Mercedes might be the team to beat in F1, but in Formula E, it’s the new kid on the block. From the start of the new season in November, the German marque will face the likes of Audi, BMW and Nissan, as well as Jaguar and fellow newcomer Porsche, in the most manufacturer-populated single seater series on the planet. This is a place Mercedes has not yet competed, so with five months before the first race it has to make up a six-year development deficit to the most established teams in the field – which is going to be no easy task, given the rivals it faces.
During two days of running at the Varano circuit in Italy, two-time DTM champ Gary Paffett and former F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne split testing duties for the new EQ Silver Arrow 01, with – remarkably – no problems to report. Although Formula E regulations dictate that a control chassis is used, manufacturers get to develop their own powertrains, meaning there’s no prior data with which to compare the gubbins propelling the new single-seater. Even Mercedes must be over the moon at completing a pair of trouble-free days this early on.
Paffet, who has plenty of single seater experience to call upon with a year in FE and his time as a former McLaren test driver, said of the new car: “It’s obviously different from any Mercedes I have driven before” – no surprise given that he's mostly raced with V8s – “but it has been a fantastic test. I think that the professionalism and the skill of the engineering within the team is exceptional”. Vandoorne echoed the enthusiasm, stating that “the basics are right”, even this early on.
So there you have it, the might of Mercedes taking on an all-new challenge with no real understanding of where it’ll be come race one. Didn’t think we’d be writing that anytime soon…