Mercedes will make their debut in the all-electric racing series Formula E at the Diriyah ePrix in Saudi Arabia on Friday.
Mercedes have been an absolute powerhouse in Formula 1 in recent years, taking the last six constructor and driver championships and allowing Lewis Hamilton to move within one title and eight wins of Michael Schumacher’s all-time records.
This level of unprecedented success came after four years in the Formula 1 midfield, but with Formula E such an unpredictable sport, the hierarchy at the German manufacturer are likely to expect more instantaneous success this time around.
Taking over what was the HWA Racelab team, there will be plenty of knowledge and experience at the squad already, while driver Stoffel Vandoorne did compete and enjoy some success in the sport last season.
The driver they have brought into partner him is Nyck de Vries, the recently crowned Formula 2 champion, so on the surface, one of motorsport’s biggest names looks set to hit the ground running.
However, testing wasn’t perhaps as positive as they would have expected with neither de Vries nor Vandoorne able to make it into the top 10 on any of the three days.
While only one second separated the top 21 cars, Mercedes would have expected to be slightly closer to the top. With the consistent excellence of teams including BMW, Audi and DS Techeetah, Mercedes will find it hard to compete straight away.
Last season, HWA saw some success using the Venturi powertrain, with Vandoorne taking pole for the Hong Kong ePrix and securing a podium in the Rome ePrix.
While Mercedes do not have the same experience with building a powertrain, they have the resources to make improvements rapidly and the lessons taken on during their partnership with HWA last season.
Realistically, building on the achievements of HWA last season and seeing their drivers break into the top 10 is a realistic goal, but perhaps the more interesting question pertains to their long-term future. Unlike in Formula 1, Formula E is made up of numerous manufacturer teams, each with a rich history in motorsport.
While this is not to underestimate their achievements in Formula 1, Formula E does have more spec parts and is able to better guarantee an even playing field.
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If Mercedes are going to succeed, it is going to be through outstanding driving and innovation, and in a sport as competitive as Formula E, it may be harder to stand out than expected.