The Formula E grid for the 2016-17 season is starting to take shape. Abt Schaeffler Audi and Renault e.dams have confirmed unchanged line-ups, Antonio Felix da Costa is expected to join Andretti, and Nick Heidfeld and Nelson Piquet Jr look set to stay with their current teams.
However with Jaguar entering Formula E next season there remains a question mark over who they’ll choose for their opening foray into electric racing. A source inside the team indicated that they’ll make a driver announcement at the London ePrix at the beginning of July, with the team rumoured to be looking for one driver with experience in the series, and one British driver “who both Jaguar and Williams really believe in.”
With the knowledge and resource of Williams Advanced Engineering behind them, Jaguar is expected to be competitive from the off, so it’s no wonder that a host of drivers have been linked with them over the past few months. With such a great field of talent to choose from, The Checkered Flag decided to have a look at those who are in contention.
Sam Bird ticks two boxes for Jaguar – he’s British and has bags of experience in Formula E. He’s won three races so far in the series, and his three pole positions this season have earned him the reputation as one of the fastest drivers in Formula E. While there have been a few errors in races, such as his offs in Long Beach and Paris, his points scoring has been impressive, and given a slightly more competitive package he would be right in the title fight. However it might be difficult to take him away from DS Virgin Racing as they’ve proven they can produce a fast car, and with good backing you have to think they’ll be in the mix for the championship next season.
The nearly man of Formula E, Adam Carroll has been inches away from a drive in Formula E several times, only to have it taken away from him at the last moment. He was lined up to replace both Nick Heidfeld and Jean-Eric Vergne earlier in the season when there were doubts over whether they could race due to an injury and illness, and Team Aguri got as far as putting him forward for the FanBoost in Berlin as a sub for Antonio Felix da Costa, only for the deal to be scuppered at the last minute and for Rene Rast to take the drive. He does have experience behind a Formula E wheel though, having tested for Mahindra Racing and NextEV TCR, and his performances in the British GT Championship this year have been impressive. Has the right mix of experience and pace to be a contender.
Another British driver, and one of the most promising young drivers around at the moment, Alex Lynn would be a great addition to Formula E. As development driver for Williams Racing he’s known to the team, and they’ll be aware of just how much pace he has, especially having won GP3 in his debut season. Since moving up to GP2 he’s done well, winning three races, but a poor result in Baku has seen him drop to sixth in the championship. While he’ll probably want to stick around in GP2 for a while longer, neither driver at Williams seems to be going anywhere in the short term, so Formula E might be a good place for him to develop while he waits for that F1 drive.
Lance Stroll is another lightning fast driver who will be well known to the team thanks to his role as a Williams development driver. Formerly of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Stroll jumped ship to Williams last year, and is currently tearing up the FIA European Formula 3 Championship. With three wins and six podiums so far he’s sitting in first place, and if he keeps up his current form he’ll be looking for his next step. Williams might decide that Formula E is the right move for him, and although the Canadian will have to balance it with his title push, it might be a sacrifice worth making to get someone of his talent in the car.
Nelson Piquet Jr
Although NextEV team boss Martin Leach has stated that Piquet Jr has a “multi-year” contract, it’s hard to believe that he wouldn’t be excited at the prospect of joining Jaguar. Although his current team helped him to the title last year, their pace has evaporated this season with their heavy drivetrain proving slow and unreliable. Although they are ringing the changes and splitting from the Campos outfit next season, there’s no guarantee that things will improve, and a team as well resourced as Jaguar might seem like a better bet to help Nelson bounce back into title contention.
Anthony Davidson undoubtedly has the racing pedigree for Formula E, and his experience in F1 and the World Endurance Championship would see him fit in well in the current field. His Le Mans teammate Sebastien Buemi has no doubt told him of the fun he’s having in Formula E, and might have been able to tempt Davidson to give it a shot. With the majority of the races taking place in the Formula 1 off-season it would also mean he could continue with his Sky broadcasting commitments.
Paul di Resta
After some seriously impressive performances in DTM, and famously beating Sebatian Vettel to the Formula 3 Euro Series title, it then all seemed to go quiet for Paul di Resta. A mediocre stint in Formula 1 has been followed by an inauspicious return to DTM, although a win at Hockenheim has shown that the spark is still there. He’s also been hired as the reserve driver for Williams, meaning that they still rate him, and with Antonio Felix da Costa showing that you can balance both DTM with Formula E, he might be tempted to give it a go.
Another Formula 1 veteran, Narain Karthikeyan has his name in the mix due to his link to Jaguar parent company Tata. While maybe an uninspiring choice, he’s kept his hand in the game by racing in Super Formula, although this hasn’t yielded any results to shout about as of yet. He’s also rumoured to have been chosen as the first driver to test the new Jaguar Formula E racer, and although the team didn’t reveal the driver photographed at the recent test at Mallory Park, if it was Karthikeyan it would give him invaluable mileage in the car.
With just over a week to go to the London ePrix, we won’t have long to wait to find out who Jaguar pick. We should also find out more about the Jaguar car, with the team being provided with their own pit garage so they can conduct testing. Whoever they choose they can probably bet on having a competitive package underneath them.