A curious thing happened this morning: Formula E published a final list of the official team entries for the fourth season of the all-electric racing series, and Faraday Future was nowhere to be found. The electric car startup joined Formula E last summer as part of a multi-year commercial and technical contract with Dragon Racing, and raced all year with its criss-cross logo adorning the team’s cars. But, according to the series itself, season four will see the “return of the Dragon Racing name minus the Faraday Future branding” when it starts in December.
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Faraday Future wrote: “We maintain our partnership with Dragon Racing and continue to honor our commitments as evidenced by our testing for season 4 in the past few weeks. We do not have a comment pertaining to the name change.” Furthermore, they wrote, “we will still have a presence at the Formula E races as we continue to support the team as a technical partner, integrating our FF engineers with the Dragon Racing team.” Representatives for Dragon Racing did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
As NESN motorsports reporter Pat McAssey pointed out to me on Twitter, if this truly is the case — that Faraday Future will remain involved on the technical side of things but will see its brand’s presence fade — it’s a unique situation. Half the reason FF got involved with Formula E in the first place, senior VP of research Nick Sampson told me in July, was to promote the company’s existence to an audience that was overwhelmingly likely to be interested in its (eventual) product, the FF91. FF even wanted its presence known in this space so badly that it blanketed the 2016 Long Beach race in its image, paying to be title sponsor for that event before it joined the series.
The other half of that equation is that Formula E is becoming a premier proving ground for electric drivetrain technology. After all, this is why major manufacturers with a desire to develop electric cars, like Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Renault, and Mahindra, have already been involved in the series, and why Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are on the way.
It sounds like FF will still be able to accomplish that second goal as long as it’s still paying engineers to work with the Dragon Racing team. But it’s hard to not see this as a prelude to the company’s complete exit from the series. Earlier this month, I reported that FF was considering cutting the Formula E (and Pikes Peak) program in an effort to save cash — something the company at-large desperately needs right now. And on top of that, FF’s head of motorsport recently left the company in July. Dragon Racing, one source told me, has even been keeping an eye on other potential incoming manufacturers, should FF leave.
The motorsports program, and Formula E particularly, has become a source of pride for FF’s employees, people close to the company say. So leaving the series completely would be a blow to morale. But even if FF doesn’t leave, a reduced role in Formula E could have the same effect.