Peugeot open to Maserati Formula E driver double-duty for WEC squad

A driver from the new Maserati Venturi Formula E operation could double up in sister marque Peugeot’s World Endurance Championship squad next year.

Peugeot open to Maserati Formula E driver double-duty for WEC squad

Replicating Jean-Eric Vergne’s dual role in FE with DS Automobiles, another brand in the Stellantis group, and Peugeot in the WEC is one possibility being explored by the French manufacturer as it looks to fill the vacancy in the 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar line-up created by Kevin Magnussen’s return to Formula 1.

Jean-Marc Finot, motorsport boss of the Stellantis group, said: “For Maserati we are thinking of drivers we will get next year; it would be possible to have one driver making two championships.

“It could be [a possibility], wait and see.”

Long-time Venturi driver Edoardo Mortara is looking likely to remain with Venturi on its link-up with Maserati for FE’s Gen3 era at the start of the 2022-23 season, but is understood not to have signed a deal as yet.

The future of three-time Le Mans 24 Hours podium finisher Lucas di Grassi, who joined Venturi for this season after Audi’s departure as a factory from FE, is less clear.

Vergne looks set to maintain a relationship with DS stretching back to the marque’s first involvement as an FE powertrain supplier in 2015-16 with Virgin Racing on its still-to-be-confirmed switch to Dragon/Penske for next season.

Should Stoffel Vandoorne join him at Dragon/Penske from Mercedes, as seems likely, the Belgian will not be considered for the Peugeot seat.

Finot ruled out two drivers from one FE team under the Stellantis umbrella joining the Peugeot WEC squad.

“It is already a very tough timetable for JEV [Vergne] to be in both programmes; it wouldn’t be reasonable to have two drivers in both programmes,” he explained.

Finot admitted disappointment at Magnussen's decision to rejoin Haas ahead of the season-opening F1 race in Bahrain, describing it "a loss for us".

He revealed that Peugeot is already in discussions with drivers about taking the sixth seat in Peugeot’s two-car squad of 9X8s alongside Vergne, Paul di Resta, Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes and Mikkel Jensen.

Peugeot 9x8

Peugeot 9x8

Photo by: Peugeot Sport

Peugeot has promoted James Rossiter from his test, reserve and simulator role on the 9X8 programme to a race seat for the car’s debut in the WEC at Monza in July and looks likely to remain part of the line-up for at least the Fuji round in September.

Finot said that the promotion of Rossiter to a race seat showed that the manufacturer was “prepared for a case like this” and suggested that the Briton “could make all the races this year”.

Asked whether Rossiter could remain as part of the race line-up next year, Finot replied: “Everything is possible.”

Rossiter has thrown his hat in the ring for a full-time drive.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity and want to make the most of it,” Rossiter told Autosport.

“It’s up to me to get out there and show what I’m capable of, be fast and consistent and do the job I know I’m capable of.”

Rossiter added that his involvement with the 9X8 programme, as well as his wider role with Stellantis as sporting director at DS Techeetah, has “reignited my passion” for racing.

“I haven’t been racing since 2019 [his last year competing in Japan with the Impul Nissan Super GT squad], but I’m doing more driving than ever,” he explained.

“I did the first laps in the simulator in the 9X8, the first run in the car on the proving ground and then the first laps at a proper track.

“I’m really motivated to be part of the programme and would love to continue racing the 9X8 next year.”

He suggested his sporting role with the DS brand in FE wouldn’t preclude him becoming a full-time Peugeot driver.

Peugeot has yet to define the driver combinations for the 9X8’s debut at Monza on 10 July and subsequent WEC appearances this year at Fuji and then the season-finale in Bahrain in November.

The names of the six drivers were arranged in groups of three on either side of the 9X8 on the launch of the car at the Algarve circuit near Portimao last week, but Finot said this was “purely random”.

“Everyone had to be in the photo, but nothing is decided for the crews,” he explained.

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