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Formula E

Is under-threat Mercedes Formula E team hatching a ‘plan B’?

by Sam Smith
4 min read

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Ongoing deliberations by the Daimler board about whether to push ahead with Mercedes’ involvement in Formula E’s Gen3 era is fuelling speculation that a ‘Plan B’ scenario to keep the team on the grid independently could be launched.

Mercedes is now the only manufacturer yet to make a decision about its participation the all-electric championship for the third rules set – which will be introduced in the 2022/23 season – despite having completed a special agreement to acquire basic technical details of the new package recently.

If Daimler’s decision turns out in the coming weeks to not be a positive one, the team itself might need to quickly set up a ‘life-raft’ operation.

Mercedes EQ has now mostly moved into a part of the same building as its Formula 1 cousin in Brackley in the UK, where new technical recruits such as Peter McCool and Jon Tomlinson are working on the Gen3 package which the team will be allowed to development test from next spring onwards.

The Mercedes FE project began with a preliminary entry by the HWA organisation for the 2018/19 season before the full story programme hit the grid. While some HWA staff still retain engineering and operational roles with the team, most will largely be phased out or taken on as contractors for the final season of Gen2 next year.

So what will the plan be if Daimler’s thumb is down as opposed to up regarding the Gen3 decision?

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The speculative element of a narrative doing the rounds in London last weekend was interesting because it specified some key individuals who could be involved in keeping the team going, most significant of which was F1 team boss Toto Wolff, who was on-site for the first race.

Mercedes EQ team principal Ian James was quick to smother any notions of rescue plans for Gen3 even if they were needed, saying that “the what ifs, maybes and plan Bs at this stage, I don’t think is in our best interest”.

“I think Formula E has got a phenomenal future,” added James.

“We just have to wait for the internal discussions to take place.”

This remark was telling in itself because it shows now that the issues with commitment are entirely within the Daimler corporate and executive structure now and what they are discussing and limbering up to decide upon.

“The outcome of those I think has been, by and large, very positive,” commented James.

“So it’s not a decision that’s based on the direction of the series as a whole. It’s purely a strategic decision internally now, in terms of what’s right for the brand.

“For that reason, again, it’s not as if we’re having to fight any particular issues at the moment, so we are fairly relaxed.”

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The conclusion, whatever it might be, does not necessarily have to come before or during Mercedes EQ’s home race at Berlin Tempelhof next month.

That decision is “in the hands of the board from a time perspective,” according to James.

“But again, we’re not setting ourselves a particular milestone at this stage.”

The Race understands that a preliminary meeting of board executives may have taken place on July 15 but no decision was completed on that occasion. It is not known when the next get-together will be.

“There’s been a couple of dates that have been discussed,” was all James would allude to.

“If you’d asked me a couple of months back, two, three months ago, I probably would have said that the expectation was that we would have communicated something [by now].

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“But no, the discussions are still ongoing and there’s been no decision at this stage and again I’m also almost fairly relaxed about that

“We’ve obviously got season eight [2022] to go through. We are in the formal process with the Gen3 technical working groups, and that continues.”

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