NEW HOME FOR F1 OUT­CASTS?

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

There once was a time when, if you ended up side­lined from For­mula 1 and didn’t fancy rac­ing on ovals or in tour­ing cars, the only way to ex­tend your ca­reer in top-line cir­cuit rac­ing (with a nice salary to match) was in sportscars. This tried and trusted route has helped many a fad­ing F1 star stay in ac­tion un­til the time came for them to hang up their hel­met for good.

But now there is an­other way, one that is not only be­com­ing the pre­ferred path for grand prix out­casts but also a tempt­ing re-di­rec­tion for younger drivers who still har­bour F1 am­bi­tions.

The stam­pede of man­u­fac­tur­ers to For­mula E to co­in­cide with the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of cars has cre­ated a buzz around the elec­tric rac­ing se­ries, and that ex­cite­ment, al­lied to some ex­tra cash float­ing around, is shak­ing up the For­mula E driver mar­ket and hav­ing a rip­ple ef­fect on For­mula 1.

Out of the 22 drivers that will line-up for sea­son five

when it begins in Saudi Ara­bia next month, there will be seven for­mer grand prix stars, with the most re­cent con­verts be­ing Felipe Massa, Pas­cal Wehrlein and Stof­fel Van­doorne.

Massa, who weighed up numer­ous op­tions as his F1 ca­reer ended (for a sec­ond time) in 2017, says the hype around FE right now makes it prop­erly at­trac­tive.

“I don’t re­ally like the idea of rac­ing in a cham­pi­onship that is only one-team rac­ing,” he says. “This is some­thing that I was not re­ally in­ter­ested in. I think there is all of the at­trac­tion for the show [in FE] if you see all the coun­tries it is rac­ing [in].

“Amaz­ing towns, they are city tracks but you also re­ally feel the peo­ple close to you. It’s the show, the com­pe­ti­tion and it’s quite un­pre­dictable to see who is go­ing to win the race. With all the ideas around For­mula E, now I have fin­ished my ca­reer in For­mula 1 it is in­ter­est­ing.”

Could one of Massa’s for­mer F1 team­mates, a two-time world champion no less, also be in­ter­ested in jump­ing on this band­wagon? Van­doorne’s re­cent move to the Mercedes-af­fil­i­ated HWA squad, after los­ing his Mclaren F1 seat to Lando Nor­ris, could prove cru­cial.

If a driver as com­pet­i­tive and in the prime of his ca­reer as Van­doorne is so will­ing to throw his hat into the For­mula E ring after find­ing his F1 am­bi­tions frus­trated, what chance of the se­ries pulling off a coup and grab­bing an es­tab­lished For­mula 1 su­per­star like Fer­nando Alonso?

In the days after the con­fir­ma­tion of Van­doorne’s switch, the se­ries and Alonso got in­volved in some Twit­ter ban­ter as For­mula E cheek­ily sug­gested the Spa­niard should join his Mclaren team-mate in mov­ing to the all-elec­tric se­ries. The idea was not dis­missed clearly on ei­ther side.

For For­mula E, an Alonso move in the next few years would bring mas­sive pub­lic­ity and at­tract the kind of me­dia and spon­sor­ship in­ter­est that would help prop­erly es­tab­lish the se­ries in the mind­set of fans. Although For­mula E would have been au­to­mat­i­cally dis­missed by Alonso in re­cent years – with the old gen­er­a­tion of cars too slow and the cham­pi­onship fac­ing too many scep­tics – times are chang­ing and those two neg­a­tives are grad­u­ally fad­ing away.

The ar­rival of Porsche and Mercedes as works teams for sea­son six in 2019-2020 will bring more pres­tige for For­mula E – and per­haps most im­por­tantly the pos­si­bil­ity for the kind of pay cheque that would en­tice a megas­tar like Alonso.

“WITH ALL OF THE IDEAS AROUND FOR­MULA E, NOW I HAVE FIN­ISHED MY CA­REER IN FOR­MULA 1 IT IS IN­TER­EST­ING FELIPE MASSA

Could Fer­nando Alonso be tempted by For­mula E in the near fu­ture?

Felipe Massa is the lat­est ex-f1 driver to throw his hat in with For­mula E

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