NEW HOME FOR F1 OUTCASTS?
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