It’s finally here – after a three-month off season, the start of the 2016-17 FIA Formula E Championship is just a few days away.
With an all-new calendar for season three, the championship will begin in Hong Kong instead of the traditional Beijing, and will also be the first single-header Formula E race to take place on a Sunday, as the e-Touring Car Challenge takes centre stage on Saturday. Formula E’s track action begins with practice at 10:30 local time and qualifying at midday, with the race following at 16:00 or 09:00 UK time.
As well as a new circuit and schedule, the opening round of season three will also feature two new teams and five new drivers, all of whom will no doubt be the focus of much attention this weekend.
Jaguar will be especially in the limelight as the latest marque to join the Formula E paddock, although the team is expecting to have a fairly low-key debut whilst its two rookie drivers Adam Carroll and Mitch Evans find their feet in the series.
Also joining the paddock for the first time will be Techeetah, the Chinese-funded outfit taking over the defunct Team Aguri entry. While the Techeetah name may not carry the same weight as Jaguar’s, the team is on course for a strong race in Hong Kong after new signing Jean-Éric Vergne took his new Renault-powered car to the top of the testing times on three of the six days.
But if either team is to score points on its debut, they will undoubtably have their work cut out for them as Formula E looks set for its closest field yet.
Renault e.Dams certainly left testing as the team to beat once again, both on qualifying and long run pace, but the battle at the front looks to be much tighter as DS Virgin and Dragon Racing both have made great improvements on their season two machinery.
Dragon in particular emerged as a challenger for race wins this season, with a new partnership with Faraday Future boosting their prospects, whilst DS Virgin’s hopes will be bolstered by their acquisition of three-time WTCC champion José María López.
Behind them, MS Amlin Andretti look on course for their strongest season to date as they pair the highly-rated Robin Frijns with season one race winner and BMW protege António Félix da Costa. Mahindra’s new M3Electro also appeared in testing to have the pace for podium contention, particularly in the hands of rookie Felix Rosenqvist.
All in all, the 2016 Hong Kong ePrix is set to give a fascinating first glimpse at the shape of the 2016-17 championship, with absolutely no guarantee we’ll see the usual suspects filling out the podium again on Sunday.
James Matthews, Formula E editor