Formula E’s latest signing Nick Cassidy will be a significant boost to the turbulent Envision Virgin team with the storied rookie undoubtedly entering a new career chapter as a firm title favourite.
The flying Kiwi boasts an eminent motor racing CV largely decorated with accolades in the Asian motorsport scene having claimed the ‘Asia Triple Crown’ with titles in Formula 3, Super Formula and Super GT.
That exact versatility, coupled by a sublime rookie test earlier in the year at Marrakesh, enticed Cassidy’s name to a team which has occasionally proven to be title contenders but are far too often hindered by way of ill-fortune and subpar reliability.
The departing Sam Bird, who will make way for Cassidy next season, held an early championship lead after a scintillating drive from fifth to first saw the Brit cruise to an unrivalled victory.
But since that race, Bird has only snared two follow up points finishes – both tenth places at Santiago and Marrakesh – in a tumultuous swansong season for the team stalwart.
Having been in the sport since its inception in 2014, Envision Virgin have established themselves as one of the most accomplished teams on the grid, claiming ten race victories and a hattrick of podium finishes in the constructor standings.
However, the team has often lacked the final piece in its jigsaw to guide its way towards a maiden series crown. A sequence of DNF’s and lacklustre performances have recently had Envision Virgin slump to the midfield, a predicament three-time New Zealand Grand Prix winner Cassidy has the capability to seesaw themselves back in the desired direction.
A deal with pitlane rivals Mahindra had emerged for Cassidy earlier in the year when former F1 journeyman Pascal Wehrlein suddenly departed and several sources have suggested that a contract deal was within hours away before Sam Bird announced his exit from Envision Virgin.
A seat at one of the more documented outfits enticed Cassidy’s interest, and coupled by his knowledge within the team structure courtesy of his rookie test, it left Cassidy in an ideal position contract wise.
Importantly, his unprecedented success on the Asia motor racing circus at only 25-years-old means he comes into Formula E as a rookie with even more expectation than recent star newbies Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries.
Now with his signature inked for a seat next season, Envision Virgin’s managing director Sylvain Filippi is adamant Cassidy is a definite title contender.
“In Nick we know we have a very ambitious, capable driver with raw talent, speed and race craft, as well as an impressive track record for his age,” praised Filippi.
“Moving to become a world championship next season, we know Formula E is going to be as competitive as ever, but from his short time with us we are confident – together with Robin Frijns – we have two drivers that can compete at the sharp end to win championships.”
Giving up being Japan’s most adored foreign champion was never an easy decision, but the move paves Cassidy with a more direct route for an outside chance at a Formula 1 drive.
Likewise, former SuperGT teammate to Cassidy, James Rossiter admitted earlier in the year that any Formula E team would be incredibly fortunate to snatch up the Kiwi’s services, believing him to be the real deal when it comes to outright pace.
” I think that any team would be super, super lucky to have Nick drive for them,” said Rossiter.
“I know what he’s like technically, I know what he’s like speed-wise.
“I know that if there was an opening, he would be one of the top ones to slide straight in.”
One of the largest factors in Envision Virgin’s push towards the front of the field was the sealing of a deal to the dominant Audi e-Tron power train back in 2018, suspending the team’s long-term partnership with DS.
While the current iteration Audi FE06 model has proven shaky in terms of performance, the German manufacturer has been the thorn in the side for most of the grid over the last few seasons and will give Cassidy the perfect platform to launch his title assault from the outset.
No details have been revealed concerning the exact length of Cassidy’s deal, only the fact it was a multiyear agreement. With the Gen3 car not too far around the corner, slated to be unveiled in 2022, Cassidy will likely form part of Envision Virgin’s long-term success plan.
Cassidy will see out his current Super Formula and Super GT championships before relocating to Europe to begin his Formula E preparations which kicks off from Santiago on January 16.
Before then, the Kiwi returns to action on August 8-9 for the second round of the truncated Super GT championship from Fuji International Speedway.