until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Formula E’s finest ‘what if’ driver heads for the sidelines

by Sam Smith
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The old guard have started standing down from their faithful team ranks in Formula E.

Sebastien Buemi is no longer at e.dams, Robin Frijns has vacated his seat at Envision to be replaced by Buemi, Antonio Felix da Costa will no longer be resplendent in DS black and gold but now the white and black of Porsche, and Lucas di Grassi, once synonymous with Audi, is about to drive for his third team in as many years.

That’s just a thin slice of the volatility in the Formula E driver market that has played out over the course of 2022, and it has refreshed the line-ups like no other year.

One Formula E executive told me recently that they would be “triple-checking the driver and team signage above the pits in Mexico City” next January. While their tongue was firmly in cheek, the new driver and team combinations will take a few sessions of testing at Valencia in December to properly sink in.

The altogether more expected recent confirmation of Dan Ticktum staying in his NIO 333 seat means that an almost ever-present in the Chinese team will be missing next season.

Oliver Turvey Formula E seat fit

Given that Oliver Turvey first raced for the NIO 333 team, when it was then in the original and founding guise as Team China Racing, in the summer of 2015 (the image above shows him making his original seat at the back of the Battersea Park paddock in June 2015), it means that a significant era in his career and indeed that of the NIO 333 team has passed.

In truth it was one beset by at best mediocre opportunities and therefore mediocre results for Turvey. Nevertheless, he has been an integral, diligent and occasionally giant-killing presence in a team that has been through more turbulence than most in the Formula E paddock.

While the results rarely came, his reputation grew initially in line with his status as a driver who could deliver above and beyond the usually meagre capabilities of his equipment.

Certainly, this was true from the end of 2018 to earlier this year because Turvey, like the vast array of team-mates he has had at the team, was either fighting losing battles or in a state of renovation along with that of his team.

This is amplified, to an extent, in Turvey’s Formula E statistics.

Oliver Turvey NextEV NIO Mexico Formula E podium

In the 86 E-Prix races that he has contested the stand-out highlight is a solitary second place earned at Mexico City in 2018. That came exactly 12 months on from when he started from pole and led the corresponding race comfortably before a technical issue scuppered his only serious crack at an E-Prix win.

Turvey has accrued 113 points from those starts and his average finishing position is 13th.

Oliver Turvey’s Formula E career

2014/15 – 4 pts, average finish of 9th

2015/16 – 11 pts, average finish of 10th

2016/17 – 26 pts, average finish of 10th

2017/18 – 46 pts, average finish of 12th

2018/19 – 7 pts, average finish of 14th

2019/20 – 0 pts, average finish of 18th

2020/21 – 13 pts, average finish of 16th

2021/22 – 6 pts, average finish of 15th

Total – 113pts, average finish of 12th

The stats plainly don’t do justice to Turvey’s sporadically-inspired application in unquestionably difficult circumstances.

He’s been a model pro throughout the development of the Gen1 and Gen2 eras and is one of only a few drivers to have experience of all three Formula E rulesets, as he also tried NIO 333’s Gen3 test and development car back in June.

But over the last two seasons Turvey has been challenged by two young and hungry team-mates in Tom Blomqvist and Ticktum. The qualifying head to heads against them haven’t gone in Turvey’s favour, although his reputation as someone who can overcome difficult circumstances is borne out by the fact he outscored each of Blomqvist and Ticktum in the races.

Oliver Turvey NIO 333 Formula E

Turvey quite often keeps his own council in difficult times and was publicly always supportive of a team that sometimes descended into chaotic states, particularly in the first two seasons of the Gen2 era and prior to the recent ownership by 333 Racing. That’s because he was a consummate and discreet team player.

But it was clear that he was often frustrated by a lack of technical resources (usually software capabilities). This meant that the showcasing of his skills was quite often left blunted.

There were, however, some heroic performances that stand out, notably at Santiago in 2020 when he took a sensational fifth on the grid with a car that had no right to be anywhere near the top 10.

Then a year later he took sixth place in Diriyah followed by a truly remarkable run to seventh in a race in which he was literally freewheeling down the Rome descents to bank energy for later on.

The opportunities for Turvey to continue his own Formula E story with another team now seem to have evaporated.

One that he is believed to have been eyeing was as a ‘plan B’ signing for Maserati once Nyck de Vries’ extrication from his 2023 FE deal to join AlphaTauri in Formula 1 became inevitable.

What’s now Maserati MSG will run out of the former Venturi base just around the corner from where Turvey lives in Monaco.

That avenue now looks unlikely for Turvey, as does the slot alongside Rene Rast at McLaren after The Race revealed last month that Jake Hughes was set to be given a chance at the new-look team being created out of what was Mercedes.

Oliver Turvey NIO 333 Formula E

Should he be interested, Turvey would be a natural fit for a non-racing role at Jaguar and is such an all-round package that he could fill both of the roles that were vacated by Norman Nato and Sacha Fenestraz when Nissan raided the Big Cat’s subs’ bench for its 2023 race line-up.

We know that Turvey’s results in Formula E come heavily caveated by team ownership instabilities and a lack of resources to take on the bigger manufacturers.

All the more reason why there would be a great deal of appetite in seeing him in a fresh environment and where the ‘what if’ tag he’s been carrying around for a while can be answered.

While that looks unlikely at present, Turvey is bound to be the go-to Formula E super sub – for 2023 at least.

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