until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Five big Formula E might-have-beens revealed

by Sam Smith
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Not all courtships and trysts have happy endings. In the case of Formula E more often than not they never quite come off.

Reigning champion Jake Dennis flirted with several teams over the past two years but has always stayed true to Andretti, and Sebastien Buemi was courted aggressively when he was the dominant force during periods of the Gen1 era but stayed in the e.dams fold until this year.

But some tantalising and previously unknown possibilities have yet to be aired publicly. Until now!

What if Nelson Piquet Jr had started his Formula E adventure with e.dams not China Racing, and how might the present Maserati MSG squad look if it had a touch of footballing superstardom upon it?

Sam Smith reveals five big what-ifs...

Piquet and e.dams

At the start of the Formula E story Nelson Piquet Jr was yearning to take a chance on the new series.

He was only 29 years of age and was still largely ostracised by some parts of the motorsport community. The whys and wherefores of that are well known and lay in the intricate and unseemly ripples of the so-called ‘crash-gate’ debacle around the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

By 2014 mud was still, mostly unfairly, sticking to Piquet and it was having an effect on his career, as in some ways sadly it always would.

He needed something new, something fresh. So he and his manager Steve Hewett scouted for FE deals.

It was an initially frustrating experience.

A meeting with Jean-Paul Driot and Alain Prost in late 2013 went positively and they showed strong interest in signing him to partner Nicolas Prost in the e.dams squad.

When that mysteriously went quiet, Venturi and the Amlin Aguri teams started to speak to Piquet enthusiastically. Yet all three possibilities petered out. Why?

After all, here was a proven single-seater winner and champion. F3, A1GP and GP2 (pictured below) had proved that Piquet, with the right environment, could be a highly potent proposition.

The whiff of ostracism lingered though as others took drives with those teams. In the case of Venturi, it was F1 veteran Nick Heidfeld, and with Amlin Aguri it was Katherine Legge.

For the Piquet camp something didn’t feel right and the strong suspicion was that there was some kind of campaign to try to keep him out of the paddock. It's highly likely several figures on the grid and off it were lobbying some teams.

Ultimately, Piquet got the last laugh when he secured the China drive and swept to the title after wins in Long Beach (reprising his father’s 1980 F1 grand prix win) and Moscow.


After an occasionally strong first FE season with Aguri, Antonio Felix da Costa had at least started to get some traction following an ultimately crushing experience with Red Bull that never delivered a deserved chance on the F1 grid.

By the summer of 2015, da Costa was holding talks with teams because it became clear Aguri was going to acrimoniously lose its title sponsor Amlin to the Andretti team.

Chief suitor Dilbagh Gill at Mahindra was famed for ‘falling in love’ with drivers and da Costa appeared to be his latest romance.

Indeed, it was more than just a flirtation and it was agreed that da Costa would join the team alongside Nick Heidfeld for the second FE season in 2015/16.

It got as far as a press release and decals being made up but the jovial Portuguese would never sit in a Mahindra Formula E car.

The exact details are unclear but what appears to have happened is that a deal with Mahindra's season one incumbent Bruno Senna became binding and it was the Brazilian who had rights to the seat.

It was a messy situation all round and one that meant da Costa had to stick with an ailing Aguri squad which was in the middle of a fractious ownership transaction with a Monegasque property mogul called Marc Fagionatto.

That triggered an underdog heroics season for da Costa who partway through it knew that the Andretti/future BMW link axis would be his light at the end of a pretty dark tunnel.


Like the laser-guided melodies his right foot could conjure in his playing career, David Beckham is known for his precision and flair as a businessman and ambassador now he is an ex-footballer.

Perfect attributes then to get involved in Formula E, and when his name was secretly talked about in 2022 as a potential stakeholder in what was then the Venturi team but about to become Maserati, a few people started to get excited behind the scenes.

Beckham is said to at least have expressed some interest during the clandestine talks. He was already a global ambassador for Maserati itself and like many well-known former sports stars was looking at investment in all kinds of sports businesses.

Those at Maserati MSG have always been tight-lipped on the links. However fanciful it may have been, it is intoxicating to think that along with global megastars like Leonardo di Caprio, Beckham might at least have a flirtation with Formula E at some stage.


Garry Cook was the noted and newsworthy chief executive at Manchester City FC between 2008 and 2012 just when the current Champions League winners were transitioning from perennial underachievers to global colossus.

His resignation from that role was controversial and came when insensitive comments towards a player's mother were attributed to him and investigated.

Cook then moved on to the Ultimate Fighting Competition (UFC) for several years but by 2018 he was approached by Formula E to take over from Alejandro Agag, who had begun to focus more and more on his Extreme E plans.

While Agag moved to become chairman, Cook is believed to have initially agreed to join as FE CEO. However, personal and family concerns took priority and instead Jamie Reigle was hired and the course of Formula E history was probably kinked to some degree.


Mitch Evans was the main target for a few months at least around 2021 when Porsche was looking at the next phase for its Formula E structure.

An underwhelming few seasons had clearly shown that the team was missing some links and it became a question on the driving side of who would join Pascal Wehrlein, who had been signed up in the early part of 2020 for a 2021 deal.

Evans had gone through at least a couple of contract cycles from 2016 with Jaguar and had established himself as the focus of the team throughout the Gen2 period.

Now talks with Porsche were certainly gaining some momentum, not least because his management team included Porsche brand ambassador Mark Webber.

That was only one facet of the talks, though. Evans had already got a taste of Porsche when he tested twice for its LMP1 World Endurance Championship team in 2015 at Barcelona and Bahrain.

It seemed a natural fit but it didn’t quite ignite. That was chiefly because Evans was enjoying competitive seasons with Jaguar and believed in the team.

After the Evans talks cooled, Porsche's discussions picked up pace with da Costa. Although not completely done and dusted then, his current deal with Porsche was believed to have been at least verbally agreed at the end of 2021.

The Evans and Porsche story though is unlikely to have been concluded. Yet to hit 30, Evans would be an obvious choice to re-engage those talks in the mid-term future should he consider parting with Jaguar.

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