The ABB FIA Formula E Championship returns for its sixth season when battle commences in Diryah on Friday.
The 2018-19 Season was the championship’s most competitive to date with 8 different winners in the first eight races from seven different teams and the title once again going right to the wire with Jean-Eric Vergne emerging victorious for the second consecutive year.
The 2019-20 Season looks set to be even more competitive in season six and we gear up to go green this Friday.
Two German Giants Enter the Frey
Following their warm up year as the HWA Racelab team, Mercedes join the field. Stoffel Vandoorne stays on for a second season and is joined by newly-crowned Formula 2 champion Nyck De Vries. Pre-season testing didn’t go well for the team that has won the last six Formula One World titles, finishing 20th and 21st on lap times, however were still within a second of the fastest man BMW’s Maxi Gunther.
Porsche become Formula E’s twelfth team on the grid. After announcing their entry as far back as 2017, the team sacrificed their LMP1 effort in the World Endurance Championship to prepare to make their debut in Formula E. Andre Lotterer, who raced for Porsche in WEC, has moved from reigning champions DS Techeetah and will be partnered with Neel Jani, who raced for Dragon at the start of Season four, before departing ahead of the third round.
Other notable changes include Venturi becomes a customer team after switching to Mercedes powertrains for this season as does NIO. After a major shake up at NIO including the sale of the majority stake, the team becomes NIO 333, and will use last year’s Dragon powertrain after stopping development of their own powertrain.
Da Costa shakes up the grid
The off season’s biggest news is that Antonio Felix da Costa has left the BMWi Andretti Motorsport team, leaving the German marque’s factory programme after eight years, and has joined reigning champions DS Techeetah. The Portuguese driver was approached by reigning drivers champion Jean-Eric Vergne, once it became apparant that Andre Lotterer was to leave the team and switch to Porsche.
Replacing Da Costa at BMW is Maxi Guenther. The German made his debut in Formula E in Saudi Arabia last year for the Dragon team, and despite a slow start to his career, and subsequently missing three races while Felipe Nasr stood in, Guenther made multiple superpole appearances and finished a career high of fifth in Paris.
Dragon field two new rookies in former Toro Rosso F1 driver and WEC Champion Brendon Hartley and DTM runner up Nico Muller. There are two other rookies in Nyck de Vries at Mercedes and James Caldo at Jaguar, who join the field for this season.
Ma Qinghua returns for a season with NIO 333 and Neel Jani makes his FE return with Porsche.
A brand new indoor-outdoor track in London’s ExCel centre will host the final two rounds of this season, Formula E’s longest in history, in the final weekend of July next year. As it replaces New York as the final round, the New York event is reduced to just one race.
Twelve cities remain to showcase the series, however Hong Kong has been ousted due to the civil unrest currently happening in the country, the Bern E-Prix has been axed and the Monaco E-Prix is run every other season, so will return in 2021.
In their places, along with London, the Seoul E-Prix and Jakarta E-Prix make their debuts on 3rd May and 6 June next year. The Seoul race will be held around the Olympic Park and the Jakarta race will be held on a track created around the National Monument.
Attack Mode gets more power
A new season comes which new rules and regulations, and one of the biggest involves Attack Mode. Not only has the amount of useable energy increased from 225kw to 235kw when taking Attack Mode, the drivers will also no longer be able to activate it under the Safety Car and during the Full Course Yellow.
During Full Course Yellow and Safety Car periods, drivers will also have energy deducted, 1kWh per minute during these conditions. It’s been brought in to stop drivers saving energy so that they could go flat out till the end of the race. Therefore Energy management will be crucial and may improve the racing.
If the incident is so big that they red flag has to be flown, the procedure has been “sped up” to ensure that racing resumes as quickly as possible.
Finally, there will be an extra point given to those who will top each group of qualifying. This comes following driver complaints that the top six in the championship, who go out in Group 1 are always at a disadvantage and start towards the rear of the field.
So, who’s gonna win?
That’s the beauty of Formula E. You just do not know. With cars 21 cars separated by a second at testing, Formula E continues to be motorsport’s most unpredictable series. For the title, the smart money is again on Vergne. The comeback he had in the second half of last season was spectacular. But you cannot count out the usual big guns, Lucas Di Grassi, Sebastien Buemi and Sam Bird. What can Robin Frijns do, Mitch Evans will be hoping to build on his Rome win from last season. How will Mercedes and Porsche fair in their debut campaign?
For this weekend, I’d put money on Da Costa. He’s the defending race winner, and had the Techeetah’s not had penalties one year ago, its likely they would’ve finished in positions one and two, so that combination could be perfect for this weekend. But anything can happen in Formula E, and the season gets underway this Friday at 1200GMT.