Robin Frijns will make a surprise switch back to Envision’s Formula E team after just one year away to become Sebastien Buemi’s team-mate next year.
The Race has learned that a deal for Frijns to commence a second spell at the Silverstone-based squad was completed in the days after the Rome E-Prix earlier this month.
Frijns took both of his two E-Prix wins with Envision (previously Virgin) in Paris and New York in 2019 and contested four seasons with the team between 2018 and 2022.
However, the Dutch ace left the team in the summer of 2022 to race for the returning Abt team, which had sat out the 2022 season after Audi’s withdrawal.
He is known to have had some disenchantment with Envision after several engineering changes were made in early 2022. Now though he is set to be welcomed back into the operation that recently lost championship protagonist Nick Cassidy to Jaguar for 2024.
Since leaving Envision, Frijns has endured a tumultuous 2022 which was punctuated by a significant hand injury on the opening lap of the season in Mexico City in January.
He then missed four races recuperating from the fractures before reappearing in time for the Sao Paulo E-Prix in late March.
Frijns has gone onto score points on three occasions with the Abt Cupra-run Mahindra M9Electro. Firstly at Berlin where he claimed three points for securing pole position in wet conditions and then at Jakarta where he was ninth and in Portland where he claimed 10th.
But Frijns, who will race in the World Endurance Championship for BMW next season, is known to have become increasingly frustrated with the poor competitiveness of the Mahindra and is believed to have negotiated an opt-out from a second season with Abt, which must persevere with the Mahindras for the 2024 campaign thanks to the fixed two-year homologation cycle.
Possible Abt replacements for Frijns are likely to include both Kelvin van der Linde, who stood in for Frijns earlier in 2023 when he was injured, and Adrien Tambay, who has tested twice for the team in Berlin and Rome.
Talking to The Race in Rome about driver line-up decisions, Envision’s managing director, Sylvain Filippi would only say: “We are in the middle of discussions. I would say more but we’re in the middle of many discussions so. The news will be out soon.”
A Frijns-Buemi axis at Envision is a strong one for the current teams’ points-leading squad but could also offers a sting in the tail due to both drivers contesting dual programmes next season.
Buemi will still be a part of Toyota’s WEC campaign, for a 12th consecutive season, while Frijns will embark on his first with the BMW M Hybrid V8.
As it stands with the current versions of the Formula E and WEC calendars there will be a clash between the Spa 6 Hours and the Berlin E-Prix over the weekend of May 10/11.
The Race has learned that negotiations between the two FIA world championships have taken place to find a possible solution, with one of the two moving its fixture back or forward.
Formula E currently has a to-be-decided date on the final weekend of May and it is believed that whether or not this is used will have a bearing on whether Formula E is prepared to move the Berlin date.
A formal confirmation of Frijns’ return to Envision and Sam Bird’s exit from Jaguar is expected shortly after the end of the 2023 season, which concludes at the ExCeL in London this weekend.