The fledgling Formula E all-electric racing series now has its first Formula One champion, with news that 1997 F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve has signed on for the upcoming start of the second season. Villeneuve will drive for the Venturi team, replacing another Formula One racer Nick Heidfeld.
And he may be cheered on once more in the streets of Montreal in 2016, as the city's mayor has publicly declared that the quiet single-seat racers will be part of the circuit's third season, though the city or timing of any potential race in Montreal hasn't yet been officially confirmed by race organizers.
Montreal mayor Denis Coderre announced at a press conference in late May that he supports and expects the series to come to Montreal in 2016, and that he favours a September race date, which would likely make it the first race in the series' third season, given Formula E's unusual seasons that end in early summer.
Granted, that's only one of various peculiarities about the series, which gives fans the option of giving their favourite driver an online "fan boost" of a temporary extra 50 horsepower, the drivers switching cars mid-race instead of refueling, and the series running single day races on downtown streets, with no support series.
Here's the official release from Venturi about Villeneuve's move.
Former Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve will race for Venturi during the second season of Formula E, alongside Stephane Sarrazin.
The 1997 champion will replace Nick Heidfeld at the Monaco-based team who enter the 2015/2016 all-electric series as one of eight manufacturers.
Villeneuve, who recently tested with the outfit at Le Castellet, France, said: “Last season, each time I met drivers from Formula E they were saying it is really a very interesting championship.
“This is the first time in several years that I will participate in a full championship. I am excited because the atmosphere while working alongside the Venturi team is great and that has a very big influence. Also, I know Stéphane Sarrazin well, we trust each other."
In his 10 years in Formula 1, driving for Williams, BAR, Sauber and Renault, Villeneuve secured 11 victories and 23 podiums, before enjoying success in IndyCar and winning the Indianapolis 500 (1995). More recently the Canadian-born racer has competed in FIA World Rallycross Championship.
Meanwhile, Sarrazin, who finished 14th in the inaugural Formula E season, continues at Venturi where he has been testing the team’s new VM200-FE-01 machinery, which will also be run by the Dragon Racing outfit.
"My wish was to continue with Venturi, so I'm very happy with this situation. The new engine showed immediate reliability. We can say we have a very good package. We don’t know what the other teams have done but we are assured that our car is very efficient."
Team owner Gildo Pastor added: "It is a true pleasure to welcome Jacques Villeneuve - he is the first Formula 1 world champion to join Formula E as a driver. He grew up in Monaco, we crossed paths many times in childhood, so he will be at home with Venturi. I am very happy with the experienced and talented duo of Jacques and Stephane."