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Why Nissan e.dams let Albon go – Formula E

The Nissan e.dams Formula E squad is understandably disgruntled by the sudden departure of Alex Albon from the team, but decided not to fight it.

It seems almost counter-intuitive. Jean-Paul Driot’s DAMS team put forward somewhere in the region of €2million for Albon to compete in Formula 2 with it this year. It made a heavy investment in a future talent that wasn’t on Formula 1’s radar.

Getting the Nissan seat in FE was his reward. But before Albon even turned a wheel in the car on the first day of pre-season testing in Valencia, it came to light he was being approached by Toro Rosso for an F1 drive.

Although Albon’s place on the F1 grid is yet to be confirmed, the compromise made between the two parties included not having him at the remainder of the test, seemingly ending his chances of coming back should things not work out in F1.

“If I didn’t interfere financially speaking in order to let him race, he was not even able to do F2. So this is the first step,” Driot told FormulaSpy.

“The second one is that with the car we provided him with he emerged to be very performing, which I had no doubt about because I think that Alex is a good driver.

“But it’s very frustrating to see that you do everything financially speaking to let him drive, to have access to F2 for the second year and working very well, because I think that we gave him a good car –  he is a good driver but a good driver without a good car is nowhere – and he did very well with our car, so it’s very frustrating to have done everything in order to lose him in the end.”

Driot has a reputation for really getting involved in the processes of helping out his young drivers. He came to Albon’s assistance because he feared he was about to hit a glass ceiling, unable to progress into the big leagues with nothing else lined up.

But when an F1 chance presented itself it was no surprise that Albon would try to grab it with both hands, even if that meant breaking the three-year deal he had with Nissan that was announced just five weeks prior. Driot understood this and did not want to stand in his way.

“When you have a 22-year-old driver who has an opportunity to go to F1 we all know what it is for them, it’s their life. We know we could battle with the contract, because we have a contract, it’s quite clear. But you cannot compromise the career of a young guy.

“I have always worked very close with the drivers to help them to do things. So we knew when Toro Rosso said they wanted him we knew it would be a problem to keep him, so we were just trying to find a joint solution with Toro Rosso to let him go.

“I even don’t have to understand. It’s the dream of each driver to reach F1, he has the opportunity and okay he’s taking a risk because he’s going to Toro Rosso. There we will see how it goes because on the other hand he had a three-year contract with a company like Nissan.

“Also he could develop a very nice car within FE but there are some things you cannot fight. Any argument won’t be received because it’s just a dream and it has to be happening.

“He takes much more risk going to F1. Perhaps for him it will go very well, but he’s taking much more risk doing this, but you cannot stop a driver trying to reach it.”

That just leaves a gap in the cockpit to fill, which Driot told FormulaSpy he had “30 drivers” contact him about. Williams F1 young driver and Formula Renault 3.5 champion Oliver Rowland completed the final day of testing alongside Sebastien Buemi and is in contention for a season-long drive.

Nissan’s time is short however, as the FIA deadline to finalise the driver line-up is October 24.

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Chris Stevens

Chris is a member of the Autosport Academy and has been writing about motorsport professionally since 2015. He has been one of the top Formula E journalists since he went to Donington Park for pre-season testing a week after picking up his A-Level results.

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