Extreme E has already managed to attract a star-studded list of teams, partners, and drivers in its short history, but to bag the most successful and influential racing driver of recent times, that’s mightily impressive.
The burgeoning electric off-road series didn’t really need to prove itself. While it hasn’t run a single race yet, when you see names like Andretti, Ganassi and Techeetah, you know that it’s the real deal. Lewis Hamilton’s involvement is just the cherry atop of the icing on an already sweet cake.
The real interesting part here is that Hamilton won’t be behind the wheel (at least not yet), which is a shame. Who wouldn’t want to see Hamilton racing through rainforests and glaciers?
Instead of joining Sara Price and Kyle LeDuc in the driver ranks, the six-time Formula 1 champion will be taking on the role of team owner for the first time. It gives a first insight into what could be next for the climate conscious, music-loving fashionista who isn’t short of post-F1 options.
When it comes to racing, besides a passing interest in NASCAR, Hamilton hasn’t really appeared to be attracted to any other category outside of F1. In fact, less than a year ago he even dismissed suggestions he could race in Formula E in the future when two-time champion Jean-Eric Vergne put forward that he could be the perfect driver for the series.
So why the decision to dip his toe into XE? Is it a change of heart? Well, not really.
For a start, FE is very much an electric version of modern day single-seaters, while XE is further away from F1 from format to its locations, even the driver roster – which will be an even male-female split. And for all its green credentials, FE is very much a means of using motorsport to promote electric vehicle technology. XE meanwhile will use motorsport to highlight the difficulties that the world faces with climate change.
That’s something else Hamilton has been increasingly more passionate and vocal about in recent years. He’s pledged to be carbon neutral, and has even gone vegan – a plant-based burger chain that he’s involved with is also a partner of XE.
So while many of us woke up flabbergasted by today’s news, when you break it down, it’s not at all surprising. It’s the perfect match. The modern day racing driver and the modern day racing series.
But is this merely a naming exercise? Other than the team name and the fact that Hamilton is behind it, not much else is known about the X44 project at present.
We do know that Hamilton won’t have an operational role, though, and with F1’s calendar now swelling to over 20 races (when coronavirus isn’t wreaking havoc), that’s hardly surprising.
And then there’s the driver line-up. With XE aligning with Hamilton’s views on the planet, could he use his new team to give youngsters a chance – another thing he has been vocal about recently – or will he go for someone more proven? Or, will he merely write the cheques and leave choices like that to those likely to be running the team from day-to-day?
Many questions remain, but at the end of the day, whether he’s a hands-on boss or a silent partner, Hamilton’s involvement in a series that barely even exists yet sends out a clear signal. XE is already a very real player in the global motorsport landscape.