Is Maserati MSG’s future team principal hiding in plain sight literally next door in the pitlane with the other part of Stellantis’ two-pronged Formula E effort?
Long-time FE racer Oliver Turvey is currently DS Penske’s reserve driver and sporting advisor and has been since November 2022.
He is by all accounts within the team solid and effective in this role but as his racing career appears to have all but petered out, could it be time to prove his fierce intellect and strong capacity to read racing situations works as dynamically from the pit garage as it did from the cockpit?
If The Race’s sources are correct, Turvey has at least been offered the chance to join Maserati MSG to further his career away from the driver’s seat.
Talks between Turvey and new Stellantis motorsport chief Leo Thomas did take place in Diriyah last week. This is not surprising considering that Thomas was the technical driving force of DS Penske last season and prior to that had presided over the glory years of Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa’s DS Techeetah titles and wins from 2017 to 2021.
Turvey is ripe for a fresh challenge after learning his new trade alongside the invaluable experience of the likes of owner Jay Penske, team manager Nigel Beresford and to some extent also Eugenio Franzetti, the DS Performance director of motorsport.
Maserati MSG has had a spare office going in its plush new Monaco base since last October. That was when previous boss James Rossiter somewhat unexpectedly departed the team.
Since then, it has been quiet with Jose Aznar Botella - co-owner of the MSG element of the operation, which owns the Maserati MSG grid slot - taking up the interim top job reins.
Is Turvey ready to be a team principal? That’s debatable. Was Rossiter ready? That depends a lot on who you ask at Maserati MSG, as opinion is very much divided on that one.
Whether or not Aznar-Botella and his partner in MSG ownership, Scott Swid, would use a driver-turned-team-boss template again as a preferred option is entirely up to them, but it doesn’t feel quite right at present for Maserati MSG.
So, could Turvey have another role to fill there?
Its new chief engineer Cyril Blais, who along with a core at the team put their heads down and got ready for the season in very difficult circumstances last autumn after Rossiter’s departure, certainly needs reinforcements within the team from all angles. Could Turvey offer options on the sporting side while he is being assessed as a possible team principal for 2025 perhaps?
That is currently unknown but if word of the former NIO driver switching between DS Penske and Maserati MSG is true, how should it be viewed?
On one hand Turvey, only 36 years old, would have a great deal to offer a sportscar team but he’s fallen off that ladder while prioritising Formula E over the last decade. His endurance racing achievements are strong - headlined by a Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 win with Jota in 2014 and a second place the following year.
Since that time Turvey has almost exclusively raced in Formula E and despite occasional heroics in mostly poor machinery, he was never able to deliver what he should have. While he was well remunerated over several seasons it will still be a source of frustration that he never got a regular chance outside of the turbulent NIO team.
Turvey reads races extremely well but he’s a very different character to Rossiter, who briefly made the jump from sporting manager to team principal.
Therefore, the notion that Turvey would go straight into a team principal role looks to be a stretch right now. Surely, it would be more beneficial for him and the Maserati MSG team to have him in a similar role to what he is currently filling at DS Penske.
This seems the most likely outcome right now and it could happen sooner rather than later. Anything beyond that may have to be assessed at season’s end when the MSG element of the squad is likely to have at least additional investment.
New engineering force emerges at Maserati
On track, Maserati is exceeding many people’s expectations with 20 points on the board after the first three races of 2024, but internally there is thirst for much more.
A lot of that is down to an impressive emerging personality in the shape of Cyril Blais. He’s the new engineering brains who is dovetailing chief engineer status with being Max Guenther’s race-by-race engineering lead.
A close bond exists between the pair, as Blais looked after Guenther in his single Formula 2 season of 2018 at the Arden squad, a team that Blais worked with between 2012 and 2019.
After three seasons at Mahindra, Blais joined what’s now Maserati MSG, firstly working with Lucas di Grassi during the team’s final year as Venturi and then Guenther.
Since the end of 2023 he has assumed responsibility for overall engineering decisions and even represented Maserati in the team principals’ press conference in Riyadh last week.
He’s clearly a busy man but Blais had time to tell The Race that “it’s not unusual [to have two roles], but it’s not ideal and it’s not the way I wanted to do my new job to be honest”.
“I’ve done that in the past in other teams and other categories and when you run a car, you can’t do the job 100% like you want to do or you should be doing,” he added.
“There’s no denying that there is a dynamic that you can’t break up as well. There was a late departure and we came to a choice and we said, ‘OK, do we try to find somebody to replace me?’ but then you break the dynamic with Max.
“I know he would have been better [with a dedicated race engineer] but we sat down with the team, the senior guys, and we said, ‘Where can I contribute the most to the team and be most effective?’”
Maserati MSG clearly didn’t want to find someone just for the sake of it and there is an emphasis on finding the right fit for the team when things are more stable.
Between last September - when the changes in the team started to become apparent internally - and the late-October Valencia test, Blais and co needed to make a decision. The key one appears to be that Blais would take this double role: to be chief engineer but to stay on Guenther’s side of the garage too.
Should Turvey join Blais and Maserati this season, irrespective of whether it has a new team principal, the suspicion is that both Guenther and Jehan Daruvala’s occasional peaks so far this season can turn into something more consistent as the year wears on.