Yesterday’s revelation that Lucas di Grassi is relinquishing his role as principal test driver will not affect development of the Formula E racing car.
A spokesperson for FEH, the Formula E promoter, could not comment on the di Grassi story specifically, but did confirm the FIA ruling at the crux of the matter: the development driver will not be permitted to race in the first series, as it would be deemed an unfair advantage – and di Grassi wants to race.
We understand that talks are underway with other drivers who have similar skillsets but who will not participate in the races. Enter The Stig: Ben Collins revealed recently that he has signed up to the development programme. While it has not yet confirmed the claim, that FEH has not refuted it either suggests that Collins will indeed undertake some testing in the car.
Regarding the development programme itself, Current E sources have confirmed that shakedown of the Spark-Renault racing car is well underway, with the test car reportedly having already covered more than 250km. The car has to date been run with a battery around a quarter of the size of that planned for the final iteration, but like the final version, it has been supplied by Williams.
While our sources also confirm that the loss of the debonair Brazilian driver will not hinder the breakneck pace of development (there is a May 2014 deadline to have cars ready for the teams and he has not been the only driver to put the car through its paces during shakedown), it will be a disappointment for FEH, which is losing something of a figurehead in the articulate professional as at home in front of a TV camera as he is behind the wheel.
There’s no word yet on whether the test ruling will affect Takuma Sato, who had planned to undertake some testing this winter. He hasn’t yet stepped into the car – and he may now choose not to, especially if he is interested in a race place. We’ll know more in the New Year.