The growth of Formula E will begin to show itself strongly in Formula 1, as high-level teams such as Mercedes believe that the electric car series will soon bring drivers and engineers to the highest category of motorsport.
Six of the current 24 Formula E drivers have contested at least one Formula 1 grand prix. Those drivers are Lucas di Grassi (18 races with Virgin in 2010), Jean-Eric Vergne (58 grands prix with Toro Rosso between 2012 and 2014), Stoffel Vandoorne (41 races with McLaren from 2016 to 2018), Sebastien Buemi (55 grands prix with Toro Rosso between 2009 and 2011) plus Porsche FE drivers Pascal Wehrlein (39 races with Manor and Sauber in 2016 and 2017) and Andre Lotterer (the 2014 Belgian GP, with Caterham).
This is how the prestigious Formula E project was born
However, the all-electric championship, which has also featured 1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve and 13-time race winner Felipe Massa, increasingly draws on drivers far from Formula 1.
Teams now tend to sign low-profile drivers and sports car drivers who, instead, have completed extensive runs in simulators and have racked up many miles in private testing.
Mercedes values Formula E
Mercedes Formula E team principal Ian James estimates that since Formula E will be the FIA world championship this season, it is approaching a point where its drivers and team personnel can now go straight to F1.
“I think FE as a series is getting to a point now where we’re going to see the flow in both directions,” James said.
“I see an opportunity there where from year to year you’ll see people moving between the two series. There are some very sound reasons for that (…) It just goes to show again as we come into season seven, our first season as a world championship, that status is well and truly deserved and serves us well for the future.”
Mercedes is entering its second season in Formula E as an official team, and has already benefited from personnel coming from Formula 1.
Former McLaren driver Vandoorne finished second last season and alongside his teammate, former 2019 Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries, made a double in the final Berlin race.
Likewise, the team works between the same high-performance powertrain locations in Brackley and Brixworth as the Mercedes F1 team.
Tony Ross, Nico Rosberg’s race engineer when he won the F1 world championship in 2016, also joined the HWA team, which was the team Mercedes competed in Formula E before becoming a factory team, and is still there.
Meanwhile, the Mahindra Racing team enters the new 2020-21 Formula E season having hired former Mercedes Chief Engineer Josef Holden.
Two-time champion Vergne has also revealed that an F1 team has offered him a comeback, while his DS Techeetah teammate Antonio Felix da Costa has already participated in an IndyCar test with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing after winning the 2019-2020 championship.