Just ten years ago, the concept of electric racing was unthinkable to the point of being almost laughable – but it wasn’t long before Formula E crushed all expectations. Now it only took the mere mention of the Extreme E Series for some of the most commendable names in racing to make their mark in the series, including two-time FE champion Jean-Èric Vergne who is now co-founder of Veloce Racing.
“What really encouraged me and pushed me to do something in Extreme E is that it’s the same ecosystem as Formula E with the same people involved, especially the organization, like Alejandro Agag, ”Vergne said in a recent interview with Jalopnik. And he’s right. The series was proposed by FE founder Alejandro Agag and former open-wheel racer Gil de Ferran. Because of its close ties to an already established electric racing series, there was an element of legitimacy built into it.
Vergne has been racing on open-wheel single-seaters since he was a teenager, but it was a confusing time in Formula 1, widely regarded as the pinnacle of motorsport, that changed the direction of his career. He had been part of the Red Bull Racing Junior Program, which is known to be a frankly brutal scale at the pinnacle of motorsport and to pick the favorites. Vergne fell to the unfavorable side of Team Toro Rosso, which saw him criticized for just about anything a driver could be criticized for.
When he left the team in 2014, his third year in F1, Vergne moved to Formula E with Andretti Autosport, where he immediately made an impact. The following year, he moved to DS Virgin Racing. And then he found Techeetah, the team that helped him win two championships and a third place overall.
“Going from Formula 1 to Formula E made me realize a lot about the ecological impact of racing,” Vergne told Jalopnik. “It has completely changed my view of green energy and the ecological impact we can have together as human beings.”
And he wouldn’t be the only one. The conversation on climate change has changed dramatically in recent years to demand more accountability from everyone who lives on this planet. The increasing prevalence of electric racing is part of this cultural shift.
“[Extreme E] is more than racing. We are doing more on the side that has a positive impact, ”he added.
Extreme E will only compete at five venues this year, but each event has been hand-picked as a location that most crucially highlights the impact of climate change on places like oceans, deserts and glaciers. . So far, the series has mounted a massive campaign to clean up beaches in Saudi Arabia and plant trees in Senegal to offset the carbon footprint created by travel and shopping. And with each team mandated to have a man and a woman, the cultural impact is even deeper.
And that’s why Vergne knew he wanted to be involved in co-founding an Extreme E team, which put him in good company with several of his former F1 rivals – Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Nico. Rosberg – who all founded teams to participate in the competition. the series. Button is the only one to actually be a pilot in the team that bears his name.
“Extreme E is something so different from what I’m used to driving,” Vergne said when asked about his decision to start a team rather than compete behind the wheel. “I didn’t feel like I could compete for victories without compromising my preparation for Formula E.”
Vergne’s team, Veloce Racing, is the real counterpart of the Veloce Esports team which serves as a sister organization. The management team is also packed with motorsport talent, including Daniel Bailey, Rupert Svendsen-Cook, Jack Clarke and Harrison Newey. Adrian Newey, Formula 1 engineer and technical director of Red Bull Racing, also joined the team as “Lead Visionary”, who has often been recognized for the team’s success during the dominant Sebastian Vettel era.
And the team has two incredible drivers, Jamie Chadwich and Stéphane Sarrazin. Chadwick is the reigning W Series champion while Sarrazin has a long heritage in motorsport which includes countless victories in endurance sports car racing. Sarrazin carries the team’s experience after successful rally outings, while Chadwick brings the enthusiasm of a young driver looking to establish an impressive career.
That being said, Veloce hasn’t had much luck so far. The team was forced to remove of the season opener in Saudi Arabia due to damage to the roll cage that would have made the pursuit dangerous. Sarrazin rode the Odyssey 21 E-SUV during qualifying, leaving a crease in the main hoop that could not be easily replaced.
With less experience to his credit, Veloce managed to set the sixth fastest time in qualifying. This meant the team headed for the Crazy Race, where Veloce had the chance to set the fastest time against the three middle teams. And they did it, which means Veloce Racing joined the teams founded by Hamilton, Button and Rosberg in the Ocean X Prix final.
And although the team did not win the Ocean X Prix, Veloce finished on the podium in second place, proving the team are a force to be reckoned with as the series heads to Greenland. in August.
It’s easy to imagine that Vergne is hoping for the best for his team, especially since this is his first weekend with them on the track and, as he says, they have “some catching up” to do. But while a victory would be delightful – after all, it’s always racing – Vergne and Veloce can at least rest in the knowledge that they have done their part to change the face of motorsport as we know it.