As public testing commences at Donington Park, we’ve taken a proverbial walk down the 2016-17 grid to help you get to know Formula E’s Class of Season Three.
The sharp end of the championship looks much the same this season, with Renault retaining defending drivers’ champion Sébastien Buemi and race winner Nico Prost, and ABT fending off advances from Jaguar to keep Lucas di Grassi alongside Daniel Abt.
Loïc Duval and two-time ePrix winner Jérôme d’Ambrosio will return as well for a second full season together at Dragon Racing. The American team should be one to watch this season, entering for the first time as a powertrain manufacturer in its own right under a technical alliance with Faraday Future.
NextEV, the last of the teams to field an unchanged lineup, could potentially be another dark horse challenger provided they can overcome the issues that kept them propping up the back of the grid last season – particularly if Oliver Turvey can keep up the superb qualifying form shown in the last few races of 2016.
Race winner Sam Bird remains at DS Virgin, but his season two teammate Jean-Éric Vergne is off to join Techeetah, the Chinese outfit who bought up the Team Aguri entry at the end of last season.
How competitive the Techeetah team will be is hard to tell – despite being the only team this season not to be linked in some way to a major manufacturer, they do at least have the benefit of heavy investment from Chinese Media Capital and a supply of Renault’s class-leading powertrains. Nevertheless, Techeetah may struggle to fully realise the potential of their package, if previous performances from Vergne and the returning Ma Qinghua are any indication.
By contrast, Techeetah’s rivals Andretti will be fielding perhaps the strongest lineup of the grid, having poached Team Aguri’s star driver António Félix da Costa to partner their own Robin Frijns. With two of last season’s hottest talents on board – and with reported involvement from BMW to boot – the 2016-17 season should be a strong showing for MS Amlin Andretti – perhaps even yielding the American team’s elusive first win.
Vergne’s vacant Virgin Racing seat will be taken by two-time WTCC champion José María López. The Argentine may not have raced single seaters since his 2006 GP2 campaign but comes with plenty of racing pedigree as a Citroën factory driver, and should bring DS Virgin the boost they need to consistently battle the likes of Renault and ABT.
López is joined on the grid by four fellow rookies: GT World Cup winner Maro Engel enters the sport alongside Stéphane Sarrazin at Venturi, whilst Mahindra have replaced Bruno Senna with 2015 European F3 champion Felix Rosenqvist.
The last of the rookies come courtesy of the much-anticipated Panasonic Jaguar Racing team. Blancpain GT racer Adam Carroll – who narrowly missed an outing with Team Aguri in Berlin last season – joined the team early on after completing a series of private tests earlier in the year, and is joined by 2012 GP3 champion Mitch Evans, who was chosen after outperforming Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell in a pre-season shootout. Chinese single-seater stalwart Ho-Pin Tung also joins Jaguar as test and reserve driver, returning to the series after a brief but unsuccessful stint with Team China in season one.
Full 2016-17 Formula E grid:
Renault e.Dams: Nico PROST (8) / Sébastien BUEMI (9)
ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport: Lucas DI GRASSI (11) / Daniel ABT (66)
DS Virgin Racing: Sam BIRD (2) / José María LÓPEZ (37)
Faraday Future Dragon Racing: Loïc DUVAL (6) / Jérôme D’AMBROSIO (7)
Mahindra Racing: Felix ROSENQVIST (19) / Nick HEIDFELD (23)
Venturi: Stéphane SARRAZIN (4) / Maro ENGEL (5)
MS Amlin Andretti: Robin FRIJNS (27) / António Félix DA COSTA (28)
Techeetah: Jean-Éric VERGNE (25) / MA Qinghua (33)
NextEV NIO: Nelson PIQUET JR (3) / Oliver TURVEY (88)
Panasonic Jaguar Racing: Mitch EVANS (20) / Adam CARROLL (47)