Hysteria in Hong Kong!: Mortara triumphant as Bird hit with penalty

Edoardo Mortara scooped Venturi’s first ever win in the team’s history at the Hong Kong ePrix this weekend. The Swiss driver benefited from a late post-race penalty imposed on Envision Racing’s Sam Bird who won the race, but was given a five second time penalty after contact with Andre Lotterer which forced the Techeetah driver out of the race.

Qualifying was blighted by the everchanging conditions of the Hong Kong climate, with Mahindra miscalculating the correct window in which to set a lap which left both Jerome D’Ambrosio and Pascal languishing at the bottom of the timing screens. Audi’s Lucas di Grassi was the first driver to make an impact, snatching P1 from under Sam Bird and Antonio Felix da Costa’s noses in the worsening weather.

Mortara showcased his experience on street circuits by claiming P1, followed closely by Lotterer who made a mistake in his final sector. Jean Eric Vergne’s misery continued as he repeated history by sliding over the final line backwards, but could only manage P6 and suffered cosmetic damage to his Techeetah. His lap was later cancelled due to the incident.

Times soon began to tumble as the session approached the halfway stage with Oliver Rowland and Felipe Massa slotting themselves into the top six. However, it was HWA that impressed in the storm with Stoffel Vandoorne taking provisional pole by over half a second from teammate Gary Paffett who managed to snatch his debut in superpole. They were joined in superpole by Rowland, Mortara, Lotterer and di Grassi.

Photo by Sam Bloxham/ LAT Images

The weather continued to wreck havoc on superpole as di Grassi set a time of 1.14.177, only to be displaced by Lotterer a few moments later by a difference of 1.3 seconds. Mortara thrived in the difficult conditions, claiming P1 with a time of 1.12.310, half a second up on Lotterer. However, after the session ended, he was hit with a three place grid penalty for ignoring red flag conditions and dropped out of contention. Times continued to tumble as the track conditions became more favourable with Rowland disposing of Mortara by two tenths of a second. The two HWAs remained and Paffett locked up into turn one, forcing him into P4 behind Lotterer, but Vandoorne impressed once again, claiming his first ever pole position for HWA with a 1.11.580.

Rowland wasted no time at the start of the race, snatching P1 away from Vandoorne in the opening lap who was then passed by Bird, dropping the HWA rookie down to P3. Mahindra’s terrible luck continued as Felipe Nasr tagged the wall into turn two, collecting both Wehrlein and D’Ambrosio along the way, sending both cars out of the race with suspension damage. The race was red flagged in order to collect all three cars stranded in a precarious position with Rowland still leading the race.

Photo by Steven Tee / LAT Images

As the race got underway once more, most of the drivers armed themselves with their first attack mode as Lotterer pounced on Vandoorne immediately for P3. Out of turn one, Rowland slowed and dropped down the order, losing the lead at the expense of Bird. Lotterer began to press Bird for the top spot, finally forcing the Brit into a mistake to snatch the race lead away. However, Bird continued to fight back and kept the pressure on the German who began to struggle with energy consumption in the latter stages trying to keep Bird behind. Whilst one Techeetah dominated, reigning champion Vergne’s bad luck continued as he cut the chicane at turn one, earning a penalty.

Rowland continued to carve his way back through the field muscling his way past Daniel Abt for P9, whilst Alex Sims tagged the wall, forcing him out of the race. Bird continued to press Lotterer, and attempted a move into turn two, passing the German for a moment, before Lotterer reclaimed the lead. The battle at the front as Vandoorne’s car stopped on track, whilst Buemi was forced out of the race with damage.

As the race restarted with over ten minutes left on the clock, Bird continued to pile the pressure on Lotterer for the lead with Mortara holding di Grassi for P3 as Rowland’s hard work on climbing up the order was undone when he made contact with the wall, and stopped on track, bringing out a third safety car. With two minutes remaining, the race was restarted and the battle at the front came to a head as Bird made contact with the back of Lotterer’s car, causing a puncture which subsequently ended the German’s race. A subdued Bird claimed P1 but celebrations were muted after the announcement that there was an investigation of the incident between himself and Lotterer. After the race, Bird was handed a five second time penalty which dropped the Brit down to P6 and Mortara inherited the win, his and Venturi’s first win in the series. Di Grassi moved up to P2 and Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns inherited third.

Formula E will continue in Sanya on March 23rd.

ThePitCrewOnline Exclusive: Susie Wolff for International Women’s Day 2019

Ask any motorsport fan to name a successful woman within the sport, and usually, Susie Wolff will be amongst the names they provide. The first woman to take part in an F1 weekend in 22 years, Susie is now the team principal of the Venturi Formula E who scored their first podium of the seasion in the Mexican ePrix a few weeks ago, as well as the co-founder of the Dare to Be Different initiative, a non-profit organisation committed to change viewpoints and inspiring young girls and women to participate within the motorsport industry.

Sarah Jarvis: You’ve had time to become much more comfortable within your new role as team principal. Was the transition period as challenging as you thought it would be?
Susie Wolff: Yes, it’s definitely been challenging with plenty of changes and improvements to make, but to be honest I’ve relished the opportunity to get stuck in. We’ve made really great progress after a difficult start to the season. In motorsport, ultimately all that matters is performance and, with our first podium of the season in Mexico, I think we’ve demonstrated that we’re on the right track.

SJ: The FE in-season test featured nine female drivers competing in cars as part of the FIA Women into Motorsports Initiative. Did that feel like a significant step forward in promoting the movement of women into motorsport?
SW: Yes, I do feel like it was a significant step forward. I also think it clearly demonstrated Formula E’s commitments both to the promotion of women in the sport and also their desire for diversity within the series. The all female in-season test also served as a fantastic reminder of the female talent out there – that’s an incredibly positive thing in my book.

Image credit: Sam Bloxham

SJ: With your increased involvement in Formula E, there is an intensity of D2BD initiatives at these events. How important are these events to display at such a vastly popular sport? Are they changing the opinions and viewpoints of young girls?
SW: The D2BD events are really important and now that we have the official collaboration with the FIA’s Girls On Track initiative, we’re widening our reach even further to a bigger, global audience. Having our launch event in Mexico at the ePrix was a major milestone for the initiative, it also clearly demonstrated Formula E’s commitment to the promotion of grassroots activity for young women. The launch was met with great enthusiasm, not just from the motorsport community but also the local fans who came and participated in the activity, there’s simply no substitute for hands on experience. One of the major additional benefits of teaming up with Formula E in this way is that we have the benefit of some incredible city centre race locations, this goes a long way towards helping raise awareness and generate interest in the activity.

SJ: Is it imperative to gradually add more racing events to the D2BD calendar for exposure? Are there certain avenues such as F1 and MotoGP that you want to pursue further?
SW: Now that we are a joint venture with the FIA, we’re not focused on volume of events or trying to be the biggest. What we want to do is foster strong and lasting relationships with the ASNs (the local motorsport authorities) to ensure that the activation is strategic, meaningful and leaves a lasting impression on the young ladies who participate. The impact we have from an inspiration and education perspective is the most important thing to me.

SJ: With the introduction of the W Series aimed strictly at a female demographic, do you feel it is a positive step towards better representation of women in motorsport?

SW: Any championship that gives the opportunity to young women to compete is a positive thing. In my view though to become a truly world class professional driver and earn a living in motorsport, you need to compete with the best in the world regardless of gender. Ultimately, motorsport isn’t segregated so I think in the long term, we need to really focus our efforts on bringing more female talent in to the sport across the board so that the best can rise to the top.

SJ: What advice would you give any young girls or women wanting to break into motorsport, whether it be driving or engineering?
SW: My advice would be the same whichever field they were looking at: believe in yourself. Find out what it is that you feel passionate about and go for it. Don’t be scared to stand up for yourself and be seen and heard. Work hard, push yourself and never, ever lose the belief in your abilities. Use initiatives like Dare to be Different to connect and widen your network. We have an incredible line-up of ambassadors who provide mentoring and education to the next generation. But above all else, don’t wait for doors to open for you, knock them down.

For more information on the Dare to be Different initiative: https://www.daretobedifferent.org/

Madness in Mexico! Di Grassi clinches win in last minute thriller

Lucas di Grassi kickstarted Audi’s campaign to reclaim the constructor’s title by snatching victory in an action-packed Mexico City ePrix on Saturday. Despite leading for the majority of the race, there was heartache for Mahindra once more as rookie Pascal Wehrlein was literally pipped at the post after a sprint to the finish line.

Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images

Antonio Felix da Costa took first blood in qualifying as his championship rivals struggled in the unfavourable early track conditions. Championship leader Sam Bird was forced out of qualifying early, stopping at the side of the track with mechanical issues before he had even set a lap. Virgin Racing’s nightmare continued as Robin Frijns was handed a three place grid penalty for blocking Jerome D’Ambrosio in the confusion. Wehrlein showcased his improving form, snatching P1 away from da Costa. The track conditions continued to improve, allowing stalwart di Grassi to join the fight. Massa also put in an impressive lap to claim his debut in superpole. However, it was Nissan rookie Oliver Rowland who took bragging rights, taking the coveted P1 slot from di Grassi and Wehrlein in the last few seconds, cementing his place in superpole alongside Sebastien Buemi, Massa and da Costa.

Superpole certainly showcased the rise of the rookies as Da Costa set the bar with a time of 59.819, a feat that Buemi could not challenge. Continuing on from his superb qualifying form in Santiago, di Grassi put in an impressive lap to snatch the top spot. It fell to the three rookies remaining to oust di Grassi from pole. Massa and Rowland both fell short, slotting into P3 and P4 respectively. Wehrlein, however, managed to continue his electric form and claimed the three points and Mahindra’s second pole at the circuit in the last two years.

Photo by Zak Mauger / LAT Images

Wehrlein started strongly from pole as Rowland managed to sneak into P2, leapfrogging Brazilian compatriots Massa and di Grassi in the opening stages. However, as the race heated up, Nelson Piquet tangled with Jean-Eric Vergne in a nasty accident which left the Jaguar driver in the wall at turn 13 and subsequently out of the race. BMW’s Alexander Sims suffered a repeat of Marrakesh as he was tagged by a out-of-control Piquet going into the final corner. Due to the damage, the race was immediately red flagged with just nine minutes on the clock. Whilst in the pits, Vergne and Sims were able to repair the damage caused by Piquet’s accident.

As the race got underway once more, everybody armed themselves with their attack mode, forcing di Grassi to pressure Rowland for P2. However, the Brazilian could not find a way past and had to settle for P3. Da Costa picked up damage as a result of his duel with Buemi for P4, forcing the Portuguese driver to back off from his attack. Vandoorne’s bad luck continued as he was given a penalty for using his fanboost too early, whilst Lopez was hit with a double penalty for overuse of energy and pitlane violations. Vergne too had another nightmare of a race as he was tagged by Mitch Evans in the stadium section, leaving the reigning champion in a lowly P17.

Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

It was in the latter stages that the race came alive as Rowland, despite occupying P2 for the majority of the race, misjudged the corner when under pressure from di Grassi and had to concede the podium spot to the Brazilian. His luck went from bad to worse as he made contact with teammate Buemi, and Nissan’s miscalculations on energy use left both drivers dropping down the order and out of the points. Di Grassi continued to press Wehrlein for the lead, forcing the rookie to fight against the attack instead of saving his energy. Di Grassi scooped victory at the last gasp overtaking a energy-depleted Wehrlein just before the finish line to score Audi’s first win of the season ahead of da Costa and Venturi’s Edo Mortara, both promoted by Nissan’s failure to finish.

Formula E will return in Hong Kong on 10th March.

Bird’s the Word!: Sam succeeds in Santiago

Envision Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird finally got his championship campaign underway by claiming his first win this season in a penalty-prone Santiago ePrix yesterday. Despite the temperatures soaring and making the ePrix the hottest on record, Bird managed to remain cool and claim victory after poleman Sebastien Buemi crashed out on a degrading track, holding off Pascal Wehrlein’s late challenge to send the British team to the top of the constructor’s standings.

Lucas di Grassi was the first driver to make an impact at the top of the qualifying standings, only to be superseded by Buemi moments later. Techeetah and BMW failed to make an impact as the track conditions began to improve, leaving those in the first group out of the coveted superpole positions. However, it was Mahindra’s Wehrlein took first blood in the initial part of qualifying by snatching provisional pole, ahead of Buemi, di Grassi, Bird and Abt. Stoffel Vandoorne too claimed a small victory in the shape of HWA and his first appearance in superpole, slotting in P4.

Abt was the first to take to the track in superpole and his super clean lap enabled him to set the bar at 1.08.958. Vandoorne followed, however, his lap was overshadowed by the fact that HWA failed to get the Belgian out of the pits on time, rendering his lap void. Bird struggled in the climbing temperatures to slot into P3 before di Grassi showcased a master lap around the Santiago circuit to post a time of 1.08.290. Buemi and Wehrlein had no answer to the Brazilian, claiming P2 and P3 respectively. Despite the dominant display in qualifying, di Grassi had his pole revoked after a braking infringement on his cool-down lap which sent him to the back of the grid and promoted racing rival Buemi to pole position.

Andrew Ferraro/ LAT Images

Buemi started well, holding the lead ahead of Wehrlein and Abt, who was superseded by Bird moments into the race for P3. However, the soaring temperatures proved difficult for the new Gen 2 cars with Tom Dillmann grinding to a halt a few laps in, presumably due to battery issues. Buemi was the first of the leading pack to deploy his attack mode in an effort to pull away from a charging Bird. The midfield battle too continued to heat up as Oliver Rowland and Felipe Massa duelled for the last points paying position.

Current champion Jean-Eric Vergne had a race to forget. A lowly qualifying session had placed the Frenchman in the middle of the pack and a bizarre incident between himself, his teammate Andre Lotterer and Antonio Felix da Costa left him out of the race. Da Costa’s nightmare also continued after his tangle with teammate Alexander Sims in Marrakesh as his BMW surrendered to the climbing temperatures, forcing him to retire later in the race.

Joe Portlock / LAT Images

Maxi Gunther stopped on the track, forcing the race’s first full course yellow, whilst Lopez spun after contact with di Grassi. Vandoorne’s hopes of HWA’s first points crumbled as the Belgian slowed on track just after the attack mode area, having made contact with the wall. As the full course yellow period ended, Bird and Wehrlein continued to pressure Buemi and with eleven laps from the end, the Nissan driver made contact with the wall and subsequently lost the lead. He limped back to the pits with suspension damage preventing him from participating further. Bird inherited the lead and held off a chasing Wehrlein for the remainder of the race to claim his eighth career win and the first of the season for Envision Virgin Racing. Wehrlein claimed his first Formula E podium in only his second race, followed by Daniel Abt who was promoted to P3 after Sims was given a penalty for contact with Edo Mortara.

Da Costa frustrates Vergne to claims BMW’s first win: Ad Diriyah ePrix report

In spite of the heavy rain that blighted the opening round of the new season of Formula E, Antonio Felix da Costa finally ended BMW i Andretti’s trophy drought in the inaugural Ad Diriyah ePrix last weekend. After taking a dominant pole in the reduced qualifying session, he was relatively untroubled in the race and took advantage of a time penalty applied to Techeetah rival Jean-Eric Vergne to claim his second win in Formula E and the first for BMW as a full-works team.

Qualifying was a much reduced affair due to the worsening weather. The drivers were split into two groups as opposed to the usual four. NIO’s Tom Dillmann was first on track and bizarrely stayed out for twenty laps instead of the allocated three, giving him a drive through penalty mid-way through the race. As the clock ticked down, the drivers trickled out onto the track. Vergne and the Audi’s of di Grassi and Abt struggled in the tricky conditions whilst Da Costa jumped to the top of the timing screens with a 1.17.728.  The conditions did not improve for the second group which included ex F1 drivers Felipe Massa and Stoffel Vandoorne. The latter managed an impressive P5 in his maiden qualifying session. Andre Lotterer looked like he may trouble the Portuguese driver but was blighted by Maxi Gunther’s Dragon stopping on track and Felix Rosenqvist going off on the final corner. With a lack of superpole due to the delayed session, Da Costa clinched the pole ahead of Dillmann, Lopez and Buemi.

Alastair Staley / LAT Images

At least five drivers were sent to the back of the grid for various infractions, creating a mixed grid at the beginning of the race. Da Costa held the lead despite a pit-box malfunction as Buemi dispatched of Lopez at the start. Mortara seemed to echo the opening round of last season by slamming into the wall. He managed to limp back onto the track but the damage was already done. The Techeetahs showcased that despite the change in powertrain, they still remain as quick as ever with Vergne and Lotterer making their way up the field to pick off Lopez and slot themselves into P3 and P4.

Rosenqvist’s bad luck continued as he ended up finishing his final race with Mahindra on the sidelines, crashing with 30 minutes to go. Gary Paffett’s HWA also decided to give up at turn 10, effectively ending his race. Vergne on the other hand, made his way past a struggling Buemi to snatch P2 away and begin the pursuit of Da Costa.

It didn’t take long for Vergne to force his way past da Costa’s BMW, taking the lead around the outside of turn 18. Da Costa seemed to struggle against the battling Techeetahs with Lotterer soon on his gearbox, pushing for presumably a team 1-2. Lopez and Buemi duelled over P4, but they both fell victim to an opportunistic Jerome D’Ambrosio who had managed to gain ground during their battle.

Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

With Vergne in the lead and Lotterer advancing on da Costa, another Techeetah win seemed likely. However, their luck soon changed as both drivers were hit with drive-through penalties allowing da Costa to retake the lead. Emerging in fourth position, the reigning champion fought his way back through the field to trouble da Costa as the minutes ticked down.

Lopez sent himself out of the race after missing the attack mode activation zone twice. With eight minutes to go, the safety car was brought out. As the race restarted, many of the drivers activated their second mandatory attack mode in an attempt to climb up the standings. Vergne was able to dispatch D’Ambrosio whilst using up the last of his attack mode, whilst his teammate Lotterer snatched P5 from Buemi. Da Costa was able to hold on from a prowling Vergne with help from his fanboost to clinch the win, his first in over three seasons and his first with BMW i Andretti, ahead of Vergne and D’Ambrosio.

The second round of the Formula E season will return on January 12th in Marrakesh.

“Formula E feels like a family,”: Susie Wolff

Susie Wolff said that she has had a warm welcome into the Formula E paddock, stating that it ‘already feels like a family’. Speaking to the new Venturi team principal at Formula E testing in October, she discussed the process she went through in order to prepare for her new role.

”I made the decision to work for Gildo [Pastor, Venturi’s CEO and founder] quite early and was in a couple of races undercover as a fan which gave me the chance to see it from the outside. In New York, I was part of the team and observing them in action to give me the perfect springboard to get ready for season 5. It’s great to be here, I’ve had a nice welcome. It’s a big challenge with the new Gen 2 cars.  It’s been fantastic so far and I feel very much at home and the challenge is one I am ready for.”

As with many individuals involved in other motorsports, Wolff admitted that she was cynical of the sport initially but has grown to understand what Formula E truly promotes.

I have to be completely honest that I was a cynic early on. I’m coming in now when it’s all up and running and I really admire what the sport has been able to achieve. You only need to walk up the pitlane to see the number of manufacturers that they have here and it’s a real testament to what Formula E has achieved. It’s great to be a part of this exciting platform that has so much potential.”

Credit: LAT/Formula E

Formula E has had a number of female drivers fill their seats in its infancy, but over the past two seasons, the female contingent has certainly dwindled. When asked about her position as the first female principal in Formula E, Wolff said that she hoped to use the opportunity to promote further involvement of women in the sport.

There were a couple of female drivers in this championship who I rate very highly and I am a great believer that I am here to do a job. I am not here because I am a woman and my gender doesn’t impact the way I can do the job. I think one thing that can always be seen as a positive is that if other women see me in this position, it will aspire them to realise that there is opportunities in this sport. I feel I can make a difference at Venturi. As women, there’s enough of us out there who are talented enough to make a difference and it’s about making sure we get those opportunities.”

 Wolff commented on the driver line up of Edoardo Mortara and Felipe Massa as a major strength in this season’s campaign.

”We’re in a lucky position at Venturi that we have one of the strongest line ups in the paddock. Edo is a driver I’ve rated highly. His character alongside Felipe, I knew would be a good fit, I knew those two together would be a strong pairing that would be able to drive this team forward. The combination of the two is exactly what this team needed to move forward.”

She also discussed the team’s aspirations ahead of the new season. 

”I have a three year plan envisioned for the team. We can’t turn over a performance overnight but in season 5, we want to be fighting for points and I would love to get some podiums. I would like to be consistently fighting at the front of the grid.”

Formula E: Season 5 Preview

Formula E is set to kick off for a fifth season this week with the brand new Gen 2 car waiting in the wings to take the electric series into the next phase of development. Season 4 was certainly as interesting as the preceding seasons, with another new champion in the form of Jean-Eric Vergne and Audi finally overturning Renault to become the top dog of the manufacturer’s battle. But what can we expect from season 5? The series has a new car that is able to last the entire race distance, different circuits in brand-new locations and the arrival of BMW permanently into the sport and HWA, a precursor to the Mercedes outfit expected in season 6.

Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler

Credit: LAT/Formula E

Audi arguably had the most energy-efficient powertrain last season and despite a few minor issues with reliability, they fought back to finally claim the manufacturer’s title, one which had proven elusive in the first few seasons. Audi are certainly looking to start the new season on a high. They have continued to develop the powertrain and for the first time, will provide customer engines to British outfit Virgin Racing.

Audi have chosen to retain their line up of the past four seasons, a wise decision on their part. The solid partnership of season 3 champion Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt will work in their favour as the pair are familiar with the team and how the sport has developed since its infancy. Both drivers have proven over the course of their time in the German outfit that they are capable of producing results. Abt, in particularly, enjoyed a successful previous season, finally picking up his first win in Mexico City and finishing a respectable fifth in the championship. Di Grassi too had an insurgence towards the latter end of the season which enabled him to join in the championship duel between Vergne and Sam Bird.

Allan McNish delivered everything he was supposed to in his and Audi’s first year in the electric series – the title they so longed for. He also managed to placate his two drivers throughout the course of the season, showcasing that he is able to make tough decisions if necessary and will surely take forward his experience into the new season. Expect Audi to be favourites to snatch the title once again.

DS Techeetah

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The Chinese outfit came close to the coveted manufacturers title last year, impressive considering their customer team status. However, this season, they have chosen to partner with DS Automobiles, who have a proven track record in Formula E after working with Virgin since the series debut. By moving away from their customer status, the team will be afforded more testing time and more development of their own powertrain – something that held them back to an extent last year.

They have chosen to retain champion Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer as their line-up which is no surprise. Vergne had an incredible season, showered with many moments of mastery such as taking pole backwards in the first round at Hong Kong to dominating the streets of his home eprix at Paris. Lotterer too has begun to bed in and become more acquainted with the style of driving in Formula E and has been rewarded with a string of podiums. It still remains to be seen if Techeetah will continue where they left off, but it’s certain that they won’t be quiet next season.

Envision Virgin Racing

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Virgin had a stellar season – they almost handed Sam Bird his first ever Formula E championship title last year. The car too had zero reliability issues, certainly on Bird’s side of the garage which will be a comfort to new partner Techeetah. However, after Alex Lynn’s strong start in the British team at the latter end of season 3 in which the Brit took pole in his first ever qualifying session, he struggled immensely within the car with a string of retirements and placed no higher than sixth. It was to nobody’s surprise that Virgin announced once again that Bird would lead the charge for his fifth season in the sport.

However, change is on the horizon as Virgin are to be Audi’s first customer team and with such an arrangement, comes the arrival of Robin Frijns. Forced out from Andretti due to his Audi commitments last season, the Dutchman will provide a worthy teammate for Bird – one who knows the sport and will be warmly welcomed back to settle unfinished business. The Audi customer status has not limited Virgin’s testing hours with Bird and Frijns revealing that the supplier gave up some of their testing time to the British outfit. Lack of testing time did not hinder Techeetah last year from almost walking away the team title, and the team will have arguably the best powertrain on the grid. The British team will certainly be one to upset the party.

Mahindra Racing

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Mahindra’s pre-season was shaping up to be as dull as the latter half of their last season. After a strong start in Marrakesh with Felix Rosenqvist claiming the top step, the Indian team seemed to tail off and even their prized asset Rosenqvist struggled to impress. They suffered a double blow early in pre-season with Nick Heidfeld is stepping down into a development role and losing Rosenqvist to Indycar. However, the Indian outfit seized Jerome D’Ambrosio’s frustrations at an uncompetitive Dragon team and swooped in for the electric racing stalwart.  

His attachment to the team was no surprise as he had tested the car in pre-season. A driver with a wealth of experience in the sport, it is an excellent career move for the Belgian to move away from the struggling American outfit. Pascal Wehrlein, now free of the ties of Mercedes, will fill the second seat. He has tested the car and uniting both experience and new blood has worked for Mahindra in the past. We could see a revival of their good fortune in the past few seasons – certainly if they provide D’Ambrosio with the car he deserves.

Nissan e.dams

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Renault are gone but Nissan will fill the void left by the sport’s first ever constructor champions. After choosing to focus solely on their Formula One programme, the French team has handed over the reins to the Japanese outfit. They had a season to forget last year, with even the reliable Buemi failing to score a single win. He came close in Marrakesh but the Renault of season 4 seemed to lack the bite of previous seasons. Misery was added to the French outfit in that  their customer team Techeetah scored four wins through eventual champion Jean-Eric Vergne.

However, Nissan are looking forward. They have retained Buemi – a smart move as they are new to Formula E and how it operates. The Swiss is a proven winner and capable of extracting everything he can from the machinery. They were dealt a further blow when they lost their rookie driver Alexander Albon to Formula One, just one day into their pre-season testing. However, the Japanese team recently announced the arrival of Oliver Rowland. The British driver is no stranger to the sport, having filled in for Nick Heidfeld at Mahindra when the German was ruled out with a hand injury. Rowland also has a proven track record in junior categories, and as talent such as Mitch Evans and Felix Rosenqvist have proven, Rowland could be a diamond in the rough. However, one question remains unanswered. Have Nissan let Audi and Techeetah take the upper hand in terms of development? Only time will tell.

Panasonic Jaguar

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Jaguar have gone from strength to strength this year with Mitch Evans taking the team’s first ever pole and even claimed a podium in the early stages of the season. The Kiwi driver finished a respectable seventh in the championship and showcased some excellent drives, particularly in Hong Kong and Punta del Este. Jaguar are a far cry from the team of two seasons ago and development of their powertrain coupled with retaining their strong driver line up has only aided them in their success.

It is expected that Jaguar will continue to grow stronger going into season 5 – as the British outfit have chosen to retain previous champion Piquet and Evans. This is crucial as both drivers know the car and how the team operate, so they were able to focus purely on race data and the configurations for the car during testing. The car’s reliability is still a cause for concern, certainly on Piquet’s side of the garage, but it is certain that this will improve. Jaguar are viewed as dark horses, and it would be foolish to write them off this season. It’s certain that they will be looking to improve on last year’s results.

Venturi

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Venturi benefited last year from Edo Mortara’s extensive Macau knowledge which allowed him to navigate the tight streets and take the team’s only podium. However, with Mortara tied to a DTM drive with Mercedes for the majority of the season, they missed out on crucial opportunities to gain points and for him to have a solid standing in the championship. At times, his inexperience showed – for example, when he lost the lead in Hong Kong with three laps to go, after becoming overly-confident in the win. However, he showcased that the talent and speed were there. Equally, his teammate Maro Engel quietly scooped up a number of points paying positions, including a fourth place in Paris.

The Monegasque team seem rejuvenated, however, as we approach season 4. They have become a customer team to HWA, Mercedes’ early entry into FE. Retaining Mortara will have its advantages as he wasn’t able to fulfil his full potential within his debut season and he can commit fully to the programme as Mercedes have ceased their DTM programme. The biggest change to the team, however, comes in the form of ex F1 star Felipe Massa and Susie Wolff coming into the team as driver and team principal respectively. Massa will surely lend a hand in ensuring that interest in the sport remains high whilst showcasing that retirement is the last thing on his mind, whilst Wolff certainly props up the Mercedes link but will enter into the team to provide new and innovative ideas to ensure their success. Venturi will be one to watch.

HWA Racelab

Credit: LAT/Formula E

As a new team and Mercedes’ precursor into Formula E, it’s unsure as to how the German outfit will fare in their maiden season. Will they do as Jaguar did in their first season? It certainly would not be a surprise if this were the case – the team enter the series just as the car has developed past the initial spec. However, having Venturi powertrains ensures that they don’t walk into Formula E completely blind. They also possess an excellent line-up in ex-McLaren man Stoffel Vandoorne, who could use a boost of self-esteem and an opportunity to get out of Fernando Alonso’s shadow, and seasoned DTM driver Gary Paffett who came close to claiming the title last year.

NIO

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Once again, a season to forget for the British based outfit. Retaining the reliable Oliver Turvey was their bright light in season 4, with the British born driver consistently finishing in the points. However, Luca Filippi wasn’t as strong and lagged behind Turvey for the entire season. It’s no surprise that Filippi has been quietly released by the team as they fight to find a replacement to the Piquet shaped hole from two seasons ago.

Retaining their key asset Turvey was a must for the British team, and he will be expected to continue his reliability into the new season. He is joined this season by season regular Tom Dillmann, previously a driver of Venturi. He has also has a solid record of points scoring within his sporadic involvement in Formula E, with a personal best of P4 in New York last year. If NIO can deliver an excellent and reliable car, NIO could potentially have a solid season, particularly with two drivers who are able to score points consistently.

GEOX Dragon

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Dragon are a team in trouble. After looking bright for the first two seasons, the shine wore off and even a few podiums from the talented Jerome D’Ambrosio couldn’t stop the decline. The loss of Porsche WEC driver Neel Jani early in the season was a major blow as he certainly could have delivered within the car, given the chance. Their misfortune seemed to continue as they lost their star asset D’Ambrosio to Mahindra after lack of success. It is certainly a shame for the American outfit as the experienced Belgian driver was always able to extract more out of the machinery than most could, but on the other hand, it would be excellent to see D’Ambrosio in a competitive car once more.

Lopez on the other hand, is to be retained and this is a good choice. Despite some of his inexperience, he was given a second chance by the American team after a torrid team in his maiden season at Virgin and managed to deliver some decent results. If reliability was improved, it’s certain that Lopez could achieve more. Partnering the Argentinian is rookie driver, Maximilian Gunther. Before participating in the rookie test in Marrakesh, he had previous experience in junior categories, finishing in third place in Formula 3 last year, and also contested Macau, which will be good practise for the street circuits. It still remains to be seen what will happen at Dragon this year, but if they can be competitive, it’s certain that they could cause an upset like they have in the past.

BMW i Andretti

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If there were an award for the team with the worst luck last year, Andretti would take top honours. A revolving door policy on their second driver and lack of development from BMW hurt the team last season, resulting in them picking up the unfortunate honour of being the only outfit not to achieve a podium. Tom Blomqvist never seemed to have a chance to prove himself, forced out in the first round to satisfy sponsors, and eventually left quietly after six rounds. However, even seasoned Formula E driver Stephane Sarrazin failed to get results.

This season, now fully under BMW control, they retain Antonio Felix Da Costa for the third season, an excellent choice who knows the car and how the team operate. The Portuguese driver certainly could be seen as one of the German teams assets, having been in the electric series since its inception. They also welcome Alexander Sims, who lost out to the seat last year. Having being the development driver in season 3 and having an avid interest in electric cars, he has some knowledge of the series and of the car. He also performed well at last year’s testing in the season 4 car. BMW’s involvement and retaining the driver lineup throughout the season will be crucial for BMW Andretti’s success going into season 5.

The first round of season 5 of Formula E begins on December 15th in Riyadh.

Formula E Testing: Day Two Report

The second day of the Formula E testing got underway on Wednesday at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit. Having held the top spot in the first two sessions yesterday, BMW Andretti continued to dominate once again during the morning by snatching the top spot and breaking the unofficial track record in the process, courtesy of António Félix da Costa.

Alexander Albon grabbed many of the headlines on Tuesday as he seemed to disappear midway through testing, leaving Buemi to test both cars in the afternoon session. He too was absent from the media duties later that evening. The plot thickened further, as it was declared that car number 22 would not run in this particular session, leaving the prospect of Albon staying with Nissan looking slimmer and slimmer.

Antonio Felix da Costa (BMW i Andretti Motorsport), Valencia pre-season testing – Credit: LAT/Formula E

Battery issues blighted many of the drivers Tuesday and Wednesday morning, was no exception. Both Virgin’s Robin Frijns and Mahindra’s Pascal Wehrlein both seemed to suffer with battery issues but these were quickly resolved and had little impact on their session. Stoffel Vandoorne of HWA seemed to recover from the previous battery problems and scooped P2 in the early stages.

Felipe Massa was the first man on the track to turn the sectors purple with a time of 1.18.511 but Da Costa wasn’t far behind, edging the ex-F1 man out with a time of 1.18.496 as the temperature began to rise and conditions became more favourable. Quite a few of the drivers had problems with the chicane, including BMW’s Alexander Sims who bumped one of the edges with his front wing and André Lotterer and Lucas di Grassi avoided it altogether.

However, the morning session again went to BMW Andretti for the third consecutive P1 position in the testing session so far, Da Costa’s time four tenths away from the nearest competitor, Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne. Such success so far in testing is a surely welcoming prospect for a team that struggled so much last season.


Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler) and Andre Lotterer (DS TEC …
Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler) and Andre Lotterer (DS TECHEETAH), Valencia pre-season testing – Credit: LAT/Formula E

The afternoon session in comparison, was filled with drama. The paddock was treated to a 45 minute racing simulation, which did not fail to disappoint. Daniel Abt slammed into the problematic chicane early in the race and Stoffel Vandoorne suffered some more bad luck, stopping on track which brought out the red flag. Racing soon resumed, only for Piquet, Wehrlein, Dillmann and Massa to collide at the chicane.

As the green flag waved once more, da Costa began to close in on race leader Vergne and managed to get through with five minutes of the session to go. Sims, however, began to close on da Costa and passed him as the dying moments drew nearer. However, despite BMW’s dominance throughout the season, they were beat in the last few corners as di Grassi managed to push past da Costa and finally, Sims to take P1 in the simulation race.

HWA ‘convinced me straight away’ – Stoffel Vandoorne

Last week, it was announced that McLaren man Stoffel Vandoorne would be joining Formula E next season with the HWA outfit, Mercedes’ precursory entry into the electric series. Today, he said that he was ‘convinced straight away’ to join up the developing sport after losing his Formula One drive.

“I had my initial contact with Toto, which was before McLaren decided what they were going to do. Toto explained the project and as soon as I thought about it, there was no real hesitation”

Vandoorne was plagued by battery issues in the first day of testing which significantly reduced his running time in the car but on the second day of testing, he was able to utilise more time on track. ”We had a better day than yesterday.” The Belgian stated. “We had more laps this morning which was quite productive for me. The focus for us is to push through all the difficulties we’ve been having and learn from those.”

He admitted that the issues did not reveal themselves during the private testing that Venturi had been afforded to both himself and new teammate Gary Paffett.

“For us, it’s a new challenge, there’s a lot of processes we have to go through and from my side, I’ve also been combining this with Formula One. It’s like jumping from one ship to another for the past few months but the team is now focused on Formula E.”

Stoffel Vandoorne (HWA RACELAB), Valencia pre-season testing – Credit: LAT/Formula E

In reference to the additional Venturi testing that he had received, he said that it put him in a much better position. 

“You always want to do more testing and I would have liked for [this test] to have gone a lot smoother. But the two days I had before definitely helped to come here and have an idea of what everything feels like.”

When asked how Formula E compares to Formula One, the Belgian was very open that there was a difference and also spoke of his inexperience within the series.

“It’s very different to what I am used to, and compared to any other series, it’s quite different the way you drive the car and how the car handles. It’s all different challenges. I have no reference of the Gen 1 car but the car seems a big step forward in terms of the previous generation. You can set up the car in a number of ways and make a big difference with those. I had no expectations. I went into it very open minded and tried to maximise what we have.”

Stoffel Vandoorne (HWA RACELAB), Valencia pre-season testing – Credit: LAT/Formula E


Vandoorne did not think that despite having a new Gen 2 to contend with and new regulations in the fifth season that he would have an advantage against those much more acquainted with the previous generation car.

“I don’t think there is a big difference. A lot of the drivers have been here a while working with their teams so they’ll have a bit of a head start. It’s not easy as a new driver to step in and perform straight away. From our team perspective, we need to manage our expectations and be competitive as I want to be successful.”

Speaking of his opinions of the sport before he joined, Vandoorne always had a open outlook on the series. 

“It’s an up and coming series and I think if you look, they have only existed for four seasons. In that timespan, many manufacturers have joined and I think it shows that they see a future in this sport. It has huge potential and the electric development is still in such an early stage so I think that cars will keep progressing. There’s already been a huge step between the two generations of cars and I am sure they’ll be another step forward.

Formula E Pre-Season Testing: Day One Report

The Ricardo Tormo circuit, situated on the outskirts of Valencia, hosted the Formula E collective test this week for the second year running in preparation for the new season. For some of the drivers such as Stoffel Vandoorne and Gary Paffett, it was the first opportunity for them to get to grips with the car and with race performance.

André Lotterer going out in his DS TECHEETAH durring the 2018 Formula E testing. Image courtesy of Sarah Jarvis

Audi set the initial pace as to be expected, coming off the back of a strong season in winning the constructor’s championship with Daniel Abt setting the sectors purple in the first phase. Virgin also looked strong despite their lack of pre-season testing as a customer team, occupying P2 and P3 in the early stages of the session.

However, as the track began to heat up, the track times tumbled and with it, BMW Andretti’s Antonio Felix Da Costa and Venturi’s Felipe Massa battled for top spot as the clock ticked over the first hour. Mahindra also looked competitive after a torrid season last year with experienced stalwart Jerome D’Ambrosio at the helm, putting in a respectable time of a 1.19.535.

Gary Paffett of HWA was the first unlucky driver to bring out the red flag, having misjudged the tricky chicane installed on the pit straight to imitate the tight street corners the drivers will fight on next year. After racing resumed, Virgin again took the top spot and dominated proceedings. However, as the time ticked away, it was BMW Andretti that were the surprising victors, heading a one two finish in the first session. Several of the drivers reported battery issues, including Stoffel Vandoorne who did not run in the afternoon.

In the second session, it was Venturi who again impressed in the beginning of the session with Felipe Massa taking top spot with a time of 1.20.273. However, the gaps between drivers were much closer in the afternoon. After the first hour, D’Ambrosio was in the coveted P1 spot with less than one second separating the top four cars.

Felipe Massa heading out in Formula E testing. Image courtesy of Sarah Jarvis

Audi continued to look impressive this afternoon with di Grassi being held off the top spot by only three tenths of a second and Abt  occupying P1 for a time during the session. D’Ambrosio and Abt continued to exchange blows throughout the afternoon with the former being the first man into the 1.17 minute mark.

However, it was BMW Andretti that continued their success first day with Da Costa setting the pace towards the latter end of the season. The performance of both drivers is certainly showcasing the development that BMW have made after taking over the team in a full capacity. Da Costa was soon joined at the top of the table by new recruit Alexander Sims, who impressed this morning by finishing in P1 and finished the second session in the same position.