Newcomers Cheema FV Racing have confirmed their line-up for the 2019 Formula Virtual season. Nikolai Milkovich and Carson Davenport will drive the cars 17 and 18 respectively, while Diego Campos will be the team's test driver. Davenport will join the team on loan from Phoenix for one year, while Milkovich and Campos, both former Ingram GP drivers, will stay at the team for two years, with the latter two having originally been scheduled to race for Scuderia Stars.
Team owner Ahmed Cheema said "I'm pleased to announced Nikolai and Carson as our drivers for next year. Nikolai is a fantastic driver and he has done brilliantly in the past for Ingram GP. We talked about a full time return to Formula Virtual last week and he was incredibly enthusiastic! We finalized details just before Friday practice for Belgium and we're both excited for our partnership. Alex (Easton, Phoenix team manager) got in contact with us not too long ago and we discussed the idea of Carson joining us. He's an underrated driver and has shown super pace this year with a new team. We met together a few weeks ago and completed all the negotiations. Carson's also excited as are we for next year, but he's still focused on his job this year, as is Nikolai with Franklin. Diego has always been on our radar and he's very experienced. He'll be helping with simulator work and developing the car which is very important for us as a new team. He will be racing in at least one race, we have to see when but it will come for sure."
William Ingram was also available for a comment: "I am delighted for Nikolai, having looked at the end of his career he first has some races for Franklin and then will lead Cheema into their first season of FV. He deserves it. Nikolai knows he's welcome back to the Ingram motorhome anytime for a chat. With Diego also providing invaluable experience from test driver - Cheema have a very Ingram vibe going on for 2019! Good luck to them." while Alex Easton's reply was “I think it’s a great deal for all involved. Obviously over at Phoenix we have three guys for 2019 - Álvarez, Xylander and Carson - but only two seats available. Originally it was looking like Carson may have had to sit out 2019 but then of course Cheema came along. I’ve known Ahmed for some time now and often chat to him in the paddock during race weekends, and from the very first time we discussed the possibility of a deal for Davenport, I knew it would be right for everyone. Carson already has experience of being with a new team from being with us this season, he’s helped us really develop the car into a solid midfield contender and there’s no doubt in my mind that he will help Cheema FV Racing in a similar way.”
Milkovich made his debut in FV in 2014 for Ingram, taking one win and a few podiums, along with consistent points finishes. He continued for the next three years, with more points finishes in 2015 and 3 podiums in 2016, running close highly rated teammate Jean Mattson. He struggled last year in a poor car, failing to score a point, something Mattson and three other teams failed to do. He was demoted to test driver but will complete the last four races of this year with Franklin. Davenport started the first ever race of the series and is part of the elite group of drivers to have started every race of the series. He drove for Lucas for his first two years, taking a win and a podium at the end of 2013 after a late season jump in performances. He had a few points finished in 2014, before moving to FUN for 2015. He scored points in the first race but never cracked the top ten for the rest of the season. He took FUN's first podium in 2016 and had a super season, with a win in Belgium and more high points finishes, resulting in fifth in the championship. He, like Milkovich, didn't score any points last year, but a move to rookie team Phoenix saw a rise in performance, scoring points on multiple occasions and impressing the paddock. Campos was another driver to start his career in 2013, with Ingram, but he spent the season mostly at the back. He did score points however in USA, with an impressive performance, while he also scored at Belgium. With an improved car in 2014 he took an against the odds win in Indianapolis which left the sport in complete shock. He took more points but was demoted to test driver for 2015, only returning to a race seat last year, for two races before he left Ingram.
Milkovich said after the Belgium V-Prix, where he finished 7th, “I'm very happy to be joining Cheema next year, it's a new challenge and they’re very enthusiastic about this project. I hope to help the team to great things in the future. I would like to thank Will (Ingram) for giving me the opportunity to first race for Franklin and now Cheema for next year, and for handing me my race debut in the first place.” Davenport commented, “Already I'm excited to start with Cheema next year, having already started with a new team to the sport I feel ready for this situation. Having thought I won't be driving next year it's great to know I will be and I hope to make the most of it. It's been a great year working for Phoenix and I wish then and Alex good luck in the future. I hope to end my career with Phoenix on a high.” Campos was unavailable for an interview, having already started working with the team in developing next year's car. The team were also rumored to have been in talks with Arden Hutchinson but the Austrian was confirmed to be moving to Lucas, and Cheema waved off a question about him, saying "What's in the past is in the past." With pre-qualifying being introduced for next season, having good drivers will be crucial, something which so far all three new teams have managed to do.