Formula E’s silly season seems to be well under way after a hectic nine days of racing came to an end last week in Berlin. While half the grid already seems locked in place, there are some key seats still up for grabs. Rob Watts takes a look at how the Formula E grid might shape up next season…
Nothing to see here. As part owner of the team, Jean-Eric Vergne will likely see out his racing days in black and gold, and with team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa having just secured a dominant title win, the ‘Jevtonio’ lineup will return to lock horns once again next season.
Max Günther’s growing potential has been hard to ignore this season and his impressive brace of wins in Santiago and Berlin have increased his stock significantly. He’s far from the finished product, and does need to curb his ‘do or die’ approach to race weekends a bit, but he looks set for a long term future at BMW now. Unfortunately, the future of his team-mate Alexander Sims looks a little less clear right now.
Inside Electric understands that Sims has not been confirmed for next season and his representatives have held preliminary talks with one or two other teams should BMW opt to not take up their option on him. He’s been a loyal BMW factory driver for some time now and that won’t be overlooked, but a poor run of results in Berlin have left him a little less secure going into the off-season.
It’s worth also noting that there are a collective of BMW factory drivers looking to secure their futures after the German marque’s exit from WEC and the continued uncertainty surrounding their DTM plans. Austrian Phillip Eng has raced for BMW in several categories and could be an option as might fellow countryman (DTM driver and nephew of Gerhard Berger) Lucas Auer, who has recent Formula E experience having driven in the Marrakesh rookie test back in February.
Either way, ditching Sims based on his Berlin results would be a bitter pill to swallow, seeming as he briefly led the championship following his win in Diriyah. His team’s poor form in the final six races reflected worse on Sims than on Günther’s, and in truth, their somewhat unexpected race win now seems to have been an anomaly rather than a reflection of their true pace potential in Berlin.
[UPDATE] – Sims to replace d’Ambrosio at Mahindra
Sebastien Buemi remains one of the top performers on the grid and is hugely well respected within the Nissan e.dams team. With his team-mate Oliver Rowland (now a Formula E race winner) on a multi-year contract, a renewal of the same lineup seems highly likely and neither driver will be looking to jump ship given the team’s strong pace in the final few races. A championship challenge could beckon for either driver next season.
Mercedes will be encouraged by the performances of both Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries this season, with team boss Ian James telling Inside Electric that both have “done a great job”. Neither driver has been publicly confirmed for next season, but Vandoorne – who scored his first Formula E victory in Berlin – has all but ruled out a return to F1 and says his future now lies in FE. De Vries too has shown strong potential during a stellar rookie season so there seems little reason for Mercedes to make a change to this young and exciting lineup.
Signed, sealed, delivered. This one’s wrapped up already. Virgin were forced into a change it must be said, as team leader and multiple race winner Sam Bird agreed a deal to join Jaguar after six seasons with the team. Robin Frijns has been retained for a second season and in response his form in Berlin was significantly improved after a patch start to the season. He’ll have fresh competition alongside him next year in the form of Kiwi Super Formula E champion Nick Cassidy.
Jaguar can boast one of the most exciting lineups on the grid next season, after they successfully swooped to snatch Sam Bird away from the Virgin team. Bird arrives as replacement for the luckless James Calado, who despite his best efforts and a burning desire to succeed, unfortunately struggled to adapt to the all-electric championship and now returns to sportscar racing with Ferrari.
Mitch Evans is retained for a fourth season, and after scoring 80% of Jaguar’s points to date since entering the championship, he’ll finally have a serious and consistent challenger alongside him to keep him honest. Jaguar will be eager to prove their Berlin pace woes were little more than a hiccup, as with this lineup, the team will have nowhere to hide if the big results aren’t forthcoming.
Lucas di Grassi intends to see out the rest of his career in Formula E, but despite turning 36 last week, he’ll more than likely race on with Audi for at least another two seasons.
The identity of his team-mate however is not yet confirmed, but Audi did confirm to Inside Electric recently that no decision had been made for Season 7 and Rene Rast himself said (prior to Berlin) that his Formula E future depended as much on his feeling in the car as his results on track.
With a podium, two superpole appearances, and 26 points in the bag from six starts, Rast appeared to be both quick and confident in the car and he looks the firm favourite now to make that seat his own.
Another team to have already concluded their Season 7 lineup are Porsche. Andre Lotterer was always likely to return, but Pascal Wehrlein’s arrival has been one of the paddock’s worst kept secrets over the past two months. A barren season for loyal Porsche veteran Neel Jani gave the German outfit little choice but to press ahead with finding a younger team-mate for Lotterer and one with a proven track record in the championship. Wehrlein ticks that box and several others, and it’ll be a great opportunity to see the extent of his potential with the backing of a full factory team behind him next season.
Edoardo Mortara looks set to continue for a fourth season with the team, but one thing that’s certain now is that he’ll have a new team-mate alongside him as Felipe Massa’s two-year Formula E spell has come to an end. Massa had grown frustrated at the increasing focus on energy saving this season (rather than flat out racing where he feels his strengths lie) and it seemed inevitable some time ago that the Brazilian be unlikely to extend his stay.
The team say there’ll be no imminent announcement regarding his replacement, and with more than three months until pre-season testing, Venturi might just take their time to see how the driver market pans out with potentially one or two drivers from other series casting their eye in FE’s direction.
Dilbagh Gill says his preference for next season is to pair “someone with experience at least in one seat [and to] take a chance on who we think is a talent”. There’s some uncertainty about Jerome d’Ambrosio’s long-term future as Gill suggested to Inside Electric that the Belgian needs to reach a decision as to what he wants moving forward, so it’s not a farfetched scenario that would see Alex Lynn’s recent cameo end up having been an audition to replace the former Dragon driver rather than to partner him.
It must be said that d’Ambrosio is both liked and respected at Mahindra and it’s far from a foregone conclusion that he’ll move on, but Lynn’s outstanding performances in Berlin do look likely to have bagged him a full-time next season. Should Mahindra opt to pair Lynn with another driver, Daniel Abt could prove a good fit as he ticks both the young and experienced boxes Gill is looking for and would compliment Mahindra’s new powertrain partnership with German company ZF.
[UPDATE] – Sims to replace d’Ambrosio at Mahindra
Sergio Sette Camara may not have scored points in Berlin, but he did impress the team with his pace. Two top 10 qualifying positions is no mean feat for a rookie with limited preparation time, and he spent more laps racing in the top 10 than any other driver Dragon have employed this season. Whether he wants to commit his future to Formula E at this stage is unclear, but he did speak very highly of the series when asked about his future in Berlin.
In the other car, Nico Muller seems likely to be overlooked for the second Audi seat alongside di Grassi, and it’s not exactly been a standout season for the Swiss aside from a few standout qualifying efforts. He has won three of the first four DTM races this season so clearly he’s not lacking in talent. Showing your speed is never easy in a back of the grid car, and he might feel reluctant to commit to another full season with the Jay Penske-run squad if he has long-term ambitions of moving up the grid.
Historically, Dragon have a tendency to announce their line-ups quite close to the start of pre-season testing so don’t expect to hear too much on their Season 7 lineup anytime soon.
This one, honestly, is fairly open right now and depends probably on the shape the team can get themselves in to compete next season. Oliver Turvey’s commitment to the cause must surely start to fade soon after a second consecutive season rooted to the back – and the first during his time in Formula E that he’s failed to score a single point.
Ma Qinghua is likely to focus on his return to the Chinese Touring Car Championship, and Daniel Abt is thought unlikely to commit to a full-season with the team despite his six race stint with them in Berlin. Don’t expect any announcements this side of testing.