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Formula E

Mercedes’ Formula E highs and lows

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Mercedes EQ’s brief stint in Formula E will come to an end in Seoul next August but it’s already packed in some tumultuous times in its short foray into all-electric racing.

The recently crowned champion team announced its intention to join Formula E back in July 2017 as the 12th licence holder but its initial taster season came by proxy of the HWA Racelab concern that was created to master the operational needs of the series in advance.

The idea was to get a leg up on rival Porsche, whose long Formula E gestation began with it forming a team back in early 2018 for a late 2019 racing debut.

Technically the Mercedes EQ name only came into the series for the 2019/20 season so from those beginnings until now we have chosen the three high points and the three low points of the three-pointed star’s efforts.

The Three Highs

Diriyah 2019

Stoffel Vandoorne (bel), Mercedes Benz Eq Formula, 3rd Position

After the cute strategy of hitting the Gen2 ground running with HWA Racelab in 2018/2019, Mercedes got off to a hugely promising start at the Diriyah double-header in December 2019.

Stoffel Vandoorne’s double podium and a handful of points for rookie Nyck de Vries was a fine beginning for the Silver Arrows’ brave new epoch.

There was also the welcome bonus of the team heading the points table after its first two races, instantly triggering some to pen almost inevitable comparisons with Formula 1 and ‘new Mercedes domination era incoming’ headlines.

Berlin 2020

Stoffel Vandoorne (bel), Mercedes Benz Eq, Eq Silver Arrow 01

Though the global pandemic distorted a nicely bubbling 2019/20 campaign after the Marrakesh E-Prix in February, Mercedes EQ was still able to carry off a welcome first victory when Vandoorne took the silverware in the season’s final race, leading de Vries in a 1-2.

That it came on home turf in Berlin was a happy coincidence but with no fans or VIP guests in attendance it felt curiously hollow for all bar the Mercedes EQ team itself.

By this stage the operational errors of the early season were more or less easing off and perhaps the seeds for its recent success in 2021 were actually distilled via the dregs of the previous season’s late-flowering success.

Berlin 2021 (on track)

Spacesuit Media Shiv Gohil 265085

Fast-forward almost exactly 365 days, and it was the mother and father of all sweet and sour weeks for Mercedes in Formula E.

By the time the cars were unloaded from their neat yellow DHL freight boxes back in Germany the team members knew that the programme – from a manufacturer standpoint anyway – would be over by next August.

While the rumours spread around the paddock, de Vries and Vandoorne had to metaphorically stick their fingers in their ears and get on with bringing the shiny pots home.

In the end they held their nerve and delivered a title double with relative ease and much less fuss than anticipated, and perhaps that was in fact the biggest surprise of the weekend in itself.

As motorsport so often does, the finale threw up an unforgettable weekend of drama as de Vries clinched the title in the final race on home soil – meaning that most of those celebrating were doing so in the knowledge that a long-term future in Formula E for Mercedes was no longer on the agenda.

The Three Lows

Mexico City 2020

Formula E Mexico City E Prix 2020

After Mercedes appeared to hit the ground running in Formula E with a double debut podium in Diriyah there came the inevitable reality check a couple of months later in Mexico City.

That was when de Vries ran a strong second early doors only to be the innocent victim of a software glitch that led to him wiping out countryman Robin Frijns and most of the front of his car at the first corner.

The pain doubled later in the race when team-mate Vandoorne’s sniff of another podium ended when he got off-line and stuffed his Mercedes into the wall to ensure that his championship lead was lost, never to be retrieved.

Monaco 2021

Spacesuit Media Shiv Gohil 239995

Occasionally Mercedes went missing in its title-winning season and Monaco in May was a clear case in point.

What a place to do it, too! The site of some of the most memorable days for its F1 sibling, th team’se first ever E-Prix on the proper version of the principality’s street track was a massive disappointment.

From de Vries’ mistake in hitting a setting button in qualifying to Vandoorne’s accident with Pascal Wehrlein, it was very firmly a race to forget.

Berlin 2021 (off track)

Formula E Berlin E Prix 2021

A simultaneous high and low ride that redefined the rollercoaster nature of Formula E, and that wasn’t just on the track.

Word of Mercedes’ decision to not continue beyond the 2022 season had started to bubble up between the London and Berlin events when whispers inevitably began to spread that the optimism from the top had started to evaporate.

Toto Wolff’s demeanour when he spoke to The Race in Berlin last Sunday was telling and so was the language. You didn’t need to be a body language or linguistic expert to decipher the real meanings.

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