Ferrari’s reported interest in FIA Formula E has got factory WEC driver Sam Bird excited. The Brit believes any involvement in the world’s first all-electric single-seater championship from the famous Italian team would be an “incredible coup” for the series.
Formula E’s growing reputation has caught the eye of major car manufacturers looking to move into hybrid and greener technologies, both on the roads and in racing. Big name brands such as Audi, Renault, Jaguar and Citroen DS are all currently involved in Formula E in varying degrees, while BMW is set to become the latest manufacturer to join the grid from 2018. Last October it was also announced that Mercedes (the dominant team in Formula One since the sport ditched V8 normally-aspirated engines for its latest V6 hybrids) has reserved the option for entry to the electric championship for season five, in 2018-19.
The latest interest in the sport has come from perhaps the most famous sports car manufacturer of them all: Ferrari. The Scuderia’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, first flagged Ferrari’s interest back in November, before stating earlier this year that the Italian manufacturer “needs to be involved in Formula E” in the future. While it is unlikely Ferrari would become a full-blown manufacturer team in Formula E until at least 2022, it is understood the Italian team could enter via a branding partnership with an existing private team or via a sister brand such as Fiat or Alfa Romeo.
For DS Virgin Racing’s Bird, who drives for the Ferrari AF Corse team in WEC, Ferrari’s mooted interest in Formula E is an exciting prospect.
“It’s incredibly exciting for everybody involved if that’s true,” Bird told Current E when asked about Ferrari’s interest in the series. “If that could really happen then what a coup for Formula E to be able to bring the big name, Ferrari, into the sport. That would be incredible. I’m not surprised. I’m very happy that [Formula E] is growing and evolving as a big player in world motorsport. I think its unique selling point is very important and getting that message across is valuable, not only to motorsport but to everybody. You look at the teams in the category, you look at the drivers – it has every right to be recognised as one of the best categories of motorsport in the world.”
Bird reckons that, as well as visiting new locations each season, introducing a group of “core” host cities to remain as permanent fixtures on the Formula E calendar can help the growth of the sport.
“The fanbase is growing slowly but surely, which is also very important,” Bird said. “What we need to do now is make sure we stabilise the race tracks we go to and the cities that we go to. We need to have four or five core cities that we always visit, along with new cities around the globe per season. That would be really important and really good for the series. F1 is obviously the pinnacle of normally-aspirated motor vehicles and single-seaters, but there’s no reason why Formula E can’t be as big with the fanbase for an electric vehicle of motorsport. It’s the only one of its kind right now. The world is its oyster really.”
Staff writer: Lewis Larkam