Last week, veteran Formula One driver and race winner Felipe Massa announced that he will be joining the Venturi Formula E team from Season 5, when the second generation of Formula E cars will make their debut. The Brazilian, signing a 3 year deal with the Monegasque outfit, has always expressed his desire to come to the all-electric racing series ever since he retired from Formula One and he finally has made the move.
This would mean that either Mortara or Engel would have to sacrifice their seat and judging on their performances, it would be hard to choose. The next few races could give Venturi a clearer idea about Massa’s partner for next season. The seat may not be as big of a worry for Mortara or Engel; HWA, the team which runs the Mercedes DTM operation are also entering the series in Season 5 and with both Maro Engel and Edoardo Mortara being Mercedes Factory drivers, they may be in prime position for a seat at HWA.
But how does Massa’s arrival affect Formula E in the longer run?
Massa is undoubtedly the most iconic driver to switch from Formula One to Formula E full time and with Formula One drivers having much higher media duties as compared to Formula E drivers, Massa will bring a lot more media attention to Formula E.
Should he be successful, Global Motorsport Fans, who see Massa as the most popular driver on the Formula E grid, will take notice about the series and Formula E will gain fans. Massa, being a more recognizable driver will raise eyebrows should he do well in Formula E and his success could mean a lot for the championship, who is looking to grow in every possible sphere.
Massa’s role in Formula E can be compared to Fernando Alonso’s role in the rise in popularity of Indycar since 2017. His performances, poor or strong will capture the attention of racing fans who don’t watch Formula E and that allows the series to tap on those fans to make them regular viewers of the series. This way, the series can be more popular than it is right now and drivers like Massa can play a key role in the same.
Also, with two strong Brazilian drivers on the grid in the form of Lucas Di Grassi and Felipe Massa and also the inaugural Sao Paolo ePrix being contested next season, the Brazilian media will pay more attention to Formula E next season onward and that opens a new door for Formula E and allows them to influence the Brazilian fans too. Massa as a result can be a global ambassador for Electric Vehicles through this switch.
For the manufacturers such as Audi, Nissan and Mercedes, people in Brazil and more specifically Sao Paolo will take more notice into EVs, fulfilling the purpose of the Manufacturers in Formula E. Sao Paolo is an important city for Formula E and with a rising EV market there, manufacturers see it as an important location to increase the sales of their electric vehicles.
On the track though, I doubt that Massa will have much of an instant impact on the series.
Time and again we have seen that drivers have taken a lot of time to adapt to the series; the approach towards driving Formula E cars is very different to conventional single seater series. As a result, great performances shouldn’t be expected from the very beginning.
However, when Massa does finally adapt to the series, it will give us a good chance to see how the other Formula E drivers will fare against a very experienced ex-Formula One driver and that should make the series very exciting in the future.
Massa is one of the best drivers in the world and when he will get used to the cars of this series, he can be an important factor in deciding the outcome of the championship.