Eight drivers we want to see get a Formula E chance - The Race
Formula E

Eight drivers we want to see get a Formula E chance

Mar 23 2021
By Sam Smith

Formula E is expected to soon confirm that its 2021 rookie test will take place on Sunday April 25 at Valencia.

Each team has to field two cars at the day long test – and choosing a driver line-up for it is easier said than done.

Teams are ultra-careful about who they choose given this is a rare in-season opportunity to further develop their new powertrains and maximise various programmes.

Traditionally, the drivers selected have been an eclectic mix of youngsters with single-seater ambition, experienced sportscar professionals with useful tech knowledge, or some that have pre-existing commercial agreements or already confirmed test and reserve status with teams.

For 2021 this is set to continue, despite a recent attempt by the promoters and some teams to make the test exclusively for those that have little or no experience in Formula E cars.

The entry list is unlikely to be known until mid-April but before then we’ve been pontificating about potential drivers who could be seen in Formula E cockpits at Valencia.

Daniil Kvyat

Current abode: F1 reserve

Daniil Kvyat

Alpine’s official reserve driver will be kicking his heels for 2021 doing the third driver thing of staring forlornly at timing screens.

While he’s doing that Kvyat will have at least one eye on his competitive future, which is highly likely to be away from the F1 paddock. So for the next few months his manager Nicolas Todt will be a busy man.

Todt brought Jose-Maria Lopez, Felipe Massa and James Calado into Formula E so knows the landscape and realises too that it is a lucrative place to be for his clients.

Alpine is of course in the Nissan-Renault family and says it has some Formula E ambition itself in years to come. That remains to be seen but for now it makes some sense for Kvyat to get a taste of the new world championship in a low key environment such as the Valencia test.

The Kvyat camp was in talks with Mahindra back in 2018 but those came to nought when the opportunity at Toro Rosso created a second crack at F1.

IndyCar could also be possible for Kvyat for 2022 but with connections such as the one he enjoys now in the ‘alliance family’ then Formula E is also a real future prospect.

The Race understands that Nissan test regular Mitsunori Takaboshi will not be used for a fourth consecutive occasion and with Jann Mardenborough not with the manufacturer anymore, Nissan e.dams will, come what may, have two fresh faces at Valencia next month.

Odds of actually happening: 5/1

Oliver Jarvis

Current abode: IMSA

Oliver Jarvis

Jarvis would be an attractive proposition for a team to test at Valencia.

He’s experienced in complex machinery – witness his work in the mega Audi hybrid era LMP1 cars in particular – he’s available and he doesn’t have any ties to rival manufacturers in Formula E.

He’s also very good, as his recent IMSA performances evidence.

Along with Harry Tincknell, Renger van der Zande, Pipo Derani and Filipe Albuquerque he could add to the growing list of top IMSA DPi performers to have taken part in a Formula E rookie test.

Oliver Jarvis Great Britain A1GP Mexico 2008

Remarkably, it has been 13 years since Jarvis took Great Britain to third in the final A1GP series – his last single-seater campaign.

But that would matter little for a driver who bafflingly never got a crack at even GP2 or Super Formula despite having won the Macau Grand Prix and finished second in British F3.

Odds of actually happening: 5-1

Renger van der Zande

Current abode: IMSA

Renger van der Zande

A little like Jarvis, the amiable RvdZ is almost a perfect selection for a Formula E team due to having immense experience, zero rival factory attachment and absolutely nothing to prove in the all-electric world championship.

He seems to have been around forever but a glance at his CV, which is monolithic in its length and diversity, tells you that he often mixed it with and beat the likes of Jules Bianchi, Sam Bird and Daniel Ricciardo in his junior racing career.

It would be simpler to list racing cars that the Dutchman has not driven rather than those he has. With this superb depth of experience from DTM, Porsche Supercup, LMP2, DPi, GT and A1GP, van der Zande makes him one of the wiser choices for teams to get a solid and fruitful day of vital in-season testing completed with maximum commitment and minimum fuss.

Odds of actually happening: 11-2

Marcus Armstrong

Current abode: F2

Marcus Armstrong

In theory Formula E teams have their pick of the F2 and F3 grids this season.

But the reality is that many drivers will likely make themselves unavailable as concentrate on their main programmes and ultimate ambitions to follow Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher into F1.

One who could buck that trend is Ferrari junior Armstrong, who will race for DAMS this season after a slightly tepid 2020 debut F2 campaign with ART GP.

Much more is expected for the Kiwi this season, so it could be that he and DAMS may take the view not to cross streams.

However, should he not make an F2 breakthrough this season, he could offer an option in 2022 to continue Formula E’s rich seam of Kiwis to expand.

Odds of actually happening: 8-1

Jann Mardenborough

Current abode: No fixed one

Jann Mardenborough

Puzzlingly cast adrift from Super GT by Nissan, Mardenborough has tested thrice before for the e.dams squad and it is precisely this reason why he should be a no-brainer for another team at Valencia.

Recent and relevant knowledge of a probable title contending outfit’s way of working and a natural aptitude for adapting to complex systems and procedural intricacies makes Mardenborough an attractive proposition.

So does his availability and capacity for sim and test work, his new UK domiciled status for ease of sim work and a hunger to getting back into a competitive seat.

Odds of actually happening: 12-1

Marta Garcia

Current abode: W Series

Marta Garcia

Garcia is feted by many of the engineers that she works with and it was an initial disappointment that she was not selected by a Formula E team for previous tests – particularly the 2018 Diriyah session.

She finished fourth in the inaugural W Series campaign in 2019, and on pace was right with the leading bunch – taking a win on the Norisring streets in a convincing and dominant fashion.

Her odds of being at Valencia have diminished due to W Series’ decision to swap its pre-season test from the Spanish venue the week after the Formula E race to Anglesey in Wales.

But the fact remains that any of the top six W Series racers still remain credible propositions for Formula E teams to gain strong data and also evaluate top international talent.

While others from W Series have had a chance in a Formula E car, it would be a feel-good story to see Garcia get a shot at a track close to her hometown Denia – which is just down the road from Valencia.

Odds of actually happening: 15-1

Matt Campbell

Current abode: WEC/IMSA

Matt Campbell

A rising star of Porsche’s sportscar stable, Campbell has been consistently impressive since he joined the Stuttgart marque as a factory driver in 2018. That was the year he won his class in Le Mans at his first attempt with the Proton Porsche entry.

He’s fresh from a successful Sebring 12 Hours where he added to his growing list of class conquests, which also include the Bathurst 24 Hour and Petit Le Mans.

The true unknown for 25-year-old Campbell is that his single-seater experience is limited to just Formula Ford. But guess what? He was victorious in that too.

Mar 01 : Formula E back with a bang! Sparks fly under the lights in Diriyah

A serial winner, if Campbell or indeed victorious IMSA team-mate Matthieu Jaminet, got a chance with the Porsche Formula E team they’d make the most of it.

So it’s over to Porsche, which used GT man Thomas Preining in the FE test last season, and is likely to stick with an experience (Fred ‘le tyre whisperer’ Makowiecki) and youth strategy.

Odds of actually happening: 25-1

Nick Tandy

Current abode: IMSA

Nick Tandy

Now this would be fun.

One of the last decade’s stand-out sportscar drivers, Tandy like Jarvis would be an unbelievably good call for a Valencia test.

Not only is he super quick but on a development level he’d be invaluable and bang for buck as shrewd a bargain for six hours as a team could spend all season.

Yes it’s been over a decade since he competed in single-seaters and yes he prefers perceived old school/full fat racing to the FE style but Tandy’s intelligence and natural feel for anything on wheels would wash over any of that.

He’d be a kind of UK’s answer to Andre Lotterer from a Formula E point of view. It’s never too late!

Odds of actually happening: 33-1

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