Cape Town’s E-Prix field is among the very best in racing
Outside of Formula 1, the drivers in tomorrow’s Formula E Cape Town E-Prix are among the finest on the planet. Not only do several of them have Formula 1 experience, but 2021 champion Nyck de Vries (above) has now gone the other way.
Either way, the grid for this weekend’s big race makes for most interesting reading. Besides de Vries and inaugural 2015 champion Nelson Piquet Jr, the rest of Formula E’s illustrious World Champions continue in the sport. And all of them will be racing this weekend.
Before we get to them, mention has to be made of Nyck de Vries. At 28 years old, the Dutchman had basically given up on what had once promised to be a glittering F1 career. The multiple European and World Karting champion went on to take the Euro Formula Renault title in 2014 and added the 2019 FIA Formula 2 title to his cart. He was all set for F1. But his F1 ship quite literally never came.
So, de Vries escaped to Formula E, where along with his role as Mercedes F1 test and reserve driver, he won the 2021 Formula E World Championship for Mercedes. He was back racing Formula E and moonlighting in Endurance racing last year when he was thrown a F1 bone to practice in Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin in the first session of the 2022 Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Formula E champion Buemi raced F1 and more
That evening, the phone rang and Nyck was called down to the Williams box. To substitute for Alex Albon, who had fallen ill at the last minute. With only the final practice to acclimatise, Nyck shocked by qualifying the Williams 13th ahead of teammate Latifi. Against all odds, de Vries went on to finish ninth and in the points That opened the door to an Alpha Tauri young driver test and now Nyck de Vries will race for AlphaTauri in in F1 this year.
Nyck’s windfall has prompted a new positivity among Formula E drivers. That the Electric World Championship may still after all be a route to Formula 1. That said, Formula E possesses a great level of talent and Saturday’s entry list bristles with some sparkling racing curriculum vitae.
2016 champion, Swiss Envision driver Sebastien Buemi, for instance, started in karting before racing to third in Formula BMW behind a certain Sebastian Vettel in 2014. Buemi raced Formula 3 before graduating to GP2 in 2007. He rose to Formula 1 with Toro Rosso, from 2009 to 2011. World Endurance Champion in 2014, Buemi won at Le Mans with Toyota in 2018 and remains a Red Bull reserve and Toyota WEC driver alongside his Formula E duties.
Di Grassi won first Formula E Prix
2017 champion, Brazilian Mahindra driver Lucas di Grassi won the first-ever E-Prix in 2014. Like all his peers, Di Grassi started racing karts, before winning the 2005 Macau F3 Grand Prix. 2010 GP2 runner-up, Lucas raced F1 with Virgin in 2011 and then World Endurance with Audi from 2012, scoring three Le Mans podiums. An Audi driver for the electric series’ maiden season, Lucas won in 2017, was second in 2016 and 2018, and third in 2019.
French DS Penske driver Jean-Eric Vergne was the only back-to-back Formula E champion in 2018 and ‘19. JEV started karting, moving to Formula Renault, and then taking the 2010 British F3 title as a Red Bull Junior. Also a Toro Rosso F1 driver for three years, JEV joined Formula E with Andretti for 2014. Vergne has already won an E-prix this year and also races for Peugeot in the World Endurance Championship.
2020 Formula E champion, Porsche factory pilot Antonio Felix da Costa is another most experienced Formula E driver. He progressed from karting to Formula Renault 2.0, and then Formula 3 and GP3 as a Red Bull Junior. Da Costa tested for Force India Formula 1 in 2010 and has raced Formula E from the outset. Antonio took his title for DS Techeetah in 2020, before moving to Porsche this season.
Vandoorne is reigning Formula E champion
Nyck de Vries took the 2021 title, while former Mercedes teammate and now a DS Techeetah driver, Stoffel Vandoorne is the reigning champion. Vandoorne won the F4 Eurocup in his debut season and then the 2015 GP2 title before stepping up to Formula 1 for McLaren in 2017 and ’18. He switched to Formula E in 2019, taking the 2022 title while also enjoying World Endurance success. Stoffel is Aston Martin’s F1, and Peugeot’s 2023 WEC reserve.
Several other Formula E drivers also have glittering CVs. Triple Le Mans winner and World Endurance Champion, German Avalanche Andretti driver Andre Lotterer is a former factory Audi and Porsche endurance driver. Also a Jaguar F1 test driver, Andre raced one Grand Prix as substitute for Kamui Kobayashi at Caterham in Belgium in 2014. He moved to Formula E with DS Techeetah in 2017, and on to Porsche in 2020, switching to Avalanche this year.
Double Formula E race winner, already in 2023, Porsche driver Pascal Wehrlein was the youngest ever DTM champion in 2015. That earned him a Formula 1 race seat for Manor in 2016 and for Sauber in 2017. The only driver to ever win three consecutive DTM German Touring Car titles, McLaren’s Rene Rast also won four consecutive Porsche Supercup titles, the 2014 ADAC GT Masters title. He has also won the Nürburgring and Spa 24 Hour races.
Kelvin van der Kinde a South African talent
South African former Polo Cup champion, Kelvin van der Linde took the German VW Scirocco Cup, before becoming the youngest ever ADAC GT Masters champion alongside Rast in 2014. Kelvin has since added another ADAC GT Masters title, won two Nürburgring 24 Hour races and the Suzuka 10 Hours, as well as four DTM race wins, amongst others.
Eleven time Formula E winner, Jaguar’s Sam Bird has raced every Formula E season to date, while teammate Mitch Evans has won six Electric World Championship races. Maserati drivers, Edoardo Mortara has won six times and Max Günther has won three E-Prix. Avalanche Andretti’s Jake Dennis has taken four Formula E victories, while Mahindra’s Oliver Rowland and Envision’s Nick Cassidy are also all Formula E winners.
All in all, the Cape Town E-Prix driver field is one of great depth and substance and of significant racing pedigree. These drivers have either all starred in F1 before, and as Nyck de Vries has proven, are more than capable of competing at the Formula 1 sharp end. All the more reason to get on down to the Cape Town street circuit around the Stadium, Green Point, Moullie Point and the Waterfront this weekend. – Michele Lupini