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BMW announces new motorsport strategy: No F1 but WEC and Formula E to feature

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BMW announces new motorsport strategy: No F1 but WEC and Formula E to feature
Sep 27, 2016, 9:21 AM

Electrification is the name of the game for leading manufacturer BMW as it realigns its strategy for motorsport competition, it was announced today...

Electrification is the name of the game for leading manufacturer BMW as it realigns its strategy for motorsport competition, it was announced today.

But Formula 1 will not feature in the new strategy of BMW, as instead it has committed to Formula E and the World Endurance Championship, putting the emphasis on sustainability and the development of battery technology.

BMW has a long history in motorsport, including several stints in Formula 1. The company won races and championships as an engine supplier - with Brabham in the 1980s and Williams in the 2000s - but after taking the decision to quit Williams and enter as a works team and acquire Sauber, it went wrong and the company withdrew in 2009 as the global financial crisis bit. It were also at odds with the way the sport was being run and was part of the exodus along with Honda, Renault and Toyota over the 2008-9 period.

BMW F1

Today's announcement is significant in that BMW has increased its commitment to motorsport by partnering with Michael Andretti's eponymous team in Formula E and by committing to the WEC in the less expensive GTE category, alongside its DTM (German Touring Car) and classic motorsport events.

Formula 1 has significantly greater reach than the categories BMW is committing to, but it is an expensive sport in which to compete. The hybrid turbo engines are extremely complex and top team budgets today are around €300m a year. BMW's new strategy clearly underlines its push for sustainable technology whilst keeping budgets well under control.

However, with new owners Liberty Media coming in with a strategy to push the sport in the USA, develop the digital and advanced media strategy and increase platforms for its content, Formula 1 is likely to forge even further ahead in terms of global reach. So it is interesting that despite being increasingly based on electrification, F1 does not have any place in BMW's plans. Discussions are now beginning to take place around the power units post 2020 with a number of engine builders pushing for an electrically driven front axle, which would add another 300hp to the 1000hp from the power unit driving the rear wheels.

BMW Canada 2008

One of Liberty's first priorities should be to get involved in those discussions to shape F1's future technology to appeal to the world's leading automotive manufacturers and make F1 a series they cannot afford not to be in. But that looks some way off for the moment.

“The strategic realignment of the motorsport activities is a strong commitment to motorsport on the part of our company," said BMW board member Klaus Fröhlich. "It will remain a cornerstone within the BMW Group in the future. Everyone knows that BMW and motorsport are intrinsically linked. The commitments allow us to demonstrate our expertise in the areas of technology and integration on international platforms, including the world’s leading racing series for electric mobility and classic motorsport. Electric mobility will continue to grow in importance. In the last ten years, we have established a leading position in the automobile industry in this field with BMW i.

"Through our partnership with Andretti Formula E in the Formula E Championship, we will now additionally see a close interaction between motor racing and production development in our company, from which both departments will benefit. On the production-based racing scene, we will be represented with BMW M in the global WEC series in the future, as well as the DTM and the IWSC. Our commitments complement each other perfectly: we are going head to head with our most important global competitors, whether through our works commitments or customer racing. In short: The future strategy is excellently suited to the BMW Group. Bring on the future.”

Jens Marquardt

BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt added: “It is fantastic that the BMW Group will be even more broadly positioned and represented in all relevant areas in the future. We will continue to focus on Europe in the DTM, and are looking forward to continuing the extremely close competition with the other premium manufacturers over the coming years. Other relevant international platforms will also be incorporated in the new strategy: the commitment in Formula E sees us forge new paths and demonstrate our expertise in the field of electric mobility. Over the coming years, the cooperation with Andretti Formula E will primarily focus on familiarising ourselves with the procedures and processes, and on intensifying our knowledge.

"Our works driver António Félix da Costa will be in action behind the wheel. A works involvement is then conceivable as of the series’ fifth season. The premise for all these steps is the further positive development of the series, which includes increasing the capacity of the batteries, for example.”

BMW also plans to use its expanded motorsport strategy, particularly in Formula E, to promote its BMW i brand of plug in electric cars.

BMW Formula E

The company already supplies the i8 model as the electric series’ safety car and the i3 as its medical car, and today’s announcement of a link up with the Andretti Formula E squad is “to check the possibility of a works involvement in the future”, according to BMW’s official statement.

What do you think of BMW's decisions and new strategy? Will we ever see them again in F1? Leave your comment below

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