot of chance.
“But then against all odds, the championship is growing. And why it appeals to Mercedes is that it’s an exciting start-up.”
“It’s all about electrification, electric cars, which are maybe in the early stages of technology yet, but a fully electric series has marketing appeal.”
“Doing it in cities is something that is attractive – and the way Formula E is pitched overall is not for the hardcore motorsport fan, but more for wider audiences.”
Formula E was notorious for unpredictability, in fact, the 2018-19 campaign witnessed nine different winners.
According to Wolff the series learned “the lesson of what is dysfunctional in other race series [that] have had a long history but have obviously grown around complicated governance”.
“We are a little bit [of a] victim of that in Formula 1, and we know that. On the other side – for a large organisation like Formula 1, we carry some responsibility for the heritage of Formula 1.”
“We have two billion viewers every year and maybe then you can’t be as spontaneous with the decision making as you can be with a start-up. You can’t risk getting it wrong. And in Formula E, like with any other start-up, you can take risks, you can try stuff.”
“You will earn lots of criticism – [but] the worse case is that it’s going to polarise and create some headlines. But it’s a totally different responsibility and totally different heritage to Formula 1.”
The Mercedes F1 team principal has openly stated that he doe not expect the kind of dominance that they enjoy in Formula One.