Buemi, Giovinazzi and others: Envision’s options after Freens

Filling the position of the famous connoisseur of ‘closed eyes’ Robin Friens for next season is a task that will probably cost the management of Envision Racing at least a little sleep over the next few weeks.

Still, it’s a vacant spot that will appeal to a large number of suitors, who want to understand perhaps the top Formula E gig left for the first season of the 2023 Gen3 competition.

Envision CEO Sylvain Filippi will be instrumental in ensuring that Freins ’loss to ABT is not overly detrimental to a team that, pound for pound, has proven to be the most efficient‘ privateer ’in the Gen2 era of Formula E.

Part of that success undoubtedly boils down to Freins ’skill behind the wheel, of which there is no doubt, although he ultimately brought‘ only ’two wins in four seasons.

In a similar way as Stoffel Vandoorne distorted just three wins from 45 races, so Freins ’return of two wins in 67 races also gives a very skewed assessment of his true value to the team.

However, it remains true that only once did Freens look like he was really preparing for the title challenge, and that was in the 2018-19 season, the first in the Gen2 era.

Freins was third in the standings, just six points behind final champion Jean-Eric Vergne, when he arrived at the Monaco E-Prix in May 2019. Filled with the momentum of an ingenious victory at the Paris E-Prix, he looked like a real competitor but then embarked on a series of four with no results, most of which included ‘wrong time, wrong place’ scenarios.

There was a lot of talk about his victory or failure of the campaign that he followed that skinny spell achieved by winning the New York City E-Prix that ended the season. Two wins in his first season for Envision Virgin, as he surpassed established teammate Sam Bird, meant his shares reached a boiling point.

Since then, Freins has been just as sharp, just as powerful when circumstances allow. He has been the runner-up five times since then, but something has fallen in recent races, and Freens ’capacity is not to turn at least strong positions into victories.

Aside from the absence of Audi, the car with which Friens and teammate Nick Cassidy are racing, and the track, the Silverstone team is a little less tangible in the air.

It could only be a natural transition of the team and its technical structure. The engineering department has shifted from the responsibilities of experienced Chris Gorne, who is semi-retired, to Mike Lugg, who returned to the team after passing Red Bull in Formula One last year.

So should Freins ’departure from Envision be viewed simply as an ABT‘ return home ’, or even more so as a case where his missing ingredient has whetted his appetite to stay? It is more likely to lean more towards the first of these options, but may include more than a dash of the latter.

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Financial trifles in the negotiations between drivers and teams rarely see the light of day, and the possible, but ultimately failed new agreement of the Friins in Envision is no exception.

It is interesting to look at the team transactions so far. This includes deals with Jean-Eric Vergne, Jose-Maria Lopez and Alex Lynn, some of whom had intricate layers within themselves.

In Vergne’s case, there was a catastrophic breakdown between the driver and then-team director Alex Tai, after a bizarre quarrel at the Buenos Aires E-Prix when Tai deemed it appropriate to act as a medical delegate when Vergne was poisoned by food and tried to bench the then DS Virgin star.

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The similarly short stay of Lopez and Lynn on the team confused that they both had at least partially good results in their debut seasons, but were eventually replaced.

There is no stability in Formula E without solidarity, and probably vice versa. This is largely why the three most successful drivers – Lucas di Grassi, Sebastien Buemi and Vergne – spent most of their time on one team: Audi Sport ABT, Renault / Nissan e.dams and Techeetah / DS Techeetah.

Envision now has Nick Cassidy in their second season, but has had a tough start so far, even though he played in Monaco breaking through from 18th to seventh.

The feeling in the team is likely that a leading driver with vast experience in Formula E will be on the right track with Cassidy’s huge potential. That driver could be Sebastien Buemi.

Moving away from his natural home Nissan e.dams, the setting he drove for all but two of 90 races in Formula E history, could become a reality this summer with the current driver situation at the manufacturer being said to be extremely fluid.

Buemi’s case in Envision is complex. His part has been somewhat tarnished by the recent lack of results, although this has been largely highlighted by the inherent problems he and teammates Oliver Rowland and Maximilian Guenther have faced since this time last year. What is not questionable, however, is the depth of his technical knowledge.

Formula E Rim E Prix 2022

Apart from Buemi, it seems that Envision needs to explore four other targets. These are Antonio Giovinazzi, Sergio Sette Camara, Norman Nato and Oliver Turvey.

Giovinazzi, despite another poor result from Dragon Penska, was more competitive in Monaco than he had shown in the previous five races.

He also pre-tested the team back in 2018 before fully coming to the radar for a spot in F1. But with the prospect of a potential opportunity for the 2023 Ferrari Hypercar, would he be so interested in taking over the dual program with his reserve and development status in the Scuderia?

Of the others, only NATO has a victory in Formula E with its name.

NATO is valued as an additional asset to Jaguar and is known to be interested in returning to the Formula E racetrack. .

Like Giovinazzi, Sergio Sette Camara knows that his relationship with Dragon Penske will end this summer as he develops into DS Penske with Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne as race drivers.

The Brazilian has managed to cultivate a decent reputation in Formula E after several persistent appearances since making his debut in Berlin in 2020.

He faced the mountain task of leaving his mark with a pair of Penska cars that proved less than competitive. He also had the added challenge of reconstructing the engineering staff within the team, which certainly tested his determination.

How Sette Camara manages in a race car is still open for debate, but many in the paddock believe he at least deserves a chance.

The last and perhaps most intriguing is Turvey. Like Buemi, he was the driver of one team in Formula E, and has a strong reputation both on his current team and outside of him, NIO 333.

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In general, the difficult question for Turvey though is whether it’s time to move to a team that can deliver what many thought he had been waiting for a long time, when in fact he never had – a potential car to win races.

Led by a stable GP Sports Management led by Julian and Alexander Jakobi, Turvey has a strong team behind him that makes this possible.

But with McLaren coming to Formula E soon, Envision may have to delay if Turvey continues to retain the same appeal he had for potential suitors just a few seasons ago.

As always in top races, feelings and emotions have a short shelf life. Freins will definitely be missing on Envision, but with Jaguar, Cassidy and one of the above drivers, the team will still be able to make its competitors envy its strength as the 2023 network continues to evolve over the coming weeks.

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