The Mercedes-affiliated HWA operation could race from Season Five in the FIA Formula E Championship ahead of the manufacturer’s previously announced full works effort for the following year.
Secret plans for HWA to enter an 11th team have been uncovered by e-racing365, which may effectively act as a planned precursor to Mercedes’ full entry into the series in 2019/20.
The team, which is likely to be known initially as just HWA Formula E Team, could use an existing powertrain from the ZF or Mahindra operations as a customer operation before Mercedes’ own technology comes on stream for Season Six.
It’s believed the plan has gathered momentum in recent months after HWA directors visited the New York E-Prix in July.
Both HWA founder Hans-Werner Aufrecht and team director and company CEO Ulrich Fritz held several meetings at the event and are known to have been orchestrating a plan to establish what could be viewed as a “sleeper team” for Mercedes-Benz.
It was originally thought that HWA would partner with the Venturi team after Aufrecht and Fritz spent the time with the Monegasque team in New York.
Even though Mercedes and Venturi share a common technology partner in the ZF Group, an official collaboration is now thought not to be as likely as first thought.
Mahindra is known to have entered the frame as a potential partner for HWA for Season Five and in-depth talks are believed to be lined up for the coming weeks.
Discussions about the Season Five plans have taken place recently and are believed to have continued at the DTM finale at Hockenheim last weekend, although without a 100 percent confirmation that they will reach fruition.
It’s understood the plans are not viewed as an official acceleration of Mercedes entry plans for 2019, with the manufacturer downplaying the proposal at least from a factory perspective.
However, a HWA-activated entry for the 11th slot on the Formula E grid would publicly be viewed as an enhanced learning process for Mercedes future efforts in the category. This is likely to be considered by many in the Formula E paddock as a more overtly structured process than Porsche’s current plans with the Dragon racing team.
At the time of its announcement in July, Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Executive Director Toto Wolff explained the decision to wait until Season Six was to “give us time to properly understand [Formula E]” and “prepare for our entry in the right way.”
There now appears to be a shift in Mercedes’ strategic thinking as the complexities of the new Season Five battery and race car start to emerge.
E-racing365 has discovered that some initial grey areas in the regulations were explored by new or future manufacturers, including the possibility of acquiring Season Five manufacturer licenses from already registered entrants.
A key Formula E organization figure told e-racing365 last week that this is not possible and that the only solution would be “for new manufacturers to work with existing powertrain providers” until the new registration process for Season Six opens next year.
The registration process itself is believed to be delayed until the middle of 2018 at the earliest.
HWA would have to get a deal in place as a customer for a powertrain by the end of January. Season Five teams will then be proposed by Formula E Holdings Ltd to the FIA in June before the entry list is formulated and made public shortly after.
Queue of Drivers for HWA and Mercedes
Several Mercedes-affiliated drivers have recently come in to Formula E, including Maro Engel and recent testers Edoardo Mortara and Daniel Juncadella.
Other Mercedes drivers, such as Pascal Wehrlein, Maximilian Gunther and Lucas Auer are also under consideration for future Formula E seats.
Venturi will announce their drivers for Season Four this Friday, with either Mortara or James Rossiter tipped to join Engel at the Monegasque team.
HWA engineers and directors are expected to be seen at one of, if not both, of the first two E-Prixs of the season at Hong Kong and Marrakesh.
It’s believed that an official announcement on plans to have a HWA-fronted team could be made shortly.