until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

A snapshot from the wildest Formula E silly season yet

by Sam Smith
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

As The Race reflects on the 2023 motorsport season - one that featured a record-equalling Formula 1 schedule, no fewer than 39 MotoGP races, and no shortage of on- and off-track drama in IndyCar and Formula E - we’ve asked our writers to recount their standout motorsport memory or feeling from the past 12 months.

Our Formula E correspondent Sam Smith picks the moment the biggest on-track and off-track stories of the year intersected in Rome.

The Formula E silly season was nothing short of sensational in 2023, even compared to a 2022 off-season that seemed busy - only Jaguar Racing had stuck with its two incumbent drivers that year.

But this past season tested managers, lawyers, drivers, team principals and, yes, writers, to the very maximum in terms of how the market chopped and changed.

The standout move, one which The Race described as a ‘blockbuster’ one, was Jaguar’s signing of Nick Cassidy.

Our 2023 memories so far

Tracking this move reads like a long forgotten John Le Carre novel and one that ultimately came to fruition sometime in mid-to-late June. But it's not done until it's done, so I had to hold off writing it until it was 100% nailed.

That seemed to come in the first days of July just before the Rome E-Prix. You don’t go all in with these things until you are certain and I wasn’t until that point.

The final 1% confirmation came via two clandestine meetings in a sweltering central Rome. One was in the back of a Gelato shop a mile away from the circuit on the Wednesday before the race. The other was behind a concrete wall just adjacent to the pits on Thursday morning.

Breaking these stories will always annoy someone and unfortunately on this occasion it was Sam Bird, the driver Cassidy would replace.

He made his annoyance crystal clear to me, as did some of his management team, which was absolutely their right. You try to do these things as ethically as possible but there is always a likelihood someone will take it badly. The Bird camp certainly did.

It was a tumultuous weekend for him. As we've seen before, he performed excellently on pure pace but made a key error in the first race. It was a small one with huge consequences as it triggered a big accident from which those involved fortunately emerged unscathed.

Around 24 hours later, with a brand new car, Bird took third place - perhaps one of the performances of the season put in the context of what had happened the day before.

For Cassidy, too, there was a contrast of emotions. On one hand, he knew his future was secured with a major manufacturer and he knew going into the weekend he had a genuine crack at the title after winning three of the previous five races.

But he too took a turn on the rollercoaster when his future team-mate and good friend Mitch Evans unintentionally drop-kicked him out of the race and, to all intents and purposes, both of them out of realistic title reckoning.

Bird and Cassidy left Rome after starring in their own Biblical epic. Those of us just writing about it barely drew breath either amid events that tested everyone to the absolute maximum.

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