Mercedes-Benz didn’t just win the Formula One World Championship in 2014 – it positively dominated it. The team won all but three of the grands prix this season, scoring a one-two finish at more than half of them and landing at least one car on the podium at every race without exception. It goes without saying, then, that the German automaker thrives on competition, but now it’s welcoming even more.
Speaking with Germany’s Sport Bild at its homecoming celebration in Stuttgart, Daimler chief Dieter Zetsche welcomed Mercedes’ biggest rivals Audi and BMW to join it on the F1 grid. Noting that the three German brands share some 80 percent of the market for luxury automobiles, Zetsche said that F1 would make a natural arena of competition for Mercedes, Audi and BMW to fight for top bragging rights. The three currently compete against each other in front of home audiences in the DTM touring car series – effectively Germany’s equivalent to NASCAR – but of the ten races held this year, the majority were in Germany itself, and all of them took place in Europe.
BMW last competed in F1 when it bought the Sauber team in 2006, but withdrew from the series in 2009. Despite its progenitor Auto Union having fielded the famous Silver Arrows in pre-war grand prix racing, Audi has never been a player in modern F1 racing, though recent rumors have linked it to a potential foray – spurred by the arrival of sister-company Porsche on its home turf at Le Mans, the departure of several of its key endurance drivers and the hiring of former Scuderia Ferrari chief Stefano Domenicali. Porsche had similarly considered an F1 program before getting the go-ahead to compete with Audi at Le Mans.
As for the prospect of Mercedes competing in other international racing series, Zetsche added that year-long preparations for 24 hours of racing at Le Mans didn’t present a good cost-benefit ratio in his estimation, but that Formula E (where Audi currently supports a quasi-works entry) would be worth a closer look.