Separate racing class for future FE drivers? 'That would be great'

Separate racing class for future FE drivers? 'That would be great'

01-10-2023 12:14
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Nicole Mulder

In Formula E, young talents - mostly from Formula 2 - get the chance to prove themselves in the rookie test. All are hopeful for a future in Formula 1, but at the same time, there is the realisation that the demand for F1 drivers is many times smaller than the supply. Instead, more and more young drivers are seeking refuge in the electric Formula class, but even there, it is difficult for young drivers to get in. DS Penske drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Jean-Eric Vergne shed light on the situation.

Former F1 drivers Vandoorne and Vergne know better than anyone the challenge of getting a seat in the king class of motorsport and then sticking to it. "There's always up-and-coming drivers. I would say it's always been challenging, no matter when it's Formula 1 or getting to Formula E. It's always challenging to get to the top," Vandoorne said in a conversation with GPblog and others.

"We've been in this position ourselves. Sometimes, even when everything is going great, and you're getting the best results that you can, it's not always a guarantee that you will end up getting a seat in Formula 1 or getting a seat in Formula E. There are a lot of other factors at play," added the 31-year-old Belgian.

Vandoorne: 'Experience matters in Formula E'

Vandoorne points out that Formula E is a very different kind of championship than drivers are used to after following the 'usual' career path in motorsport. "It requires a different driving technique, a different way of working with your team, requires a lot of experience to be successful in it. That’s probably why it's a little bit difficult sometimes for a team to take a rookie on board because they know that they will have to give him time to learn how to operate within the Formula E world," he explained.

Breaking a rookie in takes time and patience, which may make it more attractive for FE teams to choose an experienced driver. "Having experience in Formula E does help a lot and benefits the teams. It doesn't make it any easier for young people, but eventually, they will have their chance," said the one-time FE champion.

Vergne: 'Formula E a good place for young drivers'

Teammate Vergne added: "Formula One is the ultimate goal, the ultimate dream for young drivers. But I think the true target that young drivers should set themselves is to become a professional driver and represent the interests of the manufacturer or the team. And for that, there are not many championships where manufacturers are represented in a great amount with a lot of interest, such as Formula E, Formula One, WEC, GT, and Hypercar. There are not that many championships.

"For a young driver to want to be a professional driver, therefore representing the interest of the team, I think Formula E is also a perfect place. And we're seeing more and more young drivers wanting to join the championship because they can do so," added the 33-year-old Frenchman.

The former Scuderia Toro Rosso driver stresses that Formula E is not an easy class. "Formula E is not an easy championship, but for all the drivers, you give us a steering wheel, some pedals and four wheels, and it doesn't matter how you drive. We’re always going to drive it the best way possible. And I'm sure it won’t take too long to adapt to Formula E," said the two-time FE champion.

Special development class for young drivers?

Given how difficult it is for young drivers to step up to a higher class, shouldn't there just be a special F2 or FE championship in which they can develop? "Well, let's start by making Formula E very big first. I think that should be the main focus at the moment," Vandoorne replied when asked by GPblog.

The former F1 driver thinks it is important to develop the electric racing class into the best possible platform, both in terms of technology and media reach. As far as Vandoorne is concerned, a supportive racing class could just be part of that. "To properly develop Formula E as the best platform possible, whether it comes to technology, media reach, or whatever. I think that's kind of the biggest thing at the moment. I think it could be great to have a support series for young drivers so they can teach them the way Formula E works, and then it's kind of a much easier route to step up to the big series," Vandoorne said.