Berlin ePrix – Felipe Massa has become Formula E’s biggest signing yet, with the retired Formula 1 star joining the series full time next season on a three year deal with Venturi. However, is his signing good news for the series?
Formula E has matured considerably over the last three years and, with a new generation car coming onstream next year that gets rid of the need for mid-race car changes, is addressing some of the criticisms that have been leveled at it since Day 1. While the field has enjoyed a strong driver line-up, it has picked up a reputation, however unfairly, that it is a series for drivers that aren’t good enough for Formula 1. Felipe Massa’s signing has changed that, as he is a man who could still be in F1 if he wanted to be.
FormulaSpy’s journalists discuss the signing, and whether it’s a good news story for Formula E.
Chris Stevens: Follow Chris Stevens on Twitter
Felipe Massa has thought this one through. It was not a spur of the moment decision to tackle Formula E, but that does not immediately make it the right decision. There is little doubt that Massa is a draw for fans to the series, but he could well be wasted in the Venturi with much larger OEMs as its opposition, especially going into such a complex season with the new car. It would be nice to think that at this point Formula E doesn’t need to rely on recent F1 retirees to bring in the numbers. The series has its own identity and the likes of Sebastien Buemi, Lucas di Grassi, Jean-Eric Vergne and Felix Rosenqvist have become the face of the championship. It would be nice to see the series snapping up younger drivers who have a longer career ahead of them and a better scope to adapt to the cars, which if Felipe cannot do he will be found out very quickly.
Luke Murphy: Follow Luke Murphy on Twitter
Felipe Massa’s inclusion in the Formula E championship from next season can only be a huge advertising win for the series. Despite the conclusion of his Formula One career ending in relative obscurity, he remained popular driver, just look at the reception he received in his (first and second) retirement season. During his Formula One days, the likeable Brazilian has frequently been high on the lists of marketable drivers, which is based on factors such as their popularity in their home country (hint: he’s very popular). Only the rise of fresh talent (Verstappen, Ricciardo, Rosberg becoming champion) has seen him slightly drop down those lists. The Brazilian market is one that Formula E has been itching to become involved with since before season one. The initial plan to race in Rio de Janeiro was cancelled and this year’s Santiago ePrix has been postponed until season five. With any luck, the Brazilian crowd will be spoiled by three ex-F1 home drivers which include the current Formula E world champion and a former F1 race-winner and championship contender.
Thomas Maher: Follow Thomas Maher on Twitter
Felipe Massa has always divided opinion…just how good is he really? From learning from Michael Schumacher himself to beating Kimi Raikkonen and almost winning the title in 2008, his reputation fell when he was obliterated by Fernando Alonso during their time together. But when he picked himself back up at Williams, his popularity soared and his confidence seemed to recover. And he was still every bit as brave and fast as ever towards the end of his F1 career. While some will definitely view his move to Formula E as a cushy retirement package, along the lines of the defunct Grand Prix Masters, I have no doubt Massa is in it to win it. He has always talked about going into another series straight after Formula 1, like WEC, Indycar or Formula E, and no-one views WEC or Indycar as being anything but the intense, professional racing series that they are. Formula E’s sporting demands will be just as great as any high end series, but the considerably less demanding calendar and slightly less pressurised environment suits a family man whose racing career is winding down. His marketability and work ethic is a huge boost to the Venturi team, and Formula E as a whole. Unfortunately, despite the prestige of some of the drivers in the series, FE still has a reputation as being an ‘F1 rejects’ escape. The likes of drivers like Felipe Massa, who has critically evaluated this move after leaving F1 on his own terms, as well as ex F1 Champion Nico Rosberg becoming an investor in the series, gives Formula E a welcome boost of respectability as it matures.
If you're NOT a Formula E fan already, will you pay more attention now that @MassaFelipe19 has agreed a three year deal to race for @VenturiGP ? #FormulaE #BerlinEPrix
— FormulaSpy.com (@formulaspy) May 17, 2018
Frank Parker: Follow Frank Parker on Twitter
Formula E has this unfair reputation of being an “F1 rejects championship”. But the grid is packed with experience which, when mixed in with exciting young talent, gives us thrilling races again and again. Felipe Massa has 270 starts in F1 and came close to winning the championship in 2008, only being pipped at the final corner, on the last lap, of the final race in Brazil. Lewis Hamilton is arguably one of the fastest drivers in the world right now, and for Massa to bring the championship down to the wire against him shouldn’t be dismissed. Massa’s experience can only be a positive for Formula E. He’s driven many different cars and seen a plethora of regulation changes; meaning he should be able to hit the ground running in the all-electric championship. He won’t be just an ‘also ran’ and I think he’ll be able to set up a challenge quickly.