When it was announced last night that Jacques Villeneuve would be joining Venturi GP for the 2015/2016 FIA Formula E season, the reaction that followed on social media was mixed.
I, personally, thought it was a highly intriguing and rather brilliant move. The opportunity to see a Villeneuve racing out on track is something that I believed had long passed me by.
However, at the age of 44, the former CART and F1 world champion will be back in a single seater for season two, turning back the clock to his last full-time ride with BMW Sauber in 2006.
Villeneuve is not the only member of F1’s Class of 2006 to be racing in Formula E for season two, though. In fact, things are shaping up for the upcoming campaign to be quite a nice class reunion for many of the drivers who raced together nine years ago (pictured at the Australian Grand Prix).
Jacques Villeneuve (2006 team – BMW Sauber)
As announced last night, Villeneuve will be racing for Venturi GP in season two alongside Stephane Sarrazin. The Canadian driver enjoyed a ‘career in reverse’ of sorts, winning the CART title in 1995 before moving to F1 in 1996, finishing second in his debut season.
The world title followed with Williams in 1997, but Villeneuve would not win another grand prix. Spells with BAR and Renault yielded more misery and joy before he split with BMW Sauber halfway through the 2006 season.
Since then, Villeneuve has raced in NASCAR, sportscars and even World RX, and has also worked as an F1 pundit for Italian TV.
Jarno Trulli (2006 team – Toyota)
Trulli’s long F1 career ended with Team Lotus (later to become Caterham) in 2011, but the Italian driver returned to single seaters in Formula E by setting up his very own team.
Trulli Formula E failed to set the world alight in season one, although the ex-Toyota driver did manage to score a shock pole position in Berlin. He is still TBC for season two, but given it’s his name above the door, expect Trulli to be racing once again.
Vitantonio Liuzzi (2006 team – Toro Rosso)
Liuzzi was one of the early products of Red Bull’s F1 junior programme, slotting in at Toro Rosso for the team’s debut season after Minardi was taken over by the energy drink giant.
The Italian driver struggled to make much of an impact, and was dropped at the end of 2007 to make way for Sebastien Bourdais. He returned towards the end of 2009 with Force India, replacing Giancarlo Fisichella, and stayed on for 2010 before joining Hispania in 2011.
Like Trulli, Liuzzi is still TBC, but is in the frame to race in Formula E’s second season.
Scott Speed (2006 team – Toro Rosso)
Speed and Liuzzi were actually teammates back in 2006, but he failed to live up to his name during an 18-month spell in F1. After failing to score a single point, the American driver was dropped to make way for Sebastian Vettel. And we all know how that turned out.
Speed has since dotted around a number of championships including NASCAR and GRC, but made a massive impact in Formula E by finishing second on debut for Andretti in Miami.
A return is yet to be confirmed, but Michael Andretti told Current E: “Scott did a very good job. We really like him. He does a great job in global rallycross. We’ll just have to look at the schedules for next year and see how many conflicts there would be.”
Pedro de la Rosa (2006 team – McLaren)
De la Rosa stepped up from his test driver role at McLaren to replace Juan Pablo Montoya following the 2006 United States Grand Prix after the Colombian left the team. He fared well in eight-race stint, scoring a podium finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Spaniard returned full-time with Sauber in 2010, but was dropped for Nick Heidfeld from Singapore onwards. His final full-time F1 campaign came in 2012 with the doomed HRT F1 Team.
De la Rosa tested with Team Aguri at Donington Park last month, and hinted that he would be open to a full-time drive in Formula E.
Nick Heidfeld (2006 team – BMW Sauber)
Heidfeld raced alongside Villeneuve at BMW Sauber in 2006 and put the Canadian driver in the shade with a number of good results. The German driver never quite managed to win a grand prix, though, and eventually dropped off the grid halfway through the 2011 season, being replaced by Bruno Senna at Lotus.
The German driver raced for Venturi in season one, but has now been replaced by Villeneuve. A return remains possible, though, given that Heidfeld was talking to multiple teams about a ride for season two.
Sakon Yamamoto (2006 team – Super Aguri)
Yamamoto was one of four drivers to race for minnows Super Aguri back in 2006, but unlike Yuji Ide (who had his super license revoked) and Franck Montagny (who raced for Andretti in Formula E last year), he managed to finish the season.
Brief run-outs for Spyker in 2007 and Hispania in 2010 followed, but Yamamoto did not return to F1 for 2011. He was signed by Amlin Aguri (yes, same Aguri) for the London ePrix, only to retire from both races.
Again, nothing is confirmed, but Yamamoto remains a contender for a seat in season two, particularly given the popularity of Formula E in his native Japan.
Other possible members of the Class of ’06 that have previously expressed an interest in Formula E include Christian Klien (2006 team – Red Bull), Christijan Albers (Midland), Robert Doornbos (Red Bull) and Takuma Sato (Super Aguri).
The 2015/2016 Formula E season starts in Beijing on October 17.