It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for the constructor’s champions Mercedes as Formula E kicked off in Riyadh for the start of the eighth season. In race one, the German outfit looked to have lost none of the momentum of last season with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries dominating proceedings in the series new-look qualifying format. However, it was Vandoorne who took first blood in the fight snatching pole by three tenths from the current reigning champion and from Andretti’s Jake Dennis, who continued his excellent form from last season.
However, in the race, De Vries showed why he is the man to beat, sweeping past Dennis in the opening lap. After that, all he had to do was lie in wait for Vandoorne. He seized the opportunity when Vandoorne missed the second sensor when taking his attack mode, forcing his way past his teammate, holding the lead into the end of the race. Despite Vandoorne’s error, the Belgian finished a comfortable second to gift Mercedes a 1-2 finish. Dennis took third for Andretti and on the other side of the garage, his teammate Oliver Askew scored his first point, an excellent outing for the American rookie.
Porsche’s Andre Lotterer also had a strong start to his campaign, lining up in P4 for the first race. He battled with Dennis in the opening stages, but as the race wore on and energy management became critical, he began to fade. Lucas di Grassi, fresh from his move from Audi, wasted no time in getting to grips with his Venturi. The Brazilian looked like the champion of old, working his way up the order and in the latter stages fought with Sam Bird for P4 but ultimately, he had to yield. However, it’s clear that Venturi aren’t afraid to make their presence heard and will certainly be a fierce competitor to their suppliers Mercedes.
In race two, it seemed that the dominance of Mercedes was going to become a constant this season. De Vries snatched pole position from Edo Mortara, completely dominating the duels. As the race got underway, it seemed that this dominance would continue as De Vries held the lead at the start. The Dutchman looked certain to take back-to-back victories before the strategies of those around him brought those dreams crashing down. He elected not to take his attack mode which left him vulnerable to di Grassi’s attack. The two made contact, leaving the reigning champion to slip down the order as Mortara and Robin Frijns pounced.
Mortara soon passed his teammate in the latter stages to claim the lead, a position he never really vanquished, despite having to hold off a late charge from Frijns and a late safety car after Alexander Sims ended up in the wall. The safety car stayed out as the time ticked out and ultimately ended any last-minute action on track as Mortara claimed his third win in Formula E.
Frijns looked strong this race, slipping past di Grassi to take P2, and could have certainly challenged for the win had the safety car not ended proceedings early. Di Grassi took his first podium of the season, whilst Lotterer again put in a decent shift to finish P4. It was ultimately a race to forget for Jaguar with Mitch Evans and Sam failing to get near the points, after having problems all weekend. However, ultimately, it was Mercedes who ruled the roost in Diriyah all weekend sending a warning call to all their competitors – but Andretti and Envision have shown huge potential. Only time will tell if Diriyah was just a lucky streak for the current champions.
Formula E will return on 12th February in Mexico City.
Series 7 of Formula E seemed to have it all. Despite Covid-19 still causing problems in every branch of motorsport, the electric series still managed to have a close, tightly contested title battle with any number of drivers predicted to lay their hands on the coveted FIA approved championship. Season 8 is set to be no different. With debut races in South Korea and Indonesia and the beckoning of the Gen 3 car next season, the future of the all electric series seems brighter than ever. The stage is set for the new season to become somewhat of a curtain call for the Gen 2 car, a machine that has pushed the limitations of electric racing and of the drivers to the limits. However, what can we expect from season 8? Mercedes EQ Formula E Team
World champions Mercedes look like the favourites coming into the new season. They were arguably the strongest team last year, collecting both the driver and constructors championship. However, they did so through sheer consistency and the ability to score points whilst their competitors struggled. Nyck de Vries emerged as the driver to beat but he did so in a quiet unassuming way. However, this season could be different. Mercedes are confirmed to be leaving the series prior to the beginning of the Gen 3 era and there is very little development on the current car bar a few software updates. It could be argued that Mercedes may have become complacent in their final season as they have nothing left to prove. Coupled with the fact that their sister team in Formula One endured such a hardship last season, Mercedes Formula E team could potentially end up taking a back seat to Mercedes’ other exploits. Mercedes have chosen to retain their line up of de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne, a wise decision on their part. Both drivers are proven winners within the series and it appears to be a solid partnership. The pair are familiar with the team and adapted to the car with ease, showing that they are very capable of producing the results that Mercedes have come to expect. De Vries in particular seemed to come into his own this season, the former F2 champion was able to silence the critics who criticised his move to the electric series instead of attempting to get a seat in Formula One. However, despite the perceived harmony, it could all be a facade. Vandoorne was incredibly strong in season 6, and would have been disappointed not to achieve the same success last season. A rivalry between the two could emerge in what will be Mercedes’ last season in Formula E. However, it’s impossible to write Mercedes off entirely given their history in motorsport and their sharp rise to the top in Formula E, expect them to be favourites to snatch at least one title again. Jaguar TCS Racing
Jaguar has gone from strength to strength since first beginning their journey in series 4 with their best season result to date. The British outfit claimed more podiums than any team last season as a result of arguably the strongest line up on the grid. A few eyebrows were raised when Sam Bird, a veteran of the series moved from Virgin Racing, a team he had been with since the series’ infancy, to Jaguar. However, the Brit claimed two wins for his new team, with his first win coming in only his second race which is testament to his incredible ability to adapt. Jaguar’s title charge was also spearheaded by Mitch Evans, the driver that the team has been built around. Evans had a strong start to the season, collecting three podiums in the first half to become a strong title contender to de Vries. However in the latter half of the season, his title chase fell apart, leaving the Kiwi out of the coveted top three spots of the championship. Evans and Bird would have been disappointed not to be in the title fight for the duration of the championship given their reputation within the series and it’s expected that they will return hungrier than ever. The retention of two of the most experienced and talented drivers in Formula E is a bonus to Jaguar, and although a rivalry between the two could derail Jaguar’s title hopes this season, James Barclay’s ability to force them to work together in harmony last year helped the team dynamic. Evans is familiar with both the car and the team having been with them from the start of their journey and Bird is a driver whose reputation as a hard worker precedes him. This is crucial as the drivers are familiar with the car and are able to focus entirely on their racecraft, rather than getting to grips with the machinery. Jaguar were hindered this year particularly by the old qualifying format, which put both Bird and Evans at a disadvantage for the majority of the season, but with a new format that focuses more on pure pace and perfection over one lap, this should improve. It is expected that Jaguar will continue to be a force going into the new season, they have always been viewed as the dark horses of the competition but it would be foolish to write them off as title contenders for season 8, they have much to prove.
Compared to the previous two seasons, Techeetah had somewhat of a quiet season 7. Techeetah seemed to suffer with reliability issues last year which dramatically hindered their progress to retain the team championship. It was surprising considering their dominance over the past few years that Antonio Felix da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne were not in the title fight, both former champions only collecting a win each. It was in direct contrast to the year prior where da Costa claimed his first championship in dominant fashion at the six-race header in Berlin. However, the Portuguese driver did manage to claim the first win on the full Monaco circuit used for the first time last season. Double champion Vergne also looked strong, taking two pole positions and collecting the tenth win of his career. Keeping hold of both drivers was crucial for Techeetah going into season 8. Both are proven champions and the familiarity with the team and the machinery they are in will help spearhead the Chinese team’s attempt to reclaim their throne. The bigger problem is that of Techeetah’s future as Formula E looks towards the Gen 3 era. The Chinese outfit is yet to confirm their participation in the next season, leaving it more likely that this season will be somewhat of a swansong for arguably the most dominant team of the Gen 2 era. DS Automobiles, co-partners in the team, have committed their future to Formula E, but it remains to be seen if this is with the Techeetah team. Maserati are waiting in the wings, and DS will have taken notice of the first Italian team to join the electric series. The uncertainty over season 9 could indeed cause serious problems within the team, particularly if it is allowed to play out over the season. One thing is certain – if Techeetah wants to persuade DS to continue their partnership, they need to prove that they can win races and fight their way back to the top step. They have the drivers in order to achieve this goal. Techeetah have proven time and time not to write them off and it would be foolish to do so – if this is indeed their swansong, they will try to end their time in Formula E with a bang.
On paper, Envision Racing looked a certainty for the title battle last year given their success in the past. However, they were hindered by their customer status to some extent. Customer teams usually have significantly less testing time and are governed by their supplier. The powertrain supplied by Audi is not the beast that it used to be. Although this could be for a number of reasons, it seems likely that Audi are committing to other series and redirecting their resources towards these as opposed to focusing on Formula E. Audi have confirmed that they would be leaving at the end of season 8 and presumably reduced the support to Envision Racing in favour of focusing on their other motorsport endeavours. This brings another problem to the forefront as we look towards the Gen 3 era, Audi are not committed to the next season and it’s likely that Envision will have to find a new powertrain for their season 9 challenger.
However, despite these problems, Envision had a promising season with four podiums to their name. Nick Cassidy had an excellent start to his Formula E career, taking two second-place finishes in his rookie season. The Kiwi also looked particularly strong in qualifying, a key aspect of success in the electric series. It’s expected that he will continue to grow going into his second year as he becomes more familiar with the car. Envision are also retaining regular driver Robin Frijns, who in the past has produced excellent results for them. The Dutchman almost won the first full length Monaco ePrix last season and although a win eluded him on this occasion, he is proven to be able to extract everything he can out of any car. The retention of such promising talent is a bonus to Envision as they step into the unknown. However, the question remains whether they can pull themselves out of the rut this season, they certainly have the drivers to do so but the machinery is less of a safe bet. Avalanche Andretti Formula E
The former BMW team had a solid season last year, taking three wins between their driver pairing of Jake Dennis and Maximilian Gunther. Andretti have always had somewhat of a revolving door policy on drivers, and losing both Antonio Felix da Costa and Alexander Sims in recent years, two incredibly experienced drivers, could have spelled disaster. However, Andretti has managed to find a diamond in the rough with Jake Dennis. The former DTM and Blancpain driver was arguably the standout star of season 7, taking two wins and scoring third in the driver’s championship. He would have been a title contender if reliability had not been such an issue. Gunther too continued his fine form in the series, taking a win in New York. However, the German has confirmed that he will be moving to Nissan to partner Sebastien Buemi, a decision that certainly raised a few eyebrows given his success this season. However, he possibly could have been persuaded due to the fact that BMW are stepping down from Formula E and a drive in a factory outfit is definitely more appealing. It remains to be seen as to whether Andretti will continue to experience the same success this season, given BMW’s withdrawal from the sport. The manufacturing giant played a key role in creating the success story we know today, and it will be interesting to see how Andretti will operate with less support from the German manufacturer. The loss of Gunther to Nissan is another blow, the German driver has been somewhat of a marvel in the past few seasons of Formula E. They welcome Oliver Askew, the first full time American to compete in the all-electric series. Although it appears somewhat of a PR move, with an American driver in a newly branded American team, Askew has vast experience in single seaters and was the 2019 Indy Lights champion. It will certainly be a baptism of fire for the American in his rookie season but it’s an ideal time to join the sport on the cusp of the new era. Write Andretti off at your own peril. Rokit Venturi Racing
Venturi benefited last year again from the excellent Edo Mortara, who emerged at the end of the season as the runner up to the coveted world championship. Their start to the season was somewhat troubled by a brake failure issue that flagged up in their software, forcing them and their supplier Mercedes off the grid for the first race. However, they soon sorted out the issue in true efficient German style and the Swiss driver scooped a win at the Puebla ePrix during the mid-season period. Equally, Norman Nato had a solid season, picking up his first win in the series in the season closer in Berlin. However, as always, the Monegasque team missed out on a few crucial opportunities to win points and ultimately go to battle with their supplier, Mercedes. There have been many changes at Venturi as we head into the twilight period of the Gen 2 car. Jerome D’Ambrosio has now replaced Susie Wolff as team principal as she departs for a more senior position within the team. D’Ambrosio has a vast amount of knowledge around the series, having participated in it since its infancy. His presence can only strengthen the team. Retaining Mortara, the runner up of last season, was crucial to Venturi’s success and although a few eyebrows were raised at the exclusion of Norman Nato, who had a stellar season with the team, one look at his replacement’s statistics sheet will silence any critics. With the departure of Audi, one of Formula E’s most seasoned drivers came into the frame. Lucas di Grassi is a driver who needs no introduction – he is a proven winner, champion and his name features amongst many of the records in Formula E. It will be interesting to see how Di Grassi adapts to a new team, but if D’Ambrosio manages it right, they could potentially be unstoppable. Tag Heuer Porsche
Given Porsche’s vast experience and budget that they have poured into making their Formula E venture a success, even they would have considered this season as somewhat of a disaster. The German manufacturing giants could only muster two podiums for the entire season, one for both Pascal Wehrlein and Andre Lotterer – robbing us of another epic battle between themselves and fierce rivals BMW and Mercedes. The Porsche Gen 2 seems to lack the punch of its competitors with the pair often fighting at the back of the grid. However, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. Porsche have only been in Formula E for two seasons – both of which have been badly affected by the Covid pandemic – and this has vastly impacted their development and running of their motorsport teams. With some sense of normality returning to real life and the new era looming, it could be entirely possible that Porsche is waiting for season 9 and will push for development into the future. Retaining their two drivers Wehrlein and Lotterer is the smartest move. Although they have a number of drivers who could fill those two seats within the Porsche programme, it’s logical to keep two of the more experienced drivers who know the Gen 2 car and will presumably be involved in testing into the new era. Both Lotterer and Wehrlein are capable of achieving results and have done so in the past, Wehrlein in particular was victim to a number of race direction injustices last season. It remains to be seen what Porsche can achieve in future seasons, but they certainly have something to prove. They could indeed have another quiet season and potentially end up like Jaguar, another team that joined in the middle of a massive development war and have emerged as one of the frontrunners. Only time will tell.
Compared to previous seasons, Mahindra seem to be in a rut that they cannot pull themselves out of. Losing experienced driver Jerome D’Ambrosio to a role in management was a crucial blow, but they replaced him with the equally brilliant Alexander Sims, a driver who is very knowledgeable in electric cars and mechanics. However, despite the presence of Sims, and Alex Lynn, another driver who has become somewhat of a fixture in Formula E, the Indian team struggled. They can only muster a single win in the entire season, which came for Lynn at his home race in London. There were a handful of podiums split between the two drivers, but despite this, they had a relatively quiet campaign. A stalwart of the series, Mahindra always seems to have kept up with the pace of the other major manufacturers in a way that the likes of Dragon and NIO never have but it remains to be seen how they will cope with the new era looming. Mahindra showed sparks of promise throughout last season, but ultimately, it was the car that let them down. It’s been proven that they are capable of racing against the top dogs, but consistency is key in doing so. Mahindra appear to have lost their way in recent years, a far cry from the team they used to be. The revolving door of drivers doesn’t help matters – there has been no stability and experience at the team for one than a few years. This problem has been prevented this year with the retention of Sims, an experienced driver who is well more than qualified to take Mahindra into the new era. He is partnered by Oliver Rowland, a move which has raised more than a few eyebrows – particularly as Alex Lynn was arguably the stronger driver last year – but Rowland could potentially be the missing piece that Mahindra have been searching for. Reminiscent of former Mahindra drivers such as Felix Rosenqvist and Nick Heidfeld, Rowland possesses that ruthless streak that isn’t afraid to fight for the top prize. We could see a revival of the Mahindra of old before the new age beckons if they can remain consistent. Nissan e.dams
Nissan e.dams have never quite hit the heights of their previous success in earlier seasons, and season 7 was no different. Although Oliver Rowland holds enormous potential as a future champion and success, his racecraft can be sloppy at times and a few mistakes on track have cost him a win or points-paying positions on a number of occasions. Sebastien Buemi appears a shadow of his former self. His best position of last season was fifth. It could be argued that Nissan, although a giant in the automotive industry, are lagging behind on their competitors. They finished a lowly tenth in the team championship, just ahead of struggling Dragon and NIO. Like many of their competitors, there are flashes of brilliance that hark back to the golden age at the start of Formula E. Rowland’s podiums in Mexico and Berlin are proof of that. Perhaps they’re already looking forward to the Gen 3 era. Nissan and their predecessors Renault always seemed to be one step ahead of the competition in regards to development. It was a surprise when Rowland announced that he was leaving the team that gave him his big break in Formula E for Mahindra. However, Nissan proved their efficiency at dealing with the problem of replacing such a stellar driver by poaching Maximilian Gunther from Andretti. Gunther to Nissan is arguably the signing of the season – a proven race winner who is able to push his car to the absolute limit. The German driver was able to collect points in a Dragon so it will be definitely exciting to see what he can do at a big team like Nissan. Likewise, the retention of Buemi is a smart move on the Japanese manufacturer’s part. Season 2 champion Buemi has a wealth of knowledge and experience that he can use to help his younger teammate to progress further. It remains to be seen if Nissan can again gain the success of previous seasons, but the strength of their driver line up is very promising.
Dragon are a case of what happens when big manufacturers join a fledgling series. Whilst successful in the first two seasons, they have fallen by the wayside with the emergence of the likes of Audi, Mercedes and Porsche. With a revolving door of drivers for the last few seasons, development appears to be the last thing on the mind of the American outfit. However, despite the disappointment of another season, there were a few bright spots. The retention of Sergio Sette Camara last year was a masterstroke with the Brazilian sealing a fourth-place finish in the second race. If reliability were to be improved, there is more potential within Camara. His teammate for the first few races, Nico Muller also showed promise with a couple of points finishes before leaving to prioritise DTM. Similarly, Joel Eriksson was hindered by the capability of the machinery underneath him. Camara enters his second full season with Dragon, a positive for the team if he can recreate the few moments of magic he had last season to secure them valuable points. However, it’s the other side of the garage that is certain to command attention. The signing of Antonio Giovinazzi within Formula E was to be expected, but to see a driver of his calibre snatched up by Dragon was somewhat of a surprise. The former Formula One driver has experience within the electric series, having undertaken rookie tests with the Virgin team prior to joining Sauber. Giovinazzi’s signing can help the team as a whole, potentially bringing in vital sponsorship money and publicity to the struggling outfit. It remains to be seen what will happen at Dragon this year, but a solid season would certainly help the team as they head into the Gen 3 era without any of the big name manufacturers who have hindered their success.
NIO 333 Formula E Team
Season 7 was once again a season to forget for the Chinese based team. They started off on solid ground with the ever reliable Oliver Turvey picking up two points finishes in the season openers at Diriyah. On the other side of the garage, Tom Blomqvist also picked up some impressive point-scoring finishes in the opening rounds. However, as the season progressed, they began to fall behind as reliability began to bite. They remain the only team to have not scored a podium since the 2018-2019 season. The problem for NIO is as always the lack of horsepower within their powertrain and it seems like it will be a case of the same old for the Chinese outfit this season. They have the same problem as Dragon, being an independent manufacturer without the clout of big name teams like Porsche and Audi.
Retaining their key asset Turvey was a must for NIO and he will be expected to quietly go about his business in season 8. He is joined by rookie Dan Ticktum, a controversial figure within the motorsport community best known for his behaviour off track, including a feud with Nicholas Latifi at Williams, an incident that saw him dropped from the F1 team. The former Formula 2 driver has some scores to settle and could easily reinvent himself within Formula E. It remains to be seen if Ticktum has grown both in his personal life and as a driver, but he’s in the best team to do so. There’s less expectation riding on the young Brit and if he keeps his head down and delivers a few decent results, he could yet find himself a home in Formula E. NIO aren’t expected to do much in season 8, but with new management and the consistency of the brilliant Oliver Turvey, they could deliver a few surprising results. Formula E will begin on January 28th and 29th in Diriyah.
The all-electric Porsche Taycan will be the new Formula E safety car, launching at the first race of Season 8.
Shortly ahead of the first race of Season 8, Formula E has launched their new safety car. The Porsche Taycan is the first fully electric sports car made by Porsche.
Under the striking and colourful paint job, designed to represent all current Formula E teams, is 560kW of power, allowing the machine to reach top speeds of up to 260kh/h.
The aim is for this vehicle to highlight the “social values such as diversity and community” of all teams, as well as paying homage to the commitment of all 22 drivers.
Vice President of Porsche Motorsport, Thomas Laudenbach, commented that “The distinctive design illustrates our commitment to the successful future of this innovative racing series. Although we’re rivals out on the track, we’re spreading this message to the world together. What’s more, we hope that this also enables us to appeal to a younger target audience who are not yet motorsport fans.”
Jamie Reigle, Formula E’s CEO added that “In designing the Formula E Safety Car, Porsche reimagined the critical on-track safety function to be a powerful symbol of the championship’s commitment to an electrified future and the unity of the competitors in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.”
“We are very proud to be back where we belong as protagonists in the world of racing. We are powered by passion and innovative by nature” stated their CEO, Davide Grasso. He continued by saying “We have a long history of world-class excellence in competition and we are ready to drive performance in the future.”
Maserati’s successful motorsport history includes an F1 World Championship, won by Jan Manuel Fangio in 1957, and two Indy500 wins, in 1939 and 1940. Arguable, Maserati’s greatest successes came in Sportcar and GT racing, with 4 Targa Florio wins and, more recently, 14 FIA GT titles since 2004.
The news comes after the announcement that three giant teams – Mercedes, Audi and BMW – will be leaving the sport at the end of Season 8. This much-needed boost will help to quash some of the discussions around the future of Formula E and the potential success of the Gen3 era.
CEO Jamie Reigle commented that “Formula E races in the heart of the most iconic cities in the world and is followed passionately by a progressive global audience. Our millions of fans will be thrilled to see Maserati line up on the grid as one of the world’s elite electric car brands.”
Alejandro Aga, Founder and Chairman, continued this by stating that “The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is the pinnacle of electric racing. It provides the perfect environment for the most dynamic and innovative high-performance car brands to showcase their technological capabilities alongside their sporting ambitions.”
Formula E returned this weekend, after a two week break to what is considered the glittering jewel in the motorsport crown, the glamorous and iconic streets of Monaco. Although it was familiar territory to the drivers, the venue boasted a new track layout, with the cars able to use the full track for the first time in the electric series’ history. Nyck de Vries headed into the weekend as the championship leader, but for him and Mercedes, it threw up heartbreak for the German manufacturer. Reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa claimed a dominant pole position in the streets of the principality, beating Envision Virgin’s Robin Frijns by a mere whisker. Mitch Evans started in P3 in the Jaguar, who ran just a few tenths shy of the pole time. Former champion Jean-Eric Vergne and Max Gunther lined up in P4 and P5 respectively, whilst Oliver Rowland rounded out the top six, having his laptime deleted as he left the garage too late, a factor not aided by Sergio Sette Camara’s late crash in group 4 which brought out the red flag and forced Sebastien Buemi and Tom Blomqvist to reattempt their flying laps. Title favourites Mercedes again struggled in the conditions, forced to start near the back of the grid, as was Jaguar’s Sam Bird who started in a lowly P16.
Da Costa started well, getting the jump almost immediately on Frijns and Evans, however, the Dutchman was able to stay with the reigning champion and the pair of them began to pull away from the rest of the field whilst Wehrlein and Sims got tangled together in a bizarre incident at the famous Mirabeau hairpin. Within five minutes, Frijns closed in on Da Costa and snatched the lead away. Da Costa responded by taking attack mode, but it was to no avail. The pair of them headed at the front, as Bird and Di Grassi, both of whom had started down the order began to claw their way into the points-paying positions. Da Costa and Frijns fought for the lead as the time ticked away, both swapping positions whenever their attack modes were taken, which allowed Evans to come back into play, bringing Gunther and Vergne with him. Vergne looked impressive in the Techeetah, but made a mistake and failed to activate his second attack mode, which allowed Gunther through to fight for the podium. Da Costa used his fanboost to great effect to fly past Frijns for the lead going into the famous tunnel, whilst Evans too began his charge using his second attack mode to sweep past Frijns a lap later. Evans soon disposed of Da Costa for the lead with fifteen minutes left on the clock and everything looked in order, until Rene Rast’s Audi stopped on the climb up towards Casino Square bringing out the safety car and with it, the dreaded energy reduction.
As in Valencia, Monaco showcased a thrilling sprint to the finish line in the dying stages of the race as Da Costa, desperate to shake off the demons of two weeks prior, swept past Evans for the lead for the race out of the tunnel, a move he had used previously to pass Frijns earlier. Evans was pipped to P2 by Frijns, after the energy reduction left him vulnerable and had to settle for the final podium position. The trio were followed by Vergne who just missed out on the podium, Gunther, Rowland and Bird rounded out the top seven. Due to the failure of Mercedes’ driver and championship leader Nyck de Vries to score any points, Robin Frijns inherited the championship lead as we head to Mexico in five weeks time.
Season 7 of Formula E officially kicked off this weekend for the season’s first night race in history. Set in the sprawling desert of Ad Diriyah, the historical old city under carbon-friendly lights, the double header was certainly a tale of two halves with Mercedes driver Nyck de Vries heading to Rome as the championship leader, but by no means are Mercedes running away with their first potential title in the electric series. De Vries had shown a strong start to the weekend in topping both practice sessions and took a dominant pole in qualifying, by six tenths of a second from his nearest rival, Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein. Rene Rast was able to line up in P3 in his first full season in Formula E, whilst Edo Mortara was able to put the Mercedes powertrain to good use and claim P4 in the Venturi. Alex Lynn and Mitch Evans rounded out the top six, the pair promoted to the final two slots of superpole by a bizarre timing incident in the initial qualifying stages in which Sergio Sette Camara crashed at the end of qualifying. Nick Cassidy, Tom Blomqvist and Nico Muller’s laps were deleted by the stewards and they were not permitted to run again. The qualifying format again mixed up the grid with the reigning champions Techeetah and Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne starting near the back having had to go out in the dreaded group one.
De Vries continued his dominance in the first race, pulling away almost immediately from a struggling Wehrlein at the start, and from there, he never looked back. The Dutchman controlled the race perfectly, dictating the pace even throughout two safety car periods. Behind him, Wehrlein and Rast fought for track position, but the pair never threatened De Vries’ building lead. Despite Mercedes’ dominance, the driver of the day was surely Mortara. Starting fourth, he pulled a stunning manouvre on Evans and Wehrlein – passing them both on the straight by darting past the Jaguar and squeezing himself into the gap left by Wehrlein. The Porsche faded in the latter stages of the race, with Evans able to claim P3 from Wehrlein. On the other side of Jaguar’s garage, Sam Bird’s first outing did not go to plan. The Brit was looking strong, battling for P6 with Alex Lynn when the two collided, bringing out the first safety car of the season. A second safety car followed to recover Max Gunther’s stricken car, allowing the battle for P2 to be ignited in the dying stages of the race, Mortara using his attack mode to sweep into the second podium position. But it was de Vries who claimed his first win for Mercedes, and all eyes were firmly fixed on the second race to see if the German team would continue their winning streak.
If Race 1 was heaven for Mercedes, then Race 2 was almost certainly hell. A horrendous crash in the sole free practise session for race hero Mortara saw the Venturi driver taken to hospital for additional checks and all Mercedes-powered cars were banned from taking part in the qualifying session. It was later discovered that this was the result of a software issue leading to brake failure. With Mercedes and Venturi out, qualifying became a mixed grid. Evans and Rast failed to set a time in the opening group as they didn’t reach the start-finish line in time, leaving them at the back of the pack. But it was another Dutchman – Envision Virgin’s Robin Frijns who stormed the field by half a second, joined in superpole by ex-teammate Sam Bird, the Dragon cars of Nico Muller and Sergio Sette Camara, and the Nio 333 cars of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Turvey. Ultimately, Frijns took the first pole of his Formula E career ahead of Camara who took an impressive front row in the Dragon and Sam Bird slotting into P3. Turvey and Blomqvist filled P4 and P5, with Muller taking the final spot in the top six after a scrappy run. It was an excellent boost to Dragon and Nio to have both cars inside the top six after their previous struggles over the past few seasons. With the likes of Mercedes and Audi starting further back, the second race was expected to provide fireworks and it certainly did. Frijns pulled away at the front, taking Sam Bird with him as Camara suffered an initial poor start – and the pair began their duel in the desert with Frijns leading the way. However, the Dutchman began to struggle with energy consumption and fell behind Bird on lap 21. However, the ex teammates were not the only ones caught in a duel. The tension that had simmered between current reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa and former two time champion Jean-Eric Vergne was reignited as the pair began their rapid ascent through the pack in the opening stages of the race. However, after their initial harmony when arming themselves with attack mode, the pair came together at turn 23, narrowly avoiding an incident. Vergne never got to challenge Frijns for P2 after the race was red-flagged after a long safety car period with four minutes remaining on the clock.
Mahindra’s Alex Lynn was involved in a massive incident with Mitch Evans in the latter stages in which his car became airbourne at one stage. Lynn was taken to the hospital and thankfully, has now been released. Due to the severity of the incident, the stewards deemed the order the cars were in behind the safety car the valid result – with Bird taking his first win for Jaguar, Frijns collecting his first podium of the season, and Vergne rounding out the top three. However, the Techeetah man’s podium was taken away a few hours after the race when he was served a penalty for not taking his second attack mode during the race. Rast and Blomqvist too were penalised for failing to use their attack modes, whilst Nick Cassidy who had finished an impressive P5 was handed a time penalty for speeding infringements.
Riyadh’s first night race served up some interesting fireworks, and it’s almost certain that the action will continue in Rome in six weeks’ time.
Today, it was announced that McLaren will branch out of their already extensive motorsport catalogue, with the news that they have secured the option to enter the 2022-2023 Formula E season ahead of the launch of the Gen3 electric car. Although it’s uncertain yet as to what role they will take in participating, whether as a full manufacturer outfit or otherwise, the signs are clear that they intend to make a move into the rapidly growing electric series. “We’ve been closely observing Formula E for some time and monitoring the series’ progress and future direction,” Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown said in a press release issued by Formula E earlier today. “The opportunity to take an option on an entry, together with the completion of the McLaren Applied supplier contract with the FIA at the end of Gen 2 gives us the necessary time to decide if Formula E is right for McLaren as a future competition platform,” McLaren is no stranger to Formula E, having been a part of the spec car back in the series’ infancy. The first version of the electric car contained an electric motor, transmission and electronics all created by the Woking-based manufacturer. Despite the fact that there is more creative freedom within Formula E in terms of the powertrain and gearbox in latter seasons, McLaren Applied Technology has supplied all the batteries that power the cars since 2018 – allowing them for the first time to complete the entire race distance without the need for pit stops or car changes. With the contract expiring at the end of the 2021/2022 season, it comes as little surprise that McLaren would choose to branch out into one of the fastest growing series in motorsport, particularly as they have been at the heart of the action since the very beginning. Their pledge to take an option with Formula E has particular significance, BMW and Audi have chosen to bow out of the series and McLaren may have sensed an opportunity to further their own prospects. With an already well established role within the NASCAR and IndyCar market in the United States, McLaren may have seen Formula E’s potential of bringing electric sustainability and racing to the heart of cities, particularly within places such as Jakarta and Seoul, lucrative markets which McLaren could potentially tap into. Mercedes and Audi have used their participation in Formula E with great effect, using it to promote their electric road cars and McLaren may well do the same – especially as they plan to launch their first hybrid road car in 2021, with the hopes of developing a roadworthy EV by 2025. McLaren as a motorsport constructor are now flourishing under Brown’s rule – a more relaxed approach than that of his predecessor Ron Dennis, and after several years of disappointment, are beginning to reap the benefits. It remains to be seen if McLaren will join Formula E in any capacity but the signs of them wanting to branch out beyond F1 are there.
It’s not the fault of Hamilton or Mercedes but instead the strict formula that teams have to work to. If there’s to be a constructors championship then we need looser regulations so designers and engineers can have more freedom, different engine types and different aero design. Then, lets go racing!
If not, we might as well have a single construction championship like Formula 2 where the racing is much closer and more exciting, even if admittedly some of that is because young drivers make more mistakes.
Formula 1 should be open. I bet that if it was, you’d have more than just hybrid engines! We’d have the possibility of an electric car racing a combustion engine in the not too distant future. I’m afraid that if huge changes aren’t made then F1 will be left behind. If we had those kind of regulations would Formula E even have got up and running? Look how exciting the races are. Guess what? They are all driving the same car!
I’m not advocating that F1 should be a single constructors championship, but if they are to all build their own designs completely then they need to take the shackles off. Budgets have been cut now going forward which can only be a good thing, but all of the teams working towards a single design framework will lead to almost identical cars again.
Somehow, like in football, the richer teams like Ferrari and Mercedes will find a way to attract the best people even on a restricted budget. We need to make room for initiative, give a chance to the next Adrian Newey or Colin Chapman, whose ideas revolutionised the sport. With tight regulations these kinds of ideas are harder to find.
If they really want to save money then Friday free practice should go! Other than a cheap day out to watch Formula 1 cars I can see little need for it.
Here’s my road map for the sport.
You probably have your own ideas on how to fix F1. These are just me spit balling mine. We’d love to hear your ideas.
A. Loosen the restrictions to allow for innovation in both engine and chassis design.
B. Cut costs by cutting out Friday free practice sessions.
C. Teams should be allowed to race three cars but the third driver must be a young driver or a guest with enough super license points. The team would lose the points of the third driver.
D. Tyres should only be one small element of the teams strategy, so maybe another tyre manufacturer should come in.
If the Formula 1 changes that are scheduled now for 2022 – when in all likelihood Lewis Hamilton will be an eight-time world champion – do not make the significant difference that they promise, F1 will not attract enough new young fans to make it viable and, in my opinion, Formula E will become the de-facto pinnacle of motorsports.
We’re at the halfway point in the Formula E’s super season finale in Berlin, and although the championship fight seems to have fallen by the wayside with Antonio Da Costa still holding an impressive lead, race three certainly was filled with fireworks. However, as the cars took to the original circuit layout, qualifying was not dominated by Da Costa but his teammate Jean-Eric Vergne. He’s been somewhat of the supporter to Da Costa’s heroics this season but he certainly showed otherwise by taking pole position by half a second from BMW’s Max Guenther who put in an impressive lap to line up second on the grid.
Mahindra seemed to be a team reborn as the Indian-based manufacturer managed to get both cars into Superpole, however, Jerome D’Ambrosio struggled with his overall pace to start P3, whilst Alex Lynn managed a scrappy lap to snatch P5. Stoffel Vandoorne continued his impeccable qualifying form, but his Mercedes struggled with grip in the hot conditions, leaving the Belgian P4 whilst Robin Frijns rounded out the top six, helped by the momentum of almost scoring a podium position in the last race.
Vergne lead from the start, whilst Guenther became embroiled in a battle with the two Mahindras for the podium positions and he was passed by D’Ambrosio into turn one. However, Guenther soon reclaimed second place back from the Mahindra and began to cut into Vergne’s two second buffer.
Vandoorne was another big loser in the opening stages, dropping behind Lynn and Frijns but after the first round of attack mode was deployed, the Mercedes man managed to get back into P4 before his race ended prematurely due to a puncture. Compatriots Luca Di Grassi and Felipe Massa came together in the latter stages of the race, with Di Grassi trying to squeeze the Venturi into the hairpin at turn 1 but the move backfired and the former champion was left out of the points. Massa picked up a late penalty for the incident dropping him too out of the points.
Frijns continued his momentum by making quick work of Lynn before taking P3 from D’Ambrosio before the safety car was brought out for an incident in the mid pack which left Sergio Sette Camara and Neel Jani stranded in the middle of the track and the safety car deployed.
As racing resumed, Guenther closed the gap on Vergne but when the second round of attack modes were deployed, Vergne managed to stay ahead of the chasing BMW but not for long as Guenther managed to get the Techeetah into turn seven with five minutes remaining.
Vergne lost momentum after the move, and struggling with energy management, he was forced to yield P2 to Frijns who began to chase the race leader Guenther in the dying stages of the race but it was too little, too late.
Guenther picked up his second win of the season to move to second in the championship standings ahead of Frijns and Vergne, whilst Da Costa had to settle for P4 with a stunning drive up through the order to add another glut of points to his own championship tally.
Is there any stopping Antonio Felix da Costa on his charge to his first Formula E title? After the first two races in Berlin, it’s beginning to certainly look that way. There was a sense of deja vu in Formula E’s second race of the season finale as da Costa continued his assault on the title with a stunning performance to put himself squarely in title contention.
The Techeetah man dominated qualifying again, pipping Nissan’s Sebastien Buemi to the pole position by three tenths. It was another masterclass from the Portuguese driver to hand himself another three points and secure his second pole position in two races. A surprise addition to superpole was Alex Lynn. Returning for the third time to the electric series into the seat vacated by Pascal Wehrlein, Lynn scored bragging rights over teammate Jerome D’Ambrosio and again highlighted the exceptional pace of the Mahindra over one lap. De Vries again featured in superpole but was only able to manage P4 after struggling with oversteer on his flying lap. However, it was a better day for Audi power with both Robin Frijns and Lucas di Grassi managing to slide into superpole, but ultimately, both drivers had scrappy laps and had to settle for P5 and P6 respectively.
Da Costa led the race from pole and again looked unbothered by his competitors, with only a slight wobble when he took his first attack mode, just managing to stay clear of Buemi in P2. He held off the Nissan man to take his third win of the season and extend his advantage on his title rivals, opening up the gap to a massive 41 points. On the other side of the garage, reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne struggled again with Max Gunther and Sam Bird both managing to jump him at the start. After scoring no points in the first round of the first race, he eventually had to settle for P10 after struggling with tyre degradation in the latter stages of the race, allowing both Edo Mortara and ex-teammate Andre Lotterer to get the jump on him.
Robin Frijns had a reversal in fortune as the Envision Virgin Racing driver managed to send it up the inside of Alex Lynn to snatch P4 in the opening stages of the race, before pouncing on de Vries for the final podium position a few laps later. However, his hopes of a podium were dashed by Lucas di Grassi who pounced during the first round of attack mode, taking advantage of Nyck de Vries’ stricken Mercedes who came to a halt, bringing out the full course yellow.
Frijns began to fight back in the dying stages of the race, but it was to no avail and the former champion held out for the final podium position. Vandoorne was also brought into the podium fight as he executed a stunning move, sweeping past both Oliver Rowland and Sam Bird. However, despite using his fanboost, he was not able to get past Frijns and di Grassi to record his first podium finish of the season, leaving Buemi and di Grassi to reap the benefits.