Formula E

Due to WEC calendar clash: Formula E rule change for Berlin E-Prix discussed

Tobias Wirtz

Tobias Wirtz

For the second time in the history of Formula E, there is a clash of dates between the electric racing series and the World Endurance Championship (WEC). Even though "only" the Saturday race of the Berlin E-Prix takes place at the same time as the WEC round in Spa-Francorchamps, three teams are hoping for a short-term change to the rules. According to the current status of the regulations, the drivers would also have to skip Sunday's race at Tempelhof Airport.

Since 2017, the Formula E and WEC calendars have always been aligned - until the current 2024 season. The Berlin E-Prix will take place on the same weekend as the 6-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Of the eight drivers currently competing in both Formula E and the WEC, four are prioritising the electric series: Edoardo Mortara (Mahindra/Lamborghini), Norman Nato (Andretti/Jota-Porsche) and the DS Penske/Peugeot duo Stoffel Vandoorne and Jean-Eric Vergne will not be racing at Spa-Francorchamps.

The four remaining drivers - Sebastien Buemi (Envision/Toyota), Nyck de Vries (Mahindra/Toyota), Robin Frijns (Envision/BMW) and Nico Müller (ABT/Peugeot) - will have to fulfil their contractual obligations and race in Belgium. "Nico will drive for us, that's in his contract," confirmed Stellantis Motorsport boss Jean-Marc Finot to Sportscar365. Toyota team principal Rob Leupen also confirmed that Buemi and de Vries will compete for the Toyota team based in Cologne.

However, the endurance event takes place on Saturday 11 May, while the German E-Prix is a "double-header" with a race on both Saturday and Sunday. This means that participation in the Sunday race in Berlin would at least theoretically be conceivable. However, this is currently prohibited by the sporting regulations. A double-header in Formula E is only considered one event - a driver change during the event is only possible due to "force majeure", for example due to an injury. However, contractual obligations due to participation in other racing series are generally not considered force majeure.

Envision team principal Filippi: "Very, very annoyed" about the FIA

"Is it ideal that we have to replace our drivers?" asks Envision team principal Sylvain Filippi at The Race - purely rhetorically, of course. "Absolutely not! I'm very, very annoyed about it, and everyone knows that. And I know that other teams in this paddock are upset too."

The affected teams ABT Cupra, Envision (with both drivers) and Mahindra are therefore hoping for a rule change for the race in Berlin so that they can at least use their regular drivers again on Sunday.

Other teams, however, are questioning this: Andretti, DS Penske, Jaguar and Porsche have either completely banned their drivers from competing in the WEC in 2024 due to the scheduling conflict or insisted that Formula E be given contractual priority. As a result, a unified line from the teams regarding a short-term rule adjustment is not to be expected.

Who will be the replacement drivers?

ABT Cupra might use Kelvin van der Linde as a replacement driver who already gained Formula E racing experience last year, when Robin Frijns dropped out after breaking his hand. However, the South African is also affected by the clash of dates, as he actually competes for Lexus in the WEC. However, it is not known whether his Lexus contract gives him a clear priority. If this is not the case, it is possible that the 19-year-old Formula 3 driver Tim Tramnitz could become the youngest Formula E driver in history.

Who will take over the vacant cockpits in the other teams is also still in question. Mahindra has both Jordan King and Formula 2 driver Kush Maini as test and reserve drivers. However, neither of them has yet contested a Formula E race.

Team world champion Envision Racing has had Alice Powell as a simulator driver in its ranks for several years. The British driver has also tested for the team in the past, but has never sat in a Gen3 car. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Envision could call on Tom Dillmann and Joel Eriksson - the test drivers from powertrain supplier Jaguar.

Both have already raced in Formula E and are familiar with the Jaguar I-Type 6, but would not be available to drive in the Jaguar simulator or as substitutes for the works team. Another potential candidate is Felipe Drugovich, who achieved the best lap time for Maserati in the 2023 rookie test. The teams still have a good two months to decide.

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