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Formula E can supply F1 with drivers, engineers - Mercedes

Formula E is nearing a stage where it can directly supply drivers and engineers ready for Formula 1, according to Mercedes FE team principal Ian James.  

Mechanics push Nyck De Vries, Mercedes Benz EQ, EQ Silver Arrow 01 back into the garage

Six of the current 24 FE drivers have contested at least one grand prix.  

These are Lucas di Grassi (18 GPs for Virgin in 2010), Jean-Eric Vergne (58 GPs for Toro Rosso in 2012-14), Stoffel Vandoorne (41 GPs for McLaren in 2016-18), Sebastien Buemi (55 GPs for Toro Rosso in 2009-11) plus Porsche FE teammates Pascal Wehrlein (39 GPs for Manor and Sauber in 2016-17) and Andre Lotterer (the 2014 Belgium GP for Caterham).   

However, the all-electric championship - which has also notably featured 1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve and 13-time GP winner Felipe Massa - has increasingly moved away from signing ex-F1 drivers.  

Teams are now tending to favour lower-profile racers and sportscar drivers who have instead completed extensive simulator runs and private testing evaluations.  

James reckons as FE gains FIA World Championship status for its seventh season, the series is nearing a point where its drivers and team staff can now move directly into F1.  

The Mercedes team principal said: “I think, FE as a series, is getting to a point now where we’re going to see the flow in both directions [between FE and F1].   

“I don’t mean just from a drivers’ perspective. Take a look at the whole of the team personnel. The engineers, the mechanics, the team management and the drivers.   

“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.”  

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As Mercedes starts its second season in FE as a factory team, it has already benefitted from ex-F1 personnel.  

Former McLaren driver Vandoorne finished second in the standings last season after leading teammate and 2019 FIA Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries for a 1-2 in the final Berlin race.  

Similarly, the team’s operations are split chiefly between the same Brackley and Brixworth High Performance Powertrains sites as the Mercedes F1 team.   

Tony Ross, race engineer to Nico Rosberg when he won the 2016 F1 title, also joined the HWA squad - the forerunner to the full Mercedes FE team entry - in 2018 and remains with the concern.   

Meanwhile, the Mahindra Racing FE outfit enters the new 2020-21 season having recruited former Mercedes HPP head Josef Holden. 

Double champion Vergne has also revealed that he was approached by an F1 team about a series return, while DS Techeetah teammate Antonio Felix da Costa secured an IndyCar test with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing after his 2019-20 title success.

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