The countdown is on: In just under two weeks’ time (Tuesday 2 March), the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team will unveil its new Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance for the 2021 F1 season. Preparations for the three-day winter tests in mid-March and the season opener in Bahrain at the end of March are already in full swing. In an interview with Hywel Thomas, Managing Director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth, he tells us about the challenges that the engineers had to overcome during the development of the new power unit, about what their main focus is at the moment and about the crucial question that is always at the back of everyone’s mind…
Night premiere: On the weekend of 26 ‑ 27 February – and before the new F1 car is even unveiled – ABB FIA Formula E will embark on its seventh season. It will be the first time that the series has had official World Championship status. Diriyah in Saudi Arabia hosts the opening weekend of the new season, which will be in the form of a night-race double bill. This is the first time that Formula E has been contested under floodlights. Use of the latest low-power LED technology is set to reduce energy consumption by up to 50 percent compared with conventional lighting systems, and the electricity will be generated entirely by renewable energy sources. The Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team made a successful debut last season in the all-electric racing series, with Stoffel Vandoorne finishing on the podium in both rounds of the 2019 Diriyah E-Prix opener.
Three questions for Stefan Wendl
The 2021 season could hardly have got off to a better start for Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing. After taking third place in the first major endurance fixture of the year – the 24 Hours of Dubai – the customer sports teams fielding the Mercedes-AMG GT3 made history in the 24 Hours of Daytona with a one-two win in the GTD class, a result that also represented a maiden GT3 victory at the Daytona International Speedway for the Affalterbach-based performance and sports car brand. Stefan Wendl, Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing, puts the successful season opener in context, explains the reasons for it and looks ahead to the future.
Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing has had a very successful start to the season, with a historic one-two at Daytona and a podium finish in the 24 Hours of Dubai. You must be feeling pretty good about that…
Stefan Wendl: We are obviously very satisfied with the way the season has gone so far. Our focused preparations for the two endurance highlights at the beginning of the year has paid off. The Rolex 24 At Daytona in particular was a priority for us this time. After failing to achieve a podium finish there in the previous three years, we were feeling under a bit of pressure. Having come out of it with a one-two win is a very special achievement for us: it means that, with our existing Customer Racing Programme, we have managed to win the most important GT endurance races on each of the four continents – in Europe, the 24-hour races at the Nürburgring and Spa, in Asia, the 10-hour race at Suzuka, in Australia, the 12-hour race at Bathurst and now in North America, the 24-hour race at Daytona. This fills us with pride and once again underscores the uniqueness of the customer sports programme, which has been producing great results all over the world since we set it up.
What would you say was the recipe for this successful start to the season?
Stefan Wendl: Firstly, the strength of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the endurance arena. Our Customer Racing model has once again proven that it is hard to beat in terms of reliability. Secondly, the in-depth collaboration between the three teams in the field and our support and performance engineers, which has really paid off. At Daytona, for example, the setup of the cars was geared to the changed conditions that were expected in the second half of the race. This laid the groundwork for top results on the track. The way in which the teams and drivers then delivered was masterful.
You’ve registered some early successes, but the season is still young. What are you aiming for next?
Stefan Wendl: Many of the international GT series don’t get going until March. Our aim this year is to offer our customer teams the best possible support across the entire spectrum of series. Consequently, we’re going to have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks. And we are less than four months away from the season’s standout fixture, the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. The preparations for it are picking up speed, so there really is no time to sit back and bask in our early success.