Rookie tester Sheldon van der Linde hopes for Formula E opportunity: "Want to be first in the queue!"
As a 16-year-old, he emigrated from South Africa to Germany, at 23, he won the DTM title. Despite his still young career, Sheldon van der Linde has been living an eventful life in motorsport. The charismatic racing driver from Johannesburg is now also involved in Formula E at Jaguar. Van der Linde thinks: One day, up-and-coming talent might want to specialize in the electric series rather than aiming for Formula 1.
In hardly any series is it as difficult to gain a foothold as in Formula E, it is said. In the technically highly complex electric championship, experience is crucial - especially with regard to energy-saving driving. But how can new drivers establish themselves in Formula E if they are not given opportunities in the vehicle due to a lack of experience?
This year, Formula E tried to solve the problem of too few testing opportunities in two ways. On the one hand, it reintroduced the once annual rookie test day, which exclusively involved drivers who had not previously contested a race weekend in the electric series. And on the other hand, it created a "Free Practice 0" session as part of the Rome E-Prix, where likewise only rookies were allowed to take their seats in the cars. Taking part in both sessions for Jaguar: Sheldon van der Linde.
No room for error
The South African, who won the DTM title in the 2022 season, told e-Formula.news of his gratitude for the opportunity - especially that to compete in Rome. "This is one of the most beautiful street circuits in the world," he says, "at least on the Formula E calendar. It thrilled me how little 'room for error' there is. If you brake too late, there's no run-off area, unlike in DTM."
"Berlin was nice too, of course, but driving in Rome ... That's one of the most difficult Formula E circuits! I only had half an hour, maybe five or six push laps, to get used to it. It wasn't easy, and one mistake can quickly put you in the wall."
Switching from DTM & LMDh to Formula E manageable
Van der Linde has been racing in the DTM touring car series since 2019, scoring a total of eleven podiums so far. Last year, he even won the championship title with BMW Team Schubert Motorsport. He is also involved in the Munich-based company's LMDh test program. However, he says the switch between the different vehicle classes is not difficult for him, at least between DTM and FE: "For me personally, it's not that difficult. Perhaps the most difficult thing would be switching from the LMDh car to Formula E. But the difference to the DTM is so huge that as a driver you know exactly what you have to change."
In both rookie sessions, van der Linde performed well: In Berlin, where he missed the final phase of the test after an accident, he only managed 16th place, but in Rome he finished second. In particular, the result from Italy could one day also become an argument to open the way for van der Linde to join the electric series.
Formula E as career goal "in two, three years"
"With all the overlap with DTM and WEC, it's a bit difficult at the moment," van der Linde said of his chances at Jaguar, "but I think it will be more possible in 2025 or 2026. My goal is to be here (in Formula E) in the next two or three years. I've done two rookie tests now, I know the people in the team and I'm trying to bring my experience to the simulator. When a seat becomes available in the next two years, hopefully I'll be first in line to take over the cockpit. Jaguar is currently one of the best teams in Formula E - it is definitely my wish to get a seat there!"
Van der Linde, who committed to GT racing early in his career, even thinks that up-and-coming talent could one day pursue Formula E rather than Formula 1 as a career goal - much like David Beckmann, who explained this view to e-Formula.news a few weeks ago. "You can see that, for example, with Zane Maloney," van der Linde said of Andretti's test driver, "who, like many Formula 2 drivers, has now come to the rookie test. I think some are realizing that the likelihood of a Formula 1 seat is no longer so great. Formula E is also one of the great racing series in the world, now even as a world championship."
What you mustn't forget: "There aren't that many racing series where you drive alone. In the WEC, you always have a teammate. But I, in particular, as a young driver at 24, would like to show myself a bit more, so that I can also stand on the podium and say: That was me!"