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Formula E

F1 reserves and F2 stars - Is this Formula E's future grid?

by Sam Smith, Valentin Khorounzhiy
9 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E's rookie test in Berlin this week felt more pertinent to the overall driver market than the event usually does - and there were several reasons why.

The most tangible was that just a few hours prior to the 22 rookies hitting the track a walking, talking, racing case study was showing just what could be up for grabs.

Fewer than six months ago McLaren's Sam Bird stand-in Taylor Barnard hadn’t even considered testing, let alone racing, in Formula E. But now, he was talking to rookies in Berlin as not only three-time E-Prix starter but one who had scored points in two of those. At the age of 19, he is fast-tracking a glowing relationship with a motorsport giant in one of racing’s toughest sporting environments.

Taylor Barnard, McLaren, Formula E

Barnard’s heroics, and a decent performance by fellow rookie Paul Aron in Germany, served as a reminder that Formula E is more accessible than previously believed. The old boys' club is getting older and for teams that are in the midst of choosing drivers for next season, younger, hungrier and cheaper alternatives might not be such a bad idea right now.

Allied to this the pain and nuisance of a World Endurance Championship clash last weekend, which affected three teams, and the ground is much more fertile for fresh faces in Formula E in the short and medium term.

Then there is the jeopardy for drivers, too. Six drivers have suffered hand injuries of some sort or other in the last 16 months. Two of them, Robin Frijns and Bird, have missed races. And even last weekend Maximilian Guenther and Jehan Daruvala were lucky to escape with bruising and cuts only.

The times at Berlin featured Robert Shwartzman, Jak Crawford, Sheldon van der Linde, Felipe Drugovich, Kush Maini and Enzo Fittipaldi filling out the top six. Four of those - plus another name - feature in our list below of those most likely to have either a short-, medium- or long-term future in Formula E.

How representative was it?

Berlin, Formula E

Compared to a race weekend of limited running, featuring a very particular qualifying format that arguably naturally constrains drivers' ability to deliver peak laptimes, you can wonder how much relevance there is in the testing times.

But they certainly looked comparable - and as per Shwartzman, who topped both of the sessions with laptimes that would've put him right up there on the grid on both Saturday and Sunday, there was indeed merit in such comparisons.

"I think more or less it's the same," Shwartzman told The Race of the track conditions relative to the weekend.

"Plus here we're basically in a car park - so there's a bit of a different Tarmac, which has a bit of a different grip level. So I don't think we had a massive grip level [advantage] to compare to the other guys.

"And also looking at the data, we were very-very tight and close every corner, so if there would be any really grip level difference we would've seen it somewhere. But that was not the case.

"So I think overall we were more or less at the same level as the guys did when they raced."

So, with all that said, who showed themselves as the best candidates for Barnard-like stand-in drives - or even a (potentially Barnard-like) longer-term gig?

Zane Maloney


Zane Maloney, Andretti Porsche, Formula E

Maloney is a details man. And that impresses in Formula E. It’s impressed the high-ups at Andretti and it’s impressed the team's world champion Jake Dennis.

He was on hand at Berlin last Monday, as was team-mate Norman Nato, to work with Maloney - who was undertaking his fourth test for the Andretti team as it fights to regain the consistency it weaponised so well in 2023.

“I’ve been at every weekend this year pretty much so I’ve been seeing everything that the two drivers and the team are seeing and going through everything with them, going on track and watching,” Maloney told The Race.

Currently leading the F2 points table Maloney has the air of someone, like 2019 F2 champion and 2021 FE champion Nyck de Vries, nudging his way into at least F1 reserve contention. Yet, realism has to play a part, too. And he, as well as his management team, which was out in force at Tempelhof last week, know that the Dennis career model in Formula E has paid off sportingly and financially, and done so very handsomely indeed.

Zane Maloney, Andretti Porsche, Formula E

There is little doubt that Maloney is ready for Formula E. In fact, he seemed to be that way already when he showed up at his very first test a year ago.

“I have a good idea of how everything needs to be done and I’m confident in myself that any car I jump in, it doesn’t really matter if it’s an F4 car, and F2 car, or whatever it is, I have confidence that I’ll do a good job,” he said

“It’s the small details that matter, it’s really easy to miss out on those details but, for me, once I’m in the right mindset, really digging into those details, the speed part is never the problem - it’s more the other stuff. So I’m confident I could do a new job.”

State of Readiness: 9/10

Long-term FE Prospects? Very Good

Felipe Drugovich

Maserati MSG

Felipe Drugovich, Maserati MSG, Formula E

A driver who, by most accounts, already could've been on the Formula E grid had he thrown in the towel on his F1 dream, Felipe Drugovich continues to make a credible impression every time he hops into the DS-powered Maserati MSG Gen3 machine.

He was again competitive at Tempelhof, and when speaking to The Race - while maintaining his stance that he was nowhere near ready to give up on F1 - admitted a Formula E future could be a credible consideration sooner than later.

"It's not that far away [as a prospect]," he said. "Otherwise I wouldn't be doing these tests, you know?

"It's an interesting championship, of course, and I like the way people do as well, they can combine- like, I'm very close to Stoffel [Vandoorne] and these guys, and he manages to combine even F1 [reserve duties] with WEC and this, probably not even a single day at home - but it's nice."

Felipe Drugovich, Maserati MSG, Formula E

Assuming Drugovich doesn't find the surprise route onto the F1 grid he's looking for, FE does seem a natural open-wheel continuation. The only other real alternative is IndyCar - and there he admits he has "no idea how I would feel about ovals".

And getting into a race-winning IndyCar drive wouldn't be the simplest of tasks. Whereas here there seems to be a ready-made route - Maserati has been sniping wins, and while its rookie Daruvala, a former F2 rival of Drugovich's, has improved as of late, could the team be tempted by a potential upgrade?

State of Readiness: 9/10

Long-term FE Prospects? Good

Robert Shwartzman

DS Penske

Robert Shwartzman, Ferrari, F1

An increasingly-familiar presence in various Formula E rookie opportunities, Shwartzman had his best day in the category yet - the kind of outing that will have turned heads up and down the paddock.

The Ferrari F1 tester came over from the WEC race at Spa, but showed no sign of fatigue, topping both sessions fairly handily and logging the day's sole two sub-1m02s efforts in the afternoon.

"To be honest, it took me a bit of time but I'm slowly starting to understand how this car works and how everything works basically with this category," he said.

"Obviously I also see from my side an improvement, sort of an upgrade. I think we can also see it in the results.

"With the mechanics and people in the team, we had some good laughs, generally it was a good day, even though all of us are tired - because I came from the WEC race at Spa, they did the whole weekend, everybody's already very tired, very exhausted, but still it was a fun day.

Robert Shwartzman, DS Penske, Formula E

"I'm happy that I'm finally getting to the point of reaching the pace, let's say, of the leaders of the championship - which obviously for me is always the target in any category I go. I always want to get to the top."

Only four drivers - two of them champions, two others mere race winners - lapped quicker during the Berlin E-Prix weekend than Shwartzman did in the test. The question then is whether there'll be any stand-in opportunity that Shwartzman is available for (he'd have WEC clashes, too, after all) - and whether he would feel anything longer-term would be right for him.

"I'm open, there are always things to discuss. We don't go there and say 'yes or no'. If there is interest, there are points to discuss things and try to find an agreement. And we'll see. Because quite a lot of drivers, they do both championships [WEC and FE] - and they're managing it pretty well. So, why not?".

State of Readiness: 9/10

Long-term FE Prospects? Good

Kush Maini


Kush Maini, Mahindra, Formula E

Kush Maini had a superb start to his 2024 F2 season by setting the pole time in Bahrain and getting a second place in Jeddah and a third in Melbourne in the early phase of the campaign.

In conjunction with that programme Maini is also the official reserve driver for Mahindra and has attended several FE races so far to immerse himself in the team.

There was an assumption that Maini and not Jordan King would substitute for Spa-bound de Vries at Berlin but that proved inaccurate. As team principal Frederic Bertrand told The Race at Sao Paulo in March: "Maybe he [Maini] prefers to focus on that and not to lose too much energy.

“But on the other side he is really keen on learning. We really like to have him in the team because he’s very curious and very motivated to learn.”

Maini's Berlin test was impressive considering a relative paucity in prep time which amounted to a few sim sessions only. He was always around the top six in Berlin, ending the first session fifth and the second sixth, just shading team-mate for the day Frederik Vesti by 0.019s.

Kush Maini, Mahindra, Formula E

While Maini would be a sound plug-in should he be needed - and De Vries has to give priority to his Toyota WEC programme, so another clash could be beneficial to Maini next season - there isn’t anything to suggest a medium- or indeed long-term offering.

That’s because Mortara and de Vries are signed up until at least the end of the 2025 season with options for 2026 likely as well. And with Mortara delivering over and above right now with some typically aggressive and punchy performances, and de Vries steadily reintegrating back in to Formula E before what Mahindra hopes is a big upsurge next season, there seems little way in right now for Maini.

State of Readiness: 6/10

Long-term FE Prospects? Reasonable

Enzo Fittipaldi


Enzo Fittipaldi, Jaguar, Formula E

Following in the footsteps of his brother Pietro, who tested for Jaguar across 2017-2019, the next in the pipeline of Fittipaldis, Enzo, acquitted himself well in Berlin, registering the sixth-fastest time.

The power of Formula E initially caught the Brazilian unaware, though.

“When you go on full power, you can really feel it's like it's instant and it's honestly more than a Formula 2 car, which is quite impressive,” he told The Race.

“The competition is extremely high, laptimes are always very close. I'm just an addict for competition. And I feel like Formula E is for sure one of the most competitive forms of motorsport in the world."

Managed by the GP Sports Management stable, which was out in force at Berlin with Alexander Jakobi and Katie Clements doing the rounds, Fittipaldi made a seamless transition for the day and was said to have impressed the engineering team - which tested him on several aspects of managing the car's systems.

Enzo Fittipaldi, Jaguar, Formula E

Though an F2 race winner, Fittipaldi's F1 prospects right now - like for most on the F2 grid bar Kimi Antonelli and Ollie Bearman - feel limited. But Jaguar is actively looking to the future, particularly Gen4 when Mitch Evans will have likely celebrated a decade with the team.

Could it be then that it looks to find a new Evans? Could Fittipaldi be that man? He ticks a lot of boxes in technical aptitude, marketability and reasonable pedigree.

Could he do a ‘Barnard’ right now if Evans or Cassidy, say, tripped over a chihuahua in downtown Monaco? Quite probably - maybe even more, considering the package that the Big Cat has right now.

State of Readiness: 5/10

Long-term FE Prospects? Reasonable

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