Porsche stars not guaranteed FE drives
PORSCHE’S LMP1 DRIVERS ARE NOT guaranteed seats when the German marque enters Formula E as a full works entrant for season six in 2019/20, but they will be at the front of the queue.
Andreas Seidl, Porsche’s LMP1 team principal, explained that the manufacturer’s policy of recruiting from within its own ranks would be carried over from the LMP1 programme it runs in the World Endurance Championship, which finishes at the end of this season. All six P1 drivers will remain under contract heading into 2018 and will be offered race programmes for next season, Porsche has promised.
“The idea is that we will continue the history that we have built up with these guys in the next programme,” explained Seidl. He stressed that it was “not a given” that two of the six will land the FE seats, but he said Porsche would “look in-house first like we did when we entered P1”.
Seidl suggested that Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani, who have deals to race for Techeetah and Dragon Racing in FE season four in 2017/18 respectively, would not necessarily be able to jump ahead of the other LMP1 drivers in the queue for 2019/20 seats. He described their arrangements as “private deals” that were “good for Porsche”.
Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb were already Porsche drivers when they joined the LMP1 squad on the marque’s return to the top flight of sportscar racing in 2014. Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber then stepped up from Porsche’s GT roster to drive the third 919 Hybrid at the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours, before landing full-season WEC drives for ’17. Brendon Hartley has contested the two most recent Formula 1 grands prix in the USA and Mexico for Toro Rosso, and the Italian team’s boss Franz Tost said there was a “high possibility” he could race for the squad full-time in 2018.
Porsche had a presence at the official FE pre-season test at Valencia last month, embedding engineers with the Dragon team. Seidl would not be drawn on whether this arrangement would continue or whether it would seek a partnership with an existing team as it gears up for its FE entry.
“We had guys in that garage [Dragon’s] and we were looking around other garages, too,” he explained. “We used Valencia as an opportunity to have a first look and get an idea of what FE is, so that once this season is finished we can create a new structure.”
On the subject of an alliance with one of the teams not affiliated to a major manufacturer, he said: “We could, but everything is open at the moment.”