After Andre Lotterer’s somewhat expected departure from DS Techeetah in favour of a move back to Porsche, the question remains – who will fill the vacant seat at the newly crowned teams’ champions next to Formula E’s first ever double world champion; Jean-Eric Vergne?
Some of the biggest names in Formula E and beyond have been linked with a move to the Chinese team in preparation for season six, and we’re not surprised. Having a seat at the best team on the grid next to arguably the best driver on the grid is a chance not to be missed, even for the most highly sought-after driver.
Let’s look at a few contenders to see who is most likely to fill the vacant seat.
José María López
It’s no surprise to anyone at this point that José María López is keeping his options open for season six. He’s made it very clear that he’s not particularly happy with the Penske organisation, and is most likely looking for an out. The three-time World Touring Car champion had a difficult season five of Formula E, scoring just three points and finishing 21st in the drivers’ standings. However, the Argentine is still highly regarded, and may get the break he needs if DS Techeetah decide to roll the dice on him. His accomplishments in WTCC and WEC should give him the boost he needs to put himself in the frame for the highly demanded seat.
António Félix da Costa
Since Lotterer fled the Techeetah nest a few days ago, a name that cropped up almost immediately was António Félix da Costa. While it appears that the BMW stalwart had signed on to continue with the German manufacturer into season six, according to e-racing365 it is believed that DS Techeetah are planning to lure the ex-Red Bull man into their car instead. The 27-year-old had a solid season five, finishing 6th in the standings after scoring three podiums including a win at the season opener in Ad Diriyah back in December 2018. The thought of having Vergne and da Costa as teammates is a very exciting prospect, so expect this rumour to run and run.
Not many drivers have caused as much excitement in their debut season of Formula E than former DTM champion – Pascal Wehrlein. After the German was made to make way for Charles Leclerc at Sauber in 2018, his unsuccessful return to DTM prompted Wehrlein to make a career change. A chance was offered to join Mahindra Racing in Formula E. He scored a sensational third place grid position in just his second race start in Santiago, followed by a second place finish. The ex-Mercedes protégé had quickly found his home, and continued to impress throughout the season, keeping pace with his much more experienced teammate Jérôme d’Ambrosio. Wehrlein doesn’t yet have a contract for season six, so could potentially be a target for DS Techeetah as they evaluate their options. There’s no doubting that he would give Vergne a very hard run for his money.
Whilst some of you may be surprised that James Rossiter is being considered for the vacant seat that Lotterer left behind, it must be noted that the 35-year old would come with bags of experience, as well as already being the DS Techeetah development driver for the last year. The current Super GT driver has an impressive resume including Formula One test duties with Honda, Force India and Super Aguri, as well as finishing third in the British Formula 3 championship in 2004, just behind former Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr. and GP2 winner Adam Carroll. Rossiter also knows the DS Techeetah team very well and would be a great fit next to Vergne, as he is of a similar age to Lotterer and wouldn’t provide much friction within the team. This would be the sensible and safe option. But it could be the chance of a lifetime for Rossiter.
The driver with the most outside chance of claiming the seat next to Vergne would be Columbia’s Tatiana Calderón. The 25-year old Formula 2 driver had a successful young driver test for DS Techeetah back in December on the streets of Riyadh, with crash.net reporting that the Chinese team were very impressed with her ability, as well as her natural pace. Although she hasn’t had the best of times in her single seater career, scoring just one podium in the last three years of competition, Formula E could be just the car that suits her driving style. It would be very surprising if DS Techeetah go for Calderón, but the fact that she could even be in the conversation is a credit to her and the effort she’s putting in her racing, especially in one of the most hard-fought series in the world – Formula 2.
Bearing all of this in mind, we still have four months until the lights go out in Riyadh for season six, so you can be sure that DS Techeetah will do its due diligence before settling on a driver to partner Vergne. One thing is for certain however, and that is whoever they end up choosing will have a huge task on their hands in helping the DS Techeetah team retain their teams’ championship, what with the likes of BMW, Jaguar, Envision, Nissan, Mercedes and Porsche all likely to be snapping on their heels.