Whoever leads the new Maserati Formula E team is said to have watched Nyck de Vries’ Formula 1 exploits in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix through angst-ridden fingers.
The reason is simple. If De Vries secures an F1 seat for 2023 – and he has obviously accelerated those chances with a superb start – then Maserati will have to scramble for a suitable replacement in Formula E in the coming weeks.
De Vries has been in agreement to join Edoardo Mortara and drive for the team formerly known as Venturi next season for some time now.
But he will of course have an exit clause which will be quickly activated if a now-awaited F1 opportunity comes his way, unlike the previous approach of him and Toto Wolff pressuring his talents from teams that weren’t convinced at the time. .
With the promise activated and the momentum boosted, De Vries reminded F1 that he deserved a full season to show his skills alongside Alex Albon or Esteban Ocon at Williams or Alpine in 2023.
If that happens, the disruption to Maserati will be significant.
Indeed, there is currently no clearly defined alternate arrangement to match the obvious power that a Mortara and de Vries combination would provide.
Ironically, De Vries had his worst season in Formula E this year. Although he included two wins, he scored 50% fewer points than his Mercedes team-mate and new world champion Stoffel Vandoorne.
But that didn’t stop Maserati from believing it would enter its first Formula E season with one of the strongest pairings on the grid. The odds of that have diminished considerably during the 53 laps of Monza last Sunday.
Mahindra’s recently announced new signing Lucas di Grassi revealed to The Race earlier this month that he could have stayed at Venturi, where he won the second London E-Prix in July.
While that may have been the case, Maserati’s targeting of De Vries was clear and focused. He wanted – and still wants – the 2021 FE champion.
But with De Vries’ long-awaited F1 ambitions now ignited and Alpine and Williams under no perceptible pressure to make an imminent decision on him, a nightmare scenario for Maserati, and also, albeit to a lesser extent due of its driver pool, De Vries’ other planned employer for 2023, Toyota (in the World Endurance Championship), is at stake.
Indeed, although Maserati will rely on the autumn Gen3 testing period of its efficient powertrain supplier, DS Automobiles, it still needs to define its driver line-up as soon as possible simply for operational and sporting reasons, because the new rules bring a host of new and unfamiliar challenges to the two-year homologation seasons of 2023 and 2024.
It’s a dilemma that should have been on Maserati’s mind even before De Vries’ performance last Sunday.
However, Venturi’s transition to Maserati will include some notable changes to the way that team has been run over the past few seasons. The departure of former CEO Susie Wolff initiated these changes.
Suitable alternatives for the seat assigned to De Vries seem rare. If experience is the team’s primary focus, then Oliver Turvey and Maximilian Guenther, both Monegasque residents, will be the obvious choices.
Then there is a possible generic list which could include Antonio Giovinazzi, whose representatives are known to have already spoken to Maserati earlier this year.
But with the Italian looking for a potential opening at the Haas F1 team, the possibility of easy plug-and-play for Maserati seems highly unlikely.
De Vries has been preparing his multiple options for 2023 for several months, but his situation has remained in a strange stasis so far. The furious activity of a capricious Formula E market seems far from over.
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