until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Do these underdog battlers deserve rescuing from the midfield?

by Sam Smith
7 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

When it comes to ragging a Formula E car around any given track in the hope of breaking into positions they shouldn't be in, few provide a spectacle quite like ERT pair Dan Ticktum and Sergio Sette Camara.

Both drivers have achieved such feats in the last season and a half, with an emphasis on cabaret as they graze the walls on the frayed edge of commitment.

Their feats are noticed by others in the paddock, but without knowing precisely how they would operate in a big team Ticktum and Sette Camara are still seen as slightly risky to take on.

Should Formula E’s hidden gems be allowed to shine in a more competitive environment or will they remain in the volatile mid-pack minefield?

At Misano earlier this month the two showed that a clever strategy and a bit of elbow grease in the heat of battle can still reap major rewards as both got unlikely top-six finishes.

The question now is whether either of them can do that long term for ERT, or will the British-based Chinese team lose its biggest assets?

A change of tack from Ticktum?

“While I think this grid is full of some of the best drivers in the world, if I were given a good car there’s no reason why I couldn’t beat all of them.”

It would be easy to label that as Dan Ticktum saying Dan Ticktum things but it actually proves something quite significant.

At times Ticktum’s body language this season has barely held in the scream of ‘I’m a winner, get me out of here!’ as he scraps for 14th position in any given recent E-Prix.

But there are glimpses of a new Ticktum, one who is holding out for the bigger picture.

Earlier this year, The Race featured a cutting comment from Andretti team principal Roger Griffiths suggesting that Ticktum, despite his obvious talent, is not a desirable signing from a marketing standpoint.

The Race learned at the Sao Paulo E-Prix in March that the pair had spoken informally and buried that hatchet. But whether Ticktum is on any radar outside of ERT right now is still in the balance. He probably deserves to be but in the world of Formula E there is probably still a bit to be earned and the remainder of 2024 is important in light of that.

“I’m sort of out of the F2/F1 curve and my mindset to racing after a couple of years of being a professional driver is different,” Ticktum tells The Race.

“People obviously respect me and Sergio in terms of our pace a lot, they know that we’re good drivers. It’s quite depressing to say but you kind of get used to it after a while.

“You sort of see it as just a job that you’ve got to do. You hope the team will progress, we’re working on a number of ways to try and secure more funding, hopefully try and do some more partnerships with sponsors and maybe manufacturers.”

ERT is certainly pushing on that side of things, with its boss Alex Hui telling The Race last month that capturing a manufacturer is “a big part of where we are right now” in terms of priorities.

“It would be cool to stay with ERT with a big partner but I need to see something in place in the next couple of months, quite quickly, to want to commit to another stint here,” confesses Ticktum.

“OK, I’m 25 this year, I’ve still got a good probably 10 years if all things go well, but I need to be winning or in a car that I can prove my worth in.

“It would be cool to see the team secure some good deals and be part of an uprising but I need to see some plans in place quite soon if I want to commit to that.”

Ticktum has matured since he came into Formula E at the end of 2021. You get a clearer sense that he wants to make a career out of the world championship, as well as explore sportscar racing in the future.

Back in 2022, during his first season, the restlessness of being on the cusp of Formula 1 but never making it was still hurting.

“I think in the first year or so I was too negative about the whole thing and not appreciative of where I was but now I’m starting to, I’ve got a very good life,” he says.

“I want to be a [Lucas] Di Grassi of this championship in 10 years’ time, I want to be a veteran of the series and hopefully make an impact like he does with decisions on venues, rules, all sorts.

“I definitely want to be here for the long haul.”

Form rediscovered

With more polished and less hairy performances like the ones Sette Camara produced in Tokyo and Misano recently, Formula E’s original rough diamond is starting to glint again.

In Tokyo, where he qualified fourth and finished 10th with his second points-scoring performance of the season, you could almost see the amorous glances from rival teams that reignited interest.

He followed that up with sixth in the second Misano race, a day after Ticktum had scored his first points of the season with a fourth-place finish.

Sette Camara has never had a competitive car in Formula E. His momentum as a flair driver who can giantkill on occasion took a little dent last season when team-mate Ticktum generally just got the better of him. But in 2024 the reviews have been glowing again.

It all comes with many caveats though. Most prominently the fact that beyond one-lap pace and hold-the-fort race tactics, Sette Camara can generally only hope for the lower reaches of the points.

“For a driver it weighs a lot where you’re driving, which team, which car, and I want to be driving in a competitive car,” he tells The Race.

“So, if right now I got a shot in any other championship, competitive championship and considered a professional series, with a good car, I would rather be driving a car that can win a race.

“But my focus is Formula E, my number one priority I always say, is that this team next year or the years ahead becomes a top team. I said the same when I was in Dragon.”

The Dragon years were a case study in tenacity for Sette Camara. That team was a mess in the last two seasons of the Gen2 era with little possibility for any results, and even when it did get close it usually shot itself in both feet at point blank range.

That would have disturbed, if not destroyed, other drivers. But Sette Camara has iron will when it comes to keeping motivated.

“It's the hard part, to find the motivation, because we know at best we’ll get some points,” he says.

“There’s two motivations I get, and this is very honest.

“The first is to be seen by other teams and to be invited to drive a competitive car; maybe some other driver is not performing and a team boss sees us delivering more in a slower car.

“This can happen quite often because we have a good driver line-up here in ERT and I think other teams know, on paper, this car shouldn’t be doing that well.

“Then secondly if we do well then maybe the team will find another partner like a manufacturer or something, making this team a top team maybe next year onwards already.”

That is entirely possible in the often fickle world of Gen3-era Formula E. There is also a feeling too that the more active front powertrain and different spec of Hankook tyre that will be used from next season onwards might suit Sette Camara even more and make him more attractive to other teams.

But for the time being, Sette Camara is staying loyal to ERT and is still keen to see the project through and banking on that plan of it securing a big manufacturer partner.

“Honestly that would be the dream scenario,” he says. “So that’s another big point of motivation before thinking of going somewhere else, that I think of achieving success here.”

How often he can do that this season seems limited. But when the occasional flashes do spark up, know that they will burn bright.

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