October 5, 2016

Mercedes-Benz has reserved its place in Formula E for 2018 and the manufacturer support just keeps on coming.

Renault, Jaguar, BMW, Audi, Citroen and Faraday Future are all involved and both Porsche and Nissan have shown an interest. The grid will swell from 10 to 12 teams in 2018 and Mercedes-Benz has snapped up one of the available places.

This is huge news for the championship and it’s another sign that Formula E is closing the gap on F1. Formula E currently has more actual road car manufacturers involved than the supposed pinnacle of motorsport and McLaren has just done a deal to supply the batteries for the championship from 2018.

A dominant force in F1

Mercedes is one of the most decorated manufacturers in circuit racing and is a dominant force in Grand Prix racing right now. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are streets ahead of the competition and the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team is on course for its third consecutive Constructors championship.

So it’s a huge coup for Formula E to have the marque on board and it could mean that we get more up and coming star drivers that the series badly needs. It’s also a gamble for Mercedes, because it is jumping into the unknown with Formula E and finishing mid-table could take some of the shine of its F1 heroics. With the launch of the EQ brand, though, Mercedes clearly thinks the returns from plunging into electric racing make the risks worthwhile.

The teams will want more technical input

Now this level of manufacturer involvement does create its own problems. Right now the teams don’t have a vast amount of technical freedom. They can design and implement their own motor-generator units, gearboxes and power inverters, but the batteries are standard and will be until the end of the 2019-20 season at the earliest.

Several of the manufacturers want to use Formula E to help them develop new technology and to demonstrate their technical prowess. The series will simply have to take their wishes on board and adapt the one-make formula consistently to create a championship that is entertaining to watch and meets the marketing and technical needs of the teams taking part.

For now, though, it’s time to give Formula E a solid pat on the back and congratulate the organizers for bringing the Formula One Champion team to the grid. It’s also time to look forward to the new season, as we’re just a few days away from the season opener in Hong Kong.

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