Does Formula E want Formula 1 retirees?

It seems the Brazilian is simply unable to take his feet off the pedal. After an undistinguished start to his Formula 1 career, Felipe Massa has grown into a respectable figure in the paddock.

Massa has now declared his intent to race in Formula E once his Formula 1 career is over. His announcement raised some questions for me about what Formula E should be. It it an exciting, young series aiming to captivate an exciting, young audience? Or is it a pension scheme for retired Formula 1 racers?

Felipe Massa, a career of two halves

Circumstance is always such a major force in motor racing. A driver’s entire career can be defined by one corner on a race track.

Felipe’s hard work under mentor Michael Schumacher at Ferrari almost paid off as he crossed the finish line in Brazil to become World Champion, only to be overthrown moments later.

Michael Schumacher

Formula 1 legend Schumacher mentored Massa during their time together at Ferrari. Image: Polmars CC BY-SA 2.5

Following the incident in 2009 which left him with horrific injuries, Formula 1’s nearest nearly man has settled down as a consistent top ten contender. He shrank into the shadows as Fernando Alonso’s wing-man in his latter Ferrari years, and was consistently beaten by Valtteri Bottas at Williams.

When Felipe announced his retirement towards the end of the last season it seemed like the perfect time to close the book. However, a bizarre turn of events, heĀ ended up re-signing with Williams. Now Felipe sits in that team as an experienced head and mentor to youngster Lance Stroll.

But it is clear now that he will not be looking to extend his stay in Formula 1 much longer. The young talent is beginning to bottleneck.

Would such a move benefit Formula E?

My immediate answer is no. Formula E is a young brand, with exciting new ideas about racing. Some may argue that having such an experienced name join the Championship would add an extra selling point, but I disagree.

Formula E has a roster of fringe drivers who are slowly making a name for themselves. Nelson Piquet Jr, Sebastian Buemi and Lucas Di Grassi have all suffered a harsh fate at the hands of Formula 1, yet they have risen to become series Champions.

Lucas Di Grassi

Lucas Di Grassi took the Formula E title in 2017 after an unsuccessful spell in Formula 1. Image: Liondartois CC BY-SA 4.0

Those drivers have established themselves in this new series as big names. The stars that have helped Formula E to grow so rapidly. They don’t need big names to come in and generate an audience. The audience is already growing.

That’s not to say that retired Formula 1 drivers would walk straight in a dominate the series. Massa, who has tested a Formula E car, said it himself that there is no comparison between the two.

But suppose he did annihilate the field?

Ultimately, Formula E needs to remain an individual series. Avoiding any comparisons with Formula 1 will be crucial to continual growth. The last thing they need is to start inheriting Formula 1 retirees.

Should Felipe Massa end up racing in Formula E, it would be pretty embarrassing for the series if he wiped the floor with the rest of the field.

Felix Rosenqvist in a Mahindra car

Felix Rosenqvist drives for the Mahindra team alongside former Formula 1 racer Nick Heidfeld. Image: KAgamemnon CC BY-SA 4.0

Massa’s arrival could undermine Formula E’s success. If he proves to be a superior driver, Formula E as a series loses all credibility as a potential Formula 1 slayer.

Again, there’s no reason to believe that would be the case. But, Massa is still a veteran of Formula 1, something the majority of Formula E drivers were never able to manage.

(Feature Image: Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)

(Feature Image: Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)

Simon Ostler

I am currently training to become a Journalist. I write best when my subject is something I enjoy. I have spent time working with CAR Magazine and Parkers.

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