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Formula E

What’s next for Formula E’s defending champion?

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

For a defending champion currently positioned just five points off the current leader (Edoardo Mortara), with a pole position and a victory from the first two events, Nyck de Vries would be forgiven for being satisfied with the start to his Formula E title defence.

But that’s not de Vries’ style. The Mercedes EQ driver realises that as well as his inherent relentlessness in delivering results, this year the circumstances of the campaign probably need to be given clear context.

It will be the final season for the Mercedes brand in Formula E, as its commitment to the electric world championship will be curtailed at the season’s end.

The team will live on, adding extra intrigue presently as it postures to announce a fresh name, look and culture.

Will these significant changes impact the here and now for Mercedes EQ? Not if you ask team principal, Ian James, who will almost by default express the teams’ mantra of concentrating on the “here and now – season eight”.

But really James and members of his senior team are very much now starting to plan Gen3 with a package that will include Nissan powertrains and possibly a partnership or ownership with McLaren.

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De Vries is equally clear on keeping his and the team’s eye on the prize of back-to-back titles. Yet there is added depth to his assertion that professional priorities in both the short- and mid-term will be juggled in the coming months.

“I really do not feel any loss of morale or motivation or determination,” de Vries told The Race when asked if the impending Mercedes withdrawal will impact the 2022 aims.

“We are all professional, and we shouldn’t be where we are if we weren’t able to keep up that level of determination.

“Of course, our team has gone through quite a lot of different cycles now, starting as HWA, transforming into Mercedes EQ. Then actually, at the end of last year, we made the transition from Germany to Brackley.

“I think we’ve all shown and proven that we are all very adaptable and ultimately when it comes to the job, that is where our focus and priority is.”

De Vries is believed to be forming his plans already for 2023 and it is quite possible that they will be moulded around a promotion to the Toyota Gazoo Racing Hypercar team in the World Endurance Championship.

Whether Formula E can fit into this possible programme is very much a moot point at the moment.

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Toyota will have several drivers coming to the ends of their contracts at the culmination of the WEC season in November. De Vries is highly thought of by senior management at the Cologne-based Japanese manufacturer and is already a proven quantity in LMP2 with the Racing for Nederland and G-Drive Racing concerns.

Should de Vries become only the second-ever two-time Formula E champion there is a real possibility he won’t be around or at least be hampered by clashes because of expanding calendars in both WEC and FE.

De Vries of course isn’t especially candid on what his immediate future might be, yet he’s happy to share his opinions on Mercedes EQ’s final season objectives.

“I have no doubt about the work that will go into this season,” he says.

“But at the same time, we also need to acknowledge, and I think that is also fair that we speak about the future because ultimately, it’s about people’s jobs and lives, so it’s fair to talk about it.

“But I think everyone feels like we just want to get on with the job and make sure we end the journey on a high.

“Besides that, I think the only way to continue to open up opportunities for individuals in their careers is to deliver and perform on the track.

“As long as you do well in your job I think there will always be opportunities and that kind of approach, together with just the natural determination of the group we have, doesn’t lead to any doubts about our aspirations this season.”

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