ABT team principal Biermaier denies Vettel interest, but stirs up Formula E rumour about Sebastien Loeb
A statement by ABT managing director and Formula E team principal Thomas Biermaier on the departure of Robin Frijns had created a lot of talk at the London E-Prix. Speculation about a possible signing of Sebastian Vettel subsequently were published in numerous media. Biermaier clarified a few days later that Vettel played no role in the future planning of the team, but at the same time pointed to another FIA world champion: Sebastien Loeb.
"Maybe we're looking at Switzerland," Biermaier had said in London on ProSieben. "There are former racing drivers who do a lot for the environment and do a lot of sustainability work. Maybe there will be someone like that sitting in the car with us soon."
A statement that many interpreted as a finger pointing at Sebastian Vettel. The Formula 1 world champion from 2010 to 2013 ended his Formula 1 career last year and was conspicuous for his commitment to sustainability, particularly in the final years of his involvement in F1. For example, Vettel acquired a Williams car from the 1992 season, which he fueled with CO2-neutral e-fuels for demo laps as part of the 2022 British Grand Prix.
Biermaier denied the Vettel rumours after the London E-Prix, however: "I never put the name in my mouth, it was put in my mouth," the ABT Cupra team principal told Motorsport.com. "Others interpreted more into it than it really was in the end. There are other drivers in Switzerland who race with sustainability in Extreme E and so on."
This, on the other hand, is a pretty clear indication of Sebastien Loeb: The nine-time world rally champion and Extreme E champion of 2022 has lived with his family near Lake Geneva for many years. Just a few weeks ago, Loeb took over for ABT Cupra and the indisposed Nasser Al-Attiyah in the Extreme E Island X Prix. So the connection to the team from Kempten is definitely there.
No significant experience in formula racing
Is Biermaier again playing games with the media? Even though Loeb has some experience in circuit racing - the Frenchman finished second in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2006 and third overall in the WTCC in 2014 and 2015 - a Formula E entry for the veteran driver is rather unlikely.
So far in his career, he has not contested any singleseater races, although he once prepared for a Formula 1 entry at Toro Rosso in 2009 with various tests in Formula 1 and GP2 cars. Back then, the project failed because the FIA refused to grant him the necessary superlicense.
Instead, Kelvin van der Linde, who has already contested three Formula E races this year as a replacement driver for the injured Robin Frijns, and Adrien Tambay are considered potential candidates. The Frenchman last steered the ABT Cupra car at the Rome E-Prix, when he took part in the rookie practice. However, he only completed a single lap there due to software problems with the Mahindra powertrains.
"These are interesting names," Biermaier also confirmed. "Tambay has a close partnership and collaboration with Cupra. Kelvin is part of the ABT family." The media attention for his team will certainly not have been unjust to him - perhaps that is why he referred to Switzerland once again, which we hereby take up. The cockpit assignments will be finalized in October at the latest, when this year's pre-season testing is scheduled in Valencia.