From the first moment he replaced Maro Engel at the Paris ePrix in 2017, Venturi and Formula E noticed a potential star of the sport emerging in the form of French driver Tom Dillmann.
With only a day of testing at Donington Park earlier that year, Dillmann was called up to replace Engel who had DTM commitments that weekend. Straight away, Dillmann looked like he was at home in the all-electric single-seater racer.
Dillmann out-qualified Stephane Sarrazin to start the race in 15th place and then went on to manage his way through an incident-filled race to finish in eighth place, picking up four points on his debut. The Frenchman’s performance impressed Venturi so much that they brought him in for the rest of the season after Sarrazin moved to Techeetah to replace Esteban Gutierrez.
Dillmann went on to score points in New York and the final two races of the season in Montreal, but he didn’t receive a call-up from any team for the following season, despite saying at the time that he wanted a seat on the grid for season four.
Venturi decided to bring in Edorado Mortara to drive alongside Engel for the 2017/2018 season, but Mortara -like Engel the year before- had DTM commitments which ruled him out of the Berlin E-Prix and the season finale double-header in New York City. Once more Venturi called upon the services of Dillmann, who hadn’t been in the car since Montreal last year, although that didn’t stop him from arguably performing even better than he during his previous part-season campaign.
Berlin yielded only a 13th place finish despite a memorable double-overtake on Jerome D’Ambrosio and Nick Heidfeld into turn one, but in the first race of the New York double header, the 29-year old qualified in ninth place just 0.012 of a second behind team-mate Engel in eighth place. Dillmann went on to have one of his strongest performances yet, passing Jose Maria Lopez and Nelson Piquet Jr. to claim fourth place. The Venturi driver was running in third for the majority of the race, but he lost out on a podium place to Lucas di Grassi’s Audi, who went on to take victory.
Despite impressing in New York, Dillmann revealed that it was too late to sign with Venturi in season five, as he said after the E-Prix: “Venturi have signed their drivers for next year so I can’t drive for them next season, but I am looking for a way onto the grid for season five.”
Considering how consistent Dillmann has been every time he has stepped into a Formula E car, he has merited a full-season drive for the 2018/2019 season. He has scored points in half of the races he has entered in Formula E, which is a strong achievement considering he has been competing with drivers who have much more experience with managing their energy efficiency, and general experience in a Formula E car.
Dillmann’s energy efficiency -which is key in the Formula E championship- has been exceptional. He has always been able to match the likes of Lucas di Grassi, Sebastien Buemi and Piquet Jr. who are seen as the kings of energy efficiency. Therefore, Dillmann has shown that he is a strong candidate for a drive next season, as he possesses the key skills needed to succeed in this series, as well as proving he can be competitive at the same time.
Dillmann has also had a strong junior career, winning the Formula V8 3.5 championship in 2016, and now currently drives for the ByKolles LMP1 team in the World Endurance Chamionship, which he dovetails with a Super Formula campaign in Japan. He has been competitive in Super Formula, with his best position being fourth place in Sugo.
Where could Dillmann go?
The Formula E grid could be set for a major shake-up this season with a number of race seats available. Dillmann’s most likely option could be with Dragon Racing if the American team do decide to part ways with Jerome D’Ambrosio. Although the Belgian driver performed well towards the end of the season and could well keep his drive alongside Jose Maria Lopez.
NIO could be another option for Dillmann. Luca Filippi could potentially be dropped after his disappointing performance in season 4, and Oliver Turvey, who is still recovering from injury, has yet to agree to a deal which would keep him with the Chinese team, meaning that NIO could have two seats to fill for the 2018/2019 season.
There could also be seats available at Mahindra and Virgin Racing. Mahindra has yet to finalise their drivers, as 41-year old Nick Heidfeld has indicated that he has not yet signed to compete in any series yet for next season, and Felix Rosenqvist, who has also attracted interest from Indycar, could be on his way to HWA for one season ahead of Mercedes joining in season six.
Virgin Racing could have a seat alongside Sam Bird if the team decide to part company with Alex Lynn after a challenging first season for the British driver in season four.
Finally there is also a vacant seat at Nissan e.Dams courtesy of the outgoing Nicholas Prost, but given that the team has the pick of Nissan’s academy of young drivers, as well as the single seater drivers from DAMS’ squads in the junior category, it is unlikely that Dillmann is on their radar.
Dillmann is a strong contender to secure a seat for next season, and any team that passes on him, we believe would be making a mistake. However, the Formula E driver market changes look set to be the most interesting since the birth of the series, which could give Dillmann multiple opportunities to secure his first full-time Formula E race seat next season.