Stoffel Vandoorne is enjoying his Formula E world title in 2022 this winter. The Belgian succeeded his Mercedes teammate Nyck de Vries as world champion and looks set to continue in the all-electric racing series for the 2022/23 season.
But with Mercedes electing to the pull the plug on the championship, Vandoorne will instead pair two-time Formula E champion Jean Eric Vergne at DS Penske.
"Actually, it was clear early in the season that Mercedes would no longer continue in Formula E and that enabled me to look ahead in good time," Vandoorne told media, including RacingNews365.com.
"I quickly got into conversation with DS Penske, partly because I already knew many people within the team.
"Such conversations take place regularly, but from the E-Prix in Mexico the conversations between DS Penske and myself became more concrete.
"We came to an agreement and I was very happy with that, as I want to stay with a factory team."
That was not possible at Mercedes as the team will continue next season and rebrand to McLaren.
"Of course with the team much remains the same, but it changes from a factory team to a customer team, don't underestimate in Formula E.
"In this class it doesn't hurt very much to be a customer team, but the status [customer] will change the team a bit.
"I definitely wanted to drive a new generation of cars with a factory team, because we have more opportunities to test and that is an important factor in the battle for the world title. This gives us an advantage with DS Penske towards next year."
Another advantage for Vandoorne is that the DS Penske team has already won two titles in the Formula E championship.
"We work very differently here than at Mercedes, so it's very interesting to be part of that process. Working at DS Penske now is nice, because of course they have had a lot of success in the past.
"It is a high-quality team, especially in the field of software development," said Vandoorne.
THAT'S WHAT I WANT TOO, A STRONG TEAMMATE
"I've always had strong team-mates, just look at Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button who I've had as team-mates in Formula 1. In Formula E, my team-mate De Vries was a world champion.
"That's what I want too, a strong team-mate , because that's how you push each other further so I'm looking forward to racing with Vergne. He is a very strong team-mate and he was of course one of the competitors in the battle for the title last year.
"At the beginning of the year we will definitely sit down to set some guidelines. However, it is very difficult to describe them in Formula E, because the field is so close together.
In general it comes down to that you have to get on well with each other and not come into contact with each other, so there is no need to be awarded number one or two status, which is only necessary if one of the two drivers is theoretically no longer able to is to win the title."
Vandoorne faces a nice challenge now that he has switched teams. But just like the rest of the field, the current world champion will have to get used to the new cars.
From 2023 Formula E will use the brand new Gen3 cars which feature higher top speeds at 200mph, and an electric motor capable of delivering 470bhp.
During the first test sessions with the car, it became clear to Vandoorne that the new tyre supplier in particular still has a step to take.
"So far I have a good feeling with the Gen3 car, we now even brake almost completely electrically. The cars also accelerate faster, but you actually get used to that faster.
"I am in favor of the new car and we will start we are all in a new learning process. We have also changed tyre supplier in the FE [from Michelin to Hankook].
"Until now I have had little grip with the car, I don't think that is a secret. The tires have less grip and you feel that with the car that has become faster.
"That makes it challenging to drive the corners in this car and when braking you really feel a big difference. With the Michelin tyre you could lean on the tires a bit more and that is different now with the Hankook tyres.
"I still have some time before the season to work on the tyres, so it's probably good to do some more testing in the near future so that the right tire choices can be made."
Another change in Formula E in the 2023 season is that the Fan Boost, which enables fans to give drivers extra power during the races, will no longer exist.
"I won the fan boost very often, so I can't say much about it," laughs Vandoorne when asked about the abolition of the unique fan boost.
"It may not have been a fair factor from a sporting point of view, so in the long run it would be better to remove this element to make the class more professional.
"I think everyone agrees that we need to look at how we can replace the interaction with the fan. For now, however, there is no solution for that.”