Mercedes in Formula E: should F1 be worried?

The third season of the Formula E all-electric racing series comes to a climax this weekend on a new street track in downtown Montreal.

Swiss Sebastien Buemi and Brazilian Lucas di Grassi are the main contenders - as they were last year, too. Both men are ex-Formula 1 drivers who switched to the new electric championship after low-key careers in motorsport's premier category fizzled out.

But their rivalry has been overshadowed ahead of the final race of the season by the news that F1 world champions Mercedes will enter Formula E from 2019-20 - three seasons from now.
Mercedes' decision to join arch-rivals Audi and BMW, as well as Renault, DS (Citroen) and Jaguar, underlines the impression that Formula E is beginning to carve a permanent place for itself in the motorsport tapestry. Hardly surprising given the rise of electric cars on the road.

What does this mean for Mercedes in F1?

Mercedes entering Formula E has very little to do with its participation in Formula 1.

The company sees the two championships as complementary, not competitive. Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff - also the boss of and 30% shareholder in the F1 team - has made that clear.

"In motorsport like in every other area, we want to be the benchmark in the premium segment and to explore innovative new projects," Wolff said. "The combination of Formula 1 and Formula E delivers that."

Wolff described Formula E as "like an exciting start-up venture". What it certainly is not is the global marketing platform with an unrivalled exposure reach that F1 offers - audiences remain tiny in comparison.

Mercedes emphasises that it has a "long-term commitment to F1", that it is investing in its facilities in order that the team remain competitive for years to come, and that as long as negotiations over the form F1 takes post-2020, when the teams' contracts run out, take it in a direction it is happy with, there is no reason for it not to stay involved.

The same applies to Renault - also in Formula E and the only manufacturer already contractually committed to F1 beyond 2020, to 2024.





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