Tales from the Paddock – Thomas Jäger: “With our new models, we are ideally positioned for the future”
The Mercedes Motorsport family is celebrating not one but two anniversaries this year: ten years of the modern works team in Formula 1 and ten years of Customer Sport
- This is what happened: Results and facts
- News from the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport teams
- Three questions for Thomas Jäger
- Social media news: What’s new online?
This is what happened: Results and facts
- GT World Challenge America: Two podium finishes for Colin Braun and George Kurtz in a Mercedes-AMG GT3 at the Circuit of The Americas
Melbourne, here we come: The long wait comes to an end next Sunday when, 105 days after the 2019 finale in Abu Dhabi, Formula 1 embarks on its 71st season. As has now become a tradition, the campaign kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix. Since the beginning of the Formula 1 hybrid era in 2014, the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit has seen four different winners: Nico Rosberg (2014, 2016), Lewis Hamilton (2015) and Valtteri Bottas (2019) won for Mercedes, Sebastian Vettel (2017, 2018) for Ferrari. In qualifying, however, it’s a different story: Lewis Hamilton has started from pole position every year in the period 2014 - 2019. With a grand total of eight poles on Australian soil, the six-time world champion is the record pole-sitter at this particular race venue. The Mercedes works team has achieved four victories, ten podium appearances and six pole positions ‘Down Under’ over the past ten years. In the history of the competition, the brand with the three-pointed star has so far registered eleven victories, 30 podium finishes and 12 pole positions in Melbourne.
Ten-year anniversary: While Formula 1 is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the Mercedes works team also looks forward to an important milestone: next Saturday marks the tenth anniversary of the return to the series of the reinstated factory team. On 14 March 2010 in Bahrain, two works Mercedes competed in the season opener for the first time since 1955. In 198 Formula 1 races since its 2010 debut, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team has recorded 93 victories, 194 podium places, 103 pole positions and 48 one-two finishes. The team won the Formula 1 drivers’ as well as the constructors’ titles every year between 2014 and 2019. More than 250 behind-the-scenes staff at Brackley will be celebrating their tenth anniversary with Mercedes this week as the new season gets underway.
Impressive start to the GT World Challenge: In the opening fixture of the GT World Challenge America at the Circuit of The Americas in Texas (USA), the Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing teams racked up the first haul of points towards the prestigious manufacturers’ championship of the GT World Challenge Powered by AWS, which Mercedes-AMG goes into as the defending champion. Colin Braun and George Kurtz (both USA) driving the number 04 Mercedes-AMG GT3 fielded by DXDT Racing finished third in both 90-minute races. They were also Pro-Am runners-up in both races and secured the bulk of the points scored by Mercedes-AMG towards the GT World Challenge championship; these are awarded to the two best-placed cars of each brand in each class. Their team-mates David Askew (USA) and Ryan Dalziel (GBR) in the number 63 car and Bryce and Russell Ward (both USA) in the #33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Winward Racing recorded a P4, a P7 and a P10 to make it a highly encouraging start to the American Sprint Series. Between now and October, there will be eleven further races. The two other series contributing points towards the combined manufacturers’ championship of the GT World Challenge are due to commence soon. The GT World Challenge Asia will stage its first event on the weekend of 28/29 March in Sepang, Malaysia. Sadly, the GT World Challenge Europe has had to postpone its season opener: the races scheduled for 18 and 19 April in Monza, Italy, have been cancelled as a precautionary measure due to the corona virus. The first of the European races will now take place at Brands Hatch in southern England on 2 and 3 May. However, the Pirelli GT4 America, which also held its first races on the Circuit of The Americas this weekend, has already got underway. Jeff Courtney (USA) in the number 99 Mercedes-AMG GT4 fielded by RecStuff Racing finished in the Top Ten of his class in both 50-minute sprint races.
Three questions for Thomas Jäger
Mercedes-AMG is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its Customer Racing Programme this year. Racing driver and MBA holder Thomas Jäger developed the concept for the Customer Racing Programme and is still actively involved in its management and development in the capacity of Customer Racing Coordinator. The 43-year-old looks back on the early days, recounts the milestones over the past ten years and talks about future plans.
Thomas, you played a decisive role in the establishment of the Customer Racing Programme at Mercedes-AMG. How did the original idea come about?
Thomas Jäger: Basically, it all started at the press launch of the SLS AMG conference in 2009 at Laguna Seca. Series production manager Christoph Jung, Bernd Schneider and I were talking about the car, and one of us said: “This is such a great car – a real sports car – that it ought to be entered for races.” We then got to thinking about how this could be implemented at Mercedes-AMG. The idea of a works team competing in a few selected races was not considered sustainable, so we came up with the concept of a customer sports programme, which was new to Mercedes-AMG. The aim was to achieve maximum success with a known amount of investment. We quickly succeeded in convincing senior management of the advantages the programme could bring for the brand. Ola Källenius, then Chairman of the Board of Management, was enthusiastic and was fully behind it from the very beginning. After ten years, we can be proud of the way this original concept turned out.
What have been the engineering milestones in these ten years?
Thomas Jäger: It’s been very intensive period for us. We have developed five racing cars in ten years. For our relatively small team, that is an enormous output. The first race we contested was a major milestone: from the start of the project to the debut outing for the SLS AMG GT3 on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, we had only six months of development time. That would be almost unthinkable today. In the short time available, we brought a benchmark product to the grid: a racing car that was equal to a production car in terms of quality – an absolute first in motorsport. This was followed by the development of the Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG for Brazil and the Mercedes-AMG GT3 (C190 series), which is still one of the most successful customer sports cars in the world today. It continued with the equally successful launch of the Mercedes-AMG GT4 and now the new GT3.
Where will the journey for the Customer Sports Programme take us next?
Thomas Jäger: By setting up our after-sales service in Europe, America, Asia and Australia, we have created a strong basis for the future. But our programme will only remain successful if we have satisfied customers who continue to put their trust in us. That is why the demands we make on ourselves remain high. We want to further increase the number of cars on the market and consolidate our benchmark position with new products and services. Our primary goal remains to provide our customers with cars that will enable them to win races. We have been very successful in this regard, for example with the new Mercedes-AMG GT3. In addition to the optimised look that takes into account the design language of future series production models from Mercedes-AMG, we also wanted to further improve the general driveability, ergonomics and safety. Running costs are also a very important issue, because the teams must be able to afford to operate. That’s why we have extended the lifecycle for individual components and reduced the costs for engine overhaul. All in all, we have succeeded in creating a very attractive package. The many orders for the new Mercedes-AMG GT3 and for the update kits show that this is appreciated by the customers. With the new models, we are therefore ideally positioned for the future.
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