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

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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

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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.

 

Felipe Massa: “A completely new challenge for me.”

Felipe Massa has an enormous challenge ahead of him, coming out of retirement to race for Venturi in Formula E. We caught up with him to discuss the journey ahead and how different driving in the all-electric series is in comparison with Formula 1.

The ex-Williams man highlighted the challenges of moving into a completely new sport, particularly one as complicated and different as Formula E. Having completed an allocated number of testing days already, Massa said that there were still many aspects of the sport to learn.

“It is a completely new challenge for me,” The Brazilian stated. “I am learning the car and the new tracks. I don’t know any of the new tracks I am going to race. Every session I am learning new things.”

| Photographer: Shivraj Gohil| Event: Collective preseason testing| Circuit: Circuit Ricardo Tormo| Location: Valencia| Series: FIA Formula E| Season: 2018-2019| Country: ES|| Session: Day 1|| Driver: Felipe Massa | Team: Venturi Formula E Team| Number: 19| Car: VFE-05|

Massa admitted that he was still getting to grips with the new Gen 2 car and the sport in general in comparison with what he is used to.

“It is a big challenge for me to drive this car in the right way. It is a completely different car – different tyres, no downforce, and a low-grip track which makes the car move around than what I am used to. There’s so many things to understand, how to brake the car for instance and it behaves differently. I like a new challenge and I really hope I can learn as quick as I can to try to be competitive.”

When questioned about the scepticism surrounding Formula E, Massa stated that he was always in favour of the electric series.

”A championship needs at least three years to understand how it is going to be. I think the idea was always great since they started. In the fourth season, I think they made a big step forward and it should be the same for the fifth season. So now, I think Formula E has nothing to be afraid of, it is well established and it will stay for a long time. I hope it’s a championship I can enjoy myself in for many years.”

| Driver: Felipe Massa | Team: Venturi Formula E Team| Number: 19| Car: VFE-05|| Photographer: Shivraj Gohil| Event: Collective preseason testing| Circuit: Circuit Ricardo Tormo| Location: Valencia| Series: FIA Formula E| Season: 2018-2019| Country: ES|| Session: Day 1|

Massa said that despite the challenges of the new series, the new car was a enormous step forward and he experienced no ‘culture shock’ at the immersion into Formula E.

“I am learning to drive this new car as I have no comparison with the old one [the Gen 1 car] but there are so many challenges. I am enjoying myself and ready for the new season.”

No Brazilian race was announced on the calendar and Massa admitted his disappointment, but was hopeful for the future.

“I think [myself] being in the championship can be a huge help but it would be fantastic to have a race in Brazil.”

 

Jean-Eric Vergne approached over 2019 F1 drive

2017–18 Formula E champion Jean-Éric Vergne has said that he has been approached by an F1 team over a 2019 race drive.

LAT Images / Formula E Media

The former Toro Rosso F1 driver revealed the contact in an interview with crash.net when asked about his chances of returning to Grand Prix racing:

“It’s a possibility. It’s funny how the world of motorsport changes. Three years ago, I don’t think anybody would have called me from F1 and said: ‘Hey, do you have a contract for next season?’.

“When you change your state of mind, when you change a little bit how you work, you see the results straight away. You see it in the results, and you see it in how people look at you and how they speak to you. When you start representing a brand [like Formula E], it changes a lot of things.”

LAT Images / Formula E Media

Vergne’s comments have come amid a breakout year for the Frenchman, in which he took four Formula E victories en route to the season four title with Techeetah, as well as an LMP2 class win at Le Mans with G-Drive (although this was later taken away for a team technical infringement).

They also follow a series of surprise announcements in the F1 driver market over the summer, which will see Daniel Ricciardo move from Red Bull to Renault and Fernando Alonso step away from the series in 2019.

Vergne’s previous F1 tenure spanned three years at Toro Rosso between 2012–2014, in which he partnered future Red Bull graduates Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat. He was dropped from the Red Bull programme for 2015 in favour of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, and spent two full seasons as a simulator driver at Ferrari before leaving the F1 paddock completely in early 2017.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Who might Vergne’s F1 suitor be?

Although Vergne confirmed he had been approached by an F1 team for next year, he gave no clues as to which team was interested in his services.

The most obvious possibility is his former employer, Toro Rosso. The Red Bull junior team is in need of at least one new driver for next year—with Pierre Gasly set to replace Ricciardo—and proved last year with Brendon Hartley that calling back ex-academy drivers is an option when an F1-ready protege isn’t available.

The chances of Vergne wanting to return to the Red Bull fold after the manner of his 2014 exit are slim—although Vergne hasn’t necessarily said he’s entertaining the offer he’s received, for that matter.

Haas were said to have had an interest in Vergne ahead of their maiden campaign in 2016, and may do so again as they weigh up alternatives to Romain Grosjean. Williams may also have been the ones to offer Vergne a 2019 drive, as Lance Stroll’s expected move to Force India will leave a race seat open at the Grove team.

Venturi: The Team Everyone’s Talking About

A year ago, Venturi were the minnows of Formula E, hidden behind the arms race of Renault and Audi. They have hosted a number of experienced drivers throughout their four seasons in the sport including current Mahindra driver Nick Heidfeld and WEC stalwarts Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway.
However, despite the talent of their drivers and a wealth of electric car manufacturing experience, the team have one podium to their name. They are one of the few teams that have never won a race and are never on the front pages. This could all be about to change with the arrival of two former Formula One drivers – one climbing behind the wheel and the other taking the reins of the team.  

Susie Wolff and Gildo Pastor. Image courtesy of Venturi

It was announced this week that Susie Wolff; ex Williams test driver, will become the first female team principal of a Formula E team and will be taking up her new position at the season finale in New York in a few weeks time.

Wolff’s appointment will be a welcome one within the paddock. Since the departure of Simona de Silvestro in season 2, there has been a distinct lack of female figures in the sport. However, Formula E has always prided itself on new blood and on giving drivers from other series a fresh start. Having Wolff at the helm of one of the teams, coupled with the presence of her Dare to be Different campaign, which was first introduced at the Berlin ePrix, could inspire more women and young girls to become interested in and join the sport. It will also be a challenge. Wolff has no experience in leading a team but she will be working alongside a team of well seasoned mechanics and strategists who will help to integrate her into the new role.

The appointment of Wolff is the latest step in Venturi’s plans to strengthen, following the regulation changes that will come into effect next season. F1 veteran Felipe Massa has joined the Monegasque team and will no doubt add add some further experience, flair and critical sponsorship. He will no doubt provide more exposure to the sport. Formula E already has two well known Brazilian champions in Lucas di Grassi and Nelson Piquet Jr, but a familiar face, particularly one as well known as Massa, will allow Formula E to reach a wider audience of motorsport fans. By choosing Venturi, a team who are yet to win a race, Massa may be hoping to prove something to those who think he’s too old for motorsport.

Venturi certainly seem to be looking to the future and the acquisitions of Massa and Wolff are just the beginning. The Monegasque outfit are the first to establish a junior drivers programme within Formula E, which includes the likes of Arthur Leclerc, brother of F1 rookie Charles. Although development drivers are common, Venturi are taking the approach of nurturing youth to a new level. Many experienced drivers have got behind the wheel of a Formula E car and struggled with strategy and conserving the energy needed to perform well within a race. By educating a rank of junior drivers, Venturi will eliminate the problem and create a pool of experienced but youthful drivers going forwards.

Susie Wolff the new Team Principle at Venturi. Image courtesy of Venturi


Wolff’s position also raises questions over Mercedes arrival in season 6. This season, Venturi partnered with Mercedes DTM specialists HWA, working alongside them in preparation for their inaugural season. This partnership will continue into season 5 with Venturi providing customer powertrains for the new outfit. Venturi and HWA have links to Mercedes. Both Venturi drivers, Maro Engel and Eduardo Mortara currently drive for the successful German outfit. It seems likely that when Mercedes finally join the party, it will use either Venturi or HWA to ease into the transition. It is a tried and tested method that was employed by Audi upon their entry as a full works team this season. HWA seem more likely due to their customer status, but Mercedes could continue to remain in partnership with Venturi. It would not be a foolish decision owing to the invaluable experience that the Monegasque team have and the resources that they have.

No matter who Mercedes choose, one thing is certain – Venturi won’t be fading into the background anytime soon.

Zurich ePrix: Di Grassi wins as penalties shrink Vergne’s title lead

Lucas di Grassi ended his season four win drought by rising from fifth to first in Sunday’s Zurich ePrix, while title challenger Sam Bird finished second to slash Jean-Éric Vergne’s championship lead by almost half.

Lucas di Grassi, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler / Courtesy of ABB FIA Formula E

The race began in mixed-up fashion, with Techeetah’s Andre Lotterer starting well from second to threaten maiden polesitter Mitch Evans off the line. But although Evans managed to defend from Lotterer and drop him back into pressure from third-placed Bird, the Jaguar driver was unable to pull clear of the cars behind as he struggled with rising battery temperatures.

This brought di Grassi right onto the back of the podium pack, once the Audi driver dispatched with Jérôme d’Ambrosio for fourth place. By lap 13 di Grassi had passed Bird at the hairpin—taking advantage of the Briton’s battle with Lotterer ahead to close in on the pair—and three laps later did what Bird was unable to and took second from Lotterer.

With Evans’ battery issues continuing out in front, di Grassi was quickly onto the gearbox of the Jaguar—and on lap 18 the outgoing champion made his move on the run to Turn 1, and breezed past into first place.

Once in the lead di Grassi continued to build a gap to those behind him, and at the end of lap 39 crossed the finish line 7.5s ahead to take his first and Audi’s third win of the 2017–18 season.

Jean-Éric Vergne, Techeetah / Courtesy of ABB FIA Formula E

But while last season’s champion enjoyed his best Formula E weekend since last year’s Montreal finale, current championship leader Vergne suffered huge losses at the Zurich ePrix.

Coming into the weekend with a mathematical chance of clinching the title, Vergne qualified near the back of the grid in 17th while his only remaining rival Bird was set to start from the second row.

Vergne made good progress in the early stages and before the halfway stage had already got his Techeetah up into the lower points. But on lap 17 Vergne came together with Felix Rosenqvist while taking eighth, sending the Mahindra driver into the wall at Turn 1 and triggering a full course yellow to remove the debris.

Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing / Courtesy of ABB FIA Formula E

This proved to be the defining moment of the race, as shortly after the halfway pitstops it was announced that Vergne—along with Lotterer, Evans and Sébastien Buemi—had been given a drive-through penalty for speeding under the full course yellow.

These penalties drastically altered the order. With fewer than ten laps remaining, Lotterer, Evans and Buemi dropped from second, third and fourth respectively, while Vergne was once more put outside the points after his trip through the pitlane.

Worse still for Vergne, the penalties for those in front meant that Bird was elevated to second place, where the DS Virgin driver finished to add another 18 points to his championship challenge.

Jérôme d’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing / Courtesy of ABB FIA Formula E

D’Ambrosio completed the podium in third, his and Dragon’s first podium since the 2016 London ePrix, while Lotterer held on for fourth.

Buemi recovered from his penalty to take fifth, one place higher than he started, after using his FanBoost to pass Evans in the closing stages—Evans lost a further place to Nick Heidfeld before the end, and finished behind the German in seventh. António Félix da Costa and Oliver Turvey were promoted into the lower points by the penalties ahead and a retirement for Nico Prost, and finished eighth and ninth respectively.

Meanwhile, Vergne fought his way back into tenth place to take the final point of the day. The Frenchman had been set to add another point with the fastest lap, until his Techeetah teammate Lotterer take that honour away in the final stages.

Vergne’s low finish and Bird’s podium mean the gap at the top of the standings is now down from 40 to 23 points with only the double header in New York—which Bird dominated last season—left to go.

Audi fly high as Mahindra hit trouble: Mexico City ePrix Race Report

Mexico City hosted its third ePrix at the famous Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City last weekend.

After the surprises in the inaugural race last year featuring a sublime energy-saving drive from last year’s champion Lucas Di Grassi and a duel between Jérôme D’Ambrosio and Jean-Éric Vergne, it was set to be another thrilling event on the motorsport calendar.

Di Grassi, still without points at this stage, had the misfortune of ending up in group 1 of qualifying. However, this did not deter the current champion as he lit up the timing screens purple, sending his Audi into the top spot, followed by Maro Engel’s Venturi and D’Ambrosio’s Dragon.

Though, this elation did not last long as group 2 – a formidable line up of Felix Rosenqvist, Sébastien Buemi, Sam Bird, Nelson Piquet and championship leader Vergne took to the track.

Rosenqvist wasted no time on his flying lap, snatching away P1 before an insurgent Buemi bit back and took the top spot away from the Swede, with Piquet and Bird slotting themselves into superpole contention.

Within group 3, António Félix Da Costa had a stormer, putting his Andretti into third position, with last year’s polesitter Oliver Turvey also impressing, depriving Vergne of a shot of superpole.

Group 4 also held promise with the likes of dark horses such as Mitch Evans and Daniel Abt and the best track conditions. However, a series of messy laps left everyone in mid-table positions and out of the superpole positions, leaving Buemi, Rosenqvist, Da Costa, Turvey and Alex Lynn to fight for the pole.

Lynn set the bar in superpole initially despite a looming penalty, with a respectable time of a 1.02.014. Turvey followed, slotting in behind Lynn after a scrappy lap. Da Costa had another excellent run, managing to place himself on provisional pole, much to the delight of his Andretti team.

However, two men stood in the way of his first official pole, two men who excel in qualifying and in claiming pole positions. Rosenqvist went first and pulled out a stellar lap, shaving two tenths off Da Costa’s time. Buemi was the last man standing, the only one capable of toppling a dominant Mahindra. However, a lap ridden with mistakes left him adrift in a lowly fifth and Rosenqvist picked up the three points and the bragging rights for starting on pole, followed by Da Costa, Lynn, Turvey and Buemi.

Da Costa’s elation at being on the front row did not last, however. He was given a penalty before the start for a underweight car, dropping him back to fourth, whilst Lynn took his grid penalty from the previous race for mechanical alterations on his car.

The race started with relative calmness as Rosenqvist held P1 and began to pull away from the chasing Turvey. Evans made quick work of André Lotterer’s Techeetah for P8 and Vergne swept past Da Costa, eager to keep his championship lead strong. Struggling Audi looked better in this race – Di Grassi despite his position and a ten second time penalty looming carved his way through the field in the early stages as Abt hunted down Buemi for P3.

However, the curse of Mexico struck once again as Rosenqvist’s car slowed to a stop, putting the leader of the race dead last and allowing Turvey to take the lead. Rosenqvist was able to get his Mahindra going again before it stopped again and he crawled to the pits to take his other car. Mahindra’s bad luck continued as Nick Heidfeld’s car also suffered mechanical problems, stopping mid race.

Audi, however, seemed invigorated. Spurred on by their recent troubles, Abt jumped Turvey in the pits, leading the NIO driver to fight against a charging Vergne and Buemi. Buemi used his fanboost to get past Vergne, eager to capture his first win of this season as he proceeded to hunt down Turvey, but the British driver proved a harder nut to crack.

Evans give way to Piquet in order to utilise the Brazilian’s drive and lower energy consumption. Piquet was able to edge past Vergne as he fought to collect his first podium since the inaugural season in which he became champion.

Di Grassi claimed fastest lap whilst out of the points paying position and set about clawing through the field to capture P10 and capture his first points of the season. As Di Grassi closed in on P10, Buemi and Piquet gave chase to Turvey as Abt continued to pull away.

Piquet forced Turvey to lock up into turn one but failed to get past his ex-teammate. Di Grassi managed to clinch P9, his first points since his disastrous title defence began as Abt finally claimed his first win of Formula E, followed by an impressive Turvey and Buemi.

Formula E reveals its new generation of car

After much hyped and anticipation, the newly named ABB FIA Formula E Championship unveiled its next generation of car on the 30th January 2018. Posed to make its debut in the 2018/2019 season at the end of the year, the car will be used for three seasons, and marks the first time a car has been specially designed by the FIA for one of its own series.

In keeping with the ethos of Formula E, the new model is decidedly more futuristic and advanced looking than its predecessor. The sharp angles and neat lines all constitute a more modern era of motorsport. And given Formula E’s focus on leading the way in new automotive technology and trying to push motorsport into new, uncharted territory, the Gen2 car seems a perfect fit.

Not only does the season 5 car feature an updated look, it also comes with a host of technological updates. Though the majority of the technical specs are yet to be released, the FIA can confirm that this new model comes ‘almost double the energy storage capacity and double the range’ meaning the battery will now be able to complete full race distances. This means getting rid of the contentious car swap that currently happens at the midpoint of Formula E races.

The Gen2 car and the work of the team of engineers and designers has attracted much praise. FIA President Jean Todt expressed how the car heralds the start of “exciting times for Formula E” and that he considers the FIA’s unprecedented project of designing and developing a car to be a “huge success”. Alejandro Agag, founder and CEO of Formula E, also believes that the car represents Formula E’s goal of “breaking the mould and challenging the status quo – bringing a revolution to motorsport”.

This new model will hit the track at the end of the year, just in time for Nissan and BMW formally joining Formula E, with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche planning their entry for the following season.

The full technical specifications and physical model of the Gen2 car will be revealed on the 6th of March at the Geneva Motor Show.