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.
We talked with designer Sean Bull about his work in Formula E and his change from casual F1 fan to creator of fictional and real car designs, and show the person who stands behind some of the most popular fantasy F1 liveries.
Most of the F1 community knows it: the feeling weeks before the presentation of the new F1 cars. Especially when a team has a big new sponsor or has changed their engine partner for example, everybody talks about possible livery changes. How would Ferrari look without Santander? Or the new McLaren in an old-school papaya coat? What about Red Bull with the new Aston Martin deal, or Sauber with Alfa Romeo? And most importantly: how will the cars look with the new halo system above the cockpits?
Only a few of the many questions in this year’s pre-season. Thats where the work of Sean Bull begins. A man who not only creates possible designs of real and fictional F1 teams—he also started with a real design for the Dragon Formula E team this season.
The fictional designs are iconic to many people. Thats why the disappointment is often big, when the teams reveal their real cars with a much more conservative livery. Some people might ask why the real teams don’t look as good as popular examples from designers like Sean Bull. Let’s ask the man himself about this and know more about him, his hobby and his job at the same time.
1. First of all, congratulations on your first real car livery, the Dragon Racing Formula E cars and their driver suits. They look great. Could you tell us, what was your reaction when you learned that your design had been chosen for the car?
Sean: The Dragon design was months of hard work, working closely with the team’s owner, Jay Penske to design and develop the teams refreshed identity this season after the departure of Faraday last year, going back to the team’s roots of the striking red chrome and a more elegant and flowing design was a pleasure to draw and create, with the car lending itself heavily toward the livery layout. A classic use on subtle pinstriping around the key feature lines and the minimalist American flag motif that adorn the roll hoop and front wing are the result of continued fine tweaking and development.
The decision to split the liveries came quite late and continue what is left of the team’s corporate DNA from last year with the split faraday designs, only presented in a more obvious and dramatic fashion this year, with each car being the mirror imprint of the other, something I wish F1 would be allowed to adopt with such difficulty telling the drivers apart from one another.
The race suits and garage design were also fun aspects to design and create, we went with a range of options before we settled on something more minimal and classy rather than anything too outlandish and obvious, and I believe they look great, with obvious relation between the cars, pits and corporate branding and I’m very proud to have been part of it and am certainly looking forward to working with the team for the rest of the season.
2. Tell us what got you started designing. What inspired you to design car liveries, and is that your full time job now, or is it still a hobby for you?
Sean: I started, as I believe any fan of F1 has, sketching the cars watching the race as a young kid, and it’s from then that it’s always been my passion to be a car designer, so I studied Automotive Design at Coventry university and after gaining an industrial placement in my 3rd year I continued to work for that company as an Automotive Stylist after graduating in 2016. It was the skills in Photoshop and CAD learnt at university and work that helped me develop a hobby designing fantasy F1 liveries that slowly evolved into designing and creating the real thing for some big race teams around the world. Fortunately, it is still my side hobby and one that I take great passion in, but as I enjoy my main career as a car designer, it makes for a good break and free time relaxation, I’m just lucky enough that the livery work I do for ‘fun’ has given me the opportunity of a “second career”.
3. Your designs for the upcoming year are everywhere on the web, especially during the winter break. Many are disappointed when the real cars are presented by the teams after the break. In contrast to your designs they are often more simple and less warmly received. Does this reaction make you proud?
Sean: As mentioned, this is what I love to do in my free time, so it’s good to see how my fantasy designs are received by the public, and that’s the difference between mine and the real ones that get presented in February. I’m not tied down to any corporate restrictions, branding guides or sponsor requirements, hence why my designs can be so much more extreme and dramatic compared to the real life counterparts. So I do have sympathy for the team’s actual design departments, especially now knowing the creative restrictions that do apply after working on a few real world commissions.
4. Could you tell us how much time you spend on a typical livery design?
Sean: Usually when just playing around with my F1 designs, it’s anything from ten minutes to an hour. The real time is spent creating my templates and trying to get them as photo-realistic as possible. That’s where the hours and hours of work is spent. With the real-world teams it can be a lengthy process of design and development, or it can be relatively quick if the team love an initial concept and want to go with that. For example, the Dragon designs were five months from initial sketches to the final application, with changes and tweaks being made even as the car was being wrapped. However, in contrast the F2 livery for MP motorsport last year went straight from an initial sketch to the final proposal in a matter of weeks, such was the reaction from the proposed title sponsor the designs were created for!
6. 2017 has been a special year for you, with many successes. What is your next goal? Do you have an ultimate goal, perhaps designing a livery for an F1 team in the near future?
Sean: 2017 has honestly been the best year of my life, both professionally and personally. I was lucky enough to be engaged to my now-fiancée and we are getting married next year, so that was the personal highlight for me!
In terms of professional success, this year has been incredible. I only started in November 2016, so for all this to happen in such a small space of time has been amazing—especially the work with Leclerc, going to see my first F1 race as a guest of his, and the Red Bull work I have done with their North American team this year (I was lucky enough for them to fly me out to LA to meet them and see my GRC liveries in action at the last race of the rear). And to top off the year, the Formula E commissions with Dragon and the contest win with Mahindra have been incredibly well received!
Looking forward to the future, my ultimate goal is of course F1, and to gain a commission with a team there or eventually work as part of the team. I have other aspirations that I hope will be realised in the coming year, but they’re all secret for now!
Techeetah rookie André Lotterer is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead in Formula E. We caught up with him to discuss Techeetah’s prospects and how he felt about the testing so far.
Lotterer, a seasoned WEC and Super Formula driver, was initially sceptical about Formula E but he admits that his opinions have changed towards the sport.
“I think a lot of people were sceptical about it because nobody was used to it. It’s just that my voice was probably picked out more strongly than others due to my status.” Lotterer reveals. “But then obviously you’re allowed to change your mind and it’s something that everybody needed to get used to. “ “Due to my situation in WEC, racing for Porsche and Audi, I was super happy with where I was but things changed and I began to get more interested. In the end, It doesn’t matter what car you race, you have to be the best at it and there’s a lot of top drivers here. There’s a world championship and it’s challenging so it’s the place to be be now. That finally attracted me and it’s going in the right direction with the new season’s car.” Lotterer said that he was ‘always curious’ about the sport, helped by his regular contact with ex-Audi teammate and current Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi.
”Indirectly [he brought me into the sport]. We talk about it and I was always curious how it is.”
”At the beginning, I didn’t really consider [Formula E] but motorsport is changing and we are racing for the future. This is what you want as a new driver – a new challenge. This was this case for me with everything that is changing in the world right now.”
Lotterer has already completed two days of testing with Techeetah and is making use of the limited test opportunities that the team, as a Renault customer, have at hand. For the experienced driver, the test provides more of a learning curve as he admitted that the car has been a challenge to get to grips with.
”It’s very different [to drive],” Lotterer explains, “It’s completely different to anything I’ve done before, not only because of the electric engine but mostly because of the tyres and the nature of the car with the battery and the weight.”
Here, the speeds are lower but the car is more challenging to drive because it has less potential in terms of grip with the tyres. The braking is a very random factor due to the regeneration on the rear axle and the carbon brakes have a specific way of working in different temperature ranges so it is a lot of guessing on the brakes but the driving part itself is quite fun.”
Although positive about the season ahead, Lotterer was realistic in terms of what he can achieve in these early stages.
”First of all, I need to play catch up. It is not an easy task to join the championship with only three days of testing. I was for the first time in the car two days ago, so that’s the way it is as a private team when you’re not a manufacturer. At the beginning there’s a learning curve, for sure, but this is what we have to accept and something I need to catch up as fast as possible. We always push to do the best and achieve but at the beginning, I am going to find out where I am. Here, it is a bit difficult to judge. Thing is, here is not that representative in terms of the circuit. The same guys are at the front that were competing in the championship, so being in the middle of it for the first step is not too bad. I really go race by race, give everything and do my best but I know I am going to have to face some learning time in the beginning.
But I have to say the team is a very good team, packed with a lot of brain cells. The guys in the systems side are very smart. We are only one of the teams that cannot go testing so considering that, sometimes [Techeetah] beating the Renault team is quite impressive.”
Competing alongside seasoned driver Jean-Éric Vergne, Lotterer was very optimistic about what he could learn from the French driver. “It’s really good to have him [Jev] . Obviously, he’s a really good reference now after winning the race in Montréal so this is good for me to be able to learn from him and he’s a good team player. He wants to have a good global performance of the team and he’s been helping me out with getting up to speed and sharing his information which is not something you can take for granted from teammates in general.”
With Porsche’s arrival into Formula E in Season 6, it seems reasonable that they would want to take on a presumably more experienced Lotterer into their new team, but Lotterer argued that it was not the case, stating that Techeetah was his long term prospect.
“No, of course [this is not a short term prospect]. My aim is to come and find a good situation. As a professional race car driver, you want to optimise everything – my performance, the team’s performance, everything. This doesn’t go from one day to the other so it’s going to take some time but hopefully in the long run, it will pay off. “
DTM driver Dani Juncadella is taking his foray into Formula E as he replaces the departing Nick Heidfeld for the final day of the Valencia test. We spoke to the rookie today on why he wanted to get involved and on his future in the sport.
For Juncadella, the pull of Formula E was aided by him seeing the potential in the championship and by some of his fellow drivers. Juncadella is good friends with a number of drivers already occupying the grid, including his teammate for the test day, Felix Rosenqvist.
”I think it’s a really cool championship from what I’ve heard from some of the drivers,” Juncadella explains. “You know, it’s growing so much that I think it’s the right time to give it a try and be thankful that I got a chance from Mahindra. It’s a great venue. The team is more than half Spanish so I think it’s the best combination possible.” The native Spaniard addressed reports that he was to be Mahindra’s third driver and was optimistic about his hopes to potentially become a reserve driver at the Indian team.
”You clearly have heard more than me because at the moment nothing is confirmed.” Juncadella explains, “I am just going to be testing and of course, they are looking for a third driver and I guess my chances come close to 100% being the only guy they are testing.”
”But on the other hand, I still have a contract with Mercedes so it’s more a first contact with Formula E and we’ll see if I get the chance to be the reserve driver here. For sure, I will take it if I can. If it is so, the idea is to end up with a race seat.”
As a Mercedes driver, it could seem logical for the German team to take on Juncadella for season 6 if he is able to become more experienced within the electric car but he insisted that was not the case.
”If I had a chance [to drive for Mercedes], yes. But it depends on many things, such as whether I am in another team as a reserve or concentrating on another championship. Anything to do with Formula E, I want to give it a try and if I get a reserve seat here, my aim is to then get a [full time] seat here.” As Juncadella prepares for his first outing in a Formula E car tomorrow, he spoke of the controversial chicanes which have been immensely unpopular with the drivers.
”They look tricky from the outside. I had a walk with Felix to try and see where he was braking and try get it from his side. They don’t look great but as long as I stay away from them, I should be fine. I think it’s not a big deal.”
The second day of Formula E testing kicked off once more under the sunshine of the Ricardo Tormo circuit. It was another opportunity for drivers and teams to gain valuable information from their cars.
Despite the controversy and problems that the drivers encountered yesterday with the built in chicane on the main straight, an additional chicane has been added just before the start-finish line, which distorted the times to an extent. Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne locked up twice on the exit of the new chicane and many of the drivers seemed uncomfortable with the new addition to the track.
Two new drivers made their debut this morning as Andretti elected to run Alexander Sims, who participated yesterday, and DTM driver Tom Blomqvist in place of António Félix da Costa. Blomqvist had a troubled run, running into problems with his car, but Sims had another consistent session. Venturi’s new development driver Michaël Benyahia was out on track this morning as he fought to impress the Monégasque team.
Renault made their mark early in the day on a cool track as Prost immediately began to turn the timing screens purple. However, Audi Abt Schaeffler found some momentum with Daniel Abt taking the top spot at the end of the first hour.
Audi continued to look strong and consistent on the circuit but Renault e.Dams began to fight back, improving on a warmer track. Buemi and Prost occupied the top two positions as the session ticked over the two hour mark.
Oliver Turvey had another solid run, showcasing the NIO car has been through significant development over the winter period. He took the top spot from Buemi, only for the e.Dams driver to snatch it back moments later with a blistering time of a 1.21.890. It was a position that he would retain for the rest of the session, giving indications of what Renault e.Dams could be capable of in season 4. Felix Rosenqvist had a productive session, finishing in P2 and Sam Bird rounded out the top three.
Renault continued their dominant form into the afternoon as Prost immediately turned the sectors purple with a 1.23.544. They pushed hard, consistently taking the top spots in a duel with Mahindra’s Rosenqvist and Techeetah’s Vergne.
Rosenqvist had a strong run this afternoon, putting himself into P2 in the early stages of the session before pulling together a monster lap of a 1.22.747.
Venturi’s James Rossiter brought out a red flag an hour from the end of the session after hitting the new temporary chicane installed at the beginning of the straight. The barriers were once more retooled, but many drivers were still unhappy with the set up. Buemi again went down to the site of the crash, documenting the damage.
Audi struggled in the opening stages of the afternoon session but Di Grassi soon found some pace, snatching P1 away when the session restarted following Rossiter’s incident. However, it was Buemi who whitewashed the session, taking the top position back moments later. The race ended with Buemi in P1 with Di Grassi in second and a solid effort from Nelson Piquet Jr placed him in P3.
The Ricardo Tormo circuit, situated on the outskirts of Valencia, is hosting the Formula E collective test this week in preparation for Season 4. It provides the first opportunity for drivers to get to grips with their performance in terms of their competitors.
In the first morning session of the three day test, Mahindra set the initial pace but Jaguar also showed promise from the start. By the end of the first hour, Mitch Evans topped the leaderboard with a 1.19.776, followed by Audi Abt Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi who was a mere one tenth behind.
Jaguar showcased that their development throughout the winter has paid off as Evans continued to dominate throughout the session. Nelson Piquet Jr also seemed to settle into his new team, taking P6 by the end of the session. DS Virgin’s Alex Lynn in a new dark testing livery, and Evans fought for the top spoils, however, Sam Bird improved on a warmer track, taking first position with a time of 1.18.669. The Audi’s of Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt followed.
DS Virgin and Audi Abt Schaeffler looked strong on this track – however, it is not indicative of the true potential of the cars when they perform on street circuits.
Regardless of this, the test has shown that all the teams have made significant development over the winter. Renault didn’t show their potential in this session as they only occupied P8 and P9 and Sébastien Buemi seemed generally unhappy with the set-up of his car.
Mahindra faded after a strong start, with Felix Rosenqvist only completing 17 laps. Techeetah also seemed to struggle getting to grips with the track, with Jean-Éric Vergne managing P11 and new driver André Lotterer P16.
Formula E has eight new drivers undertaking test duties this week. Alexander Sims made his mark in his attempt to take the second Andretti seat as the IMSA driver outperformed teammate Antonio Felix Da Costa in the morning session and made a solid start.
James Rossiter, previous test driver for Honda and Force India was the best placed of the rookies, having a excellent session which placed him in P12. The other rookies, including newly unveiled Indycar and GP2 NIO driver, Luca Filippi, had solid runs, clocking up over 20 laps a piece, good preparation for the days to come as they become familiar with the car.
In the afternoon session, Buemi and Renault showed their hand, leaping to the top of the timing screens. Jaguar once again made a solid start with Piquet and Evans climbing the rankings.
Techeetah had a much better afternoon, with Vergne shaking off the troubles of this morning and slotting himself into P3 at the beginning of the session. However, Bird soon brought out a red flag as he crashed out on the tyre chicane just before turn one, forcing his car to be towed away as he beat a hasty retreat to the pits. Racing resumed soon after with Rosenqvist snatching the top spot with a blistering time of 1.18.779.
However, red flags continued to plague the drivers as they struggled in the rising temperatures. Lotterer stopped at turn 7 with a mechanical issue and had to be towed off the track, only to appear a short while later and climb the order. However, turn 7 seemed to pose a problem for Techeetah as Vergne also fell victim to the corner, hitting the gravel and red flagging the session once more.
As racing resumed, Audi began to gain momentum, as Di Grassi and Abt fought for the top position in the latter stages. Buemi also contested the top spot, snatching the position away from Di Grassi by a margin of only two thousandths of a second. However, it was the NIO car of Oliver Turvey who finished on top. With two minutes to go, he put in a time of 1.18.565, the fastest of the day.
We grabbed a few words with DS Virgin Racing’s Alex Lynn and Sam Bird on how the day went and on the upcoming season:
Q: Congratulations on securing the drive, Alex. Just wanted to know what your thoughts on the session so far today? Alex Lynn: Yeah, it’s very positive. We had a good day. Many laps, car went round and round so very positive. I think the lads have been working really hard in the workshop to get everything done. Q: What are your aims for this season? Where do you want to be in terms of Formula E? AL: I think the plan is to definitely win races and be on the podium, that’s the immediate goal and what we’d like to achieve. As a team, I think we want to learn as much as we can over the next few days and arrive in Hong Kong in a strong position.
Q: How challenging is this circuit in comparison to the street circuits you usually operate on? Sam Bird: The circuit doesn’t represent what we will be running on but it’s unrepresentative for everybody so everybody’s in the same boat. We were very quick this morning, I think the track got a little bit quicker this evening but we were doing race running so no worries. Compared to Hong Kong, the average speeds are enormous so what we run here is not what everyone will run in Hong Kong. Q: Do you feel the season 4 car a significant step forward? SB: I think there are some teams that have made the jump forwards and hopefully, we can see where we come out of it. There’s certainly a lot of teams who have put a lot of effort and resources and obviously their new systems and we will have to see where we are after that. Q: What are your opinions on the way the series is going? SB: It’s very exciting. This series is in a very stable situation right now, loads of new manufacturers coming on board and some big names.Amazing driver line up again this season and a great calendar, just need London back on the calendar. I fully expect it to flourish.
As the curtain has fallen on season 3 of Formula E, fans have been treated to a masterclass in the emergence of new dominant forces in the form of drivers and manufacturers alike.
The powerhouse Jaguar joined the electric street racing series this year and while they are still in the infancy stages of development, they certainly are showing promise. Audi committed their future to Formula E to great effect as Lucas di Grassi became the third different champion in three years. Porsche and Mercedes have too committed themselves to the series. But what of season 4? What are we to expect from the next series that kicks off in four months time?
Renault e.Dams hit the ground running in season 3, picking up four wins in the first five races courtesy of Sébastien Buemi. The reigning champion seemed unstoppable, able to use the superior speed of the car to his advantage. Although Nico Prost did not secure a podium finish this year, he contributed to the team’s success by regularly finishing in the points. This gave the French team the edge over Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport.
Expect a similar dynamic next season as Renault has already confirmed that they are retaining Buemi and Prost. Stability surely will be an advantage. Many manufacturers are rumoured to be changing their line ups and recruiting drivers new to electric racing, but e.Dams are sticking to a formula with proven success in keeping two experienced drivers who know how to handle their cars.
The car is expected to be one of the strongest again next year as development will have occurred throughout the season. Buemi will undoubtedly be hungry to take his title back after losing it in such a dramatic fashion in Montréal. The team will also want to secure their fourth successive team title to cement their dominance in the series. Expect e.Dams to continue to use their successful formula next year.
Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler
A name change beckons for the team that won the Driver’s Championship. Audi are officially taking charge of the German outfit and success is sure to follow them. Abt have had a surprisingly successful season, collecting two race wins and the championship for Lucas di Grassi. The team have made some clever strategic decisions, resulting in success in Hong Kong and Mexico to great effect. The success can only continue into season 4 as Audi comes into the frame as an official partner. The likelihood is that the lineup at the German team will remain unchanged as both drivers have ties to the manufacturers. Di Grassi will want to secure a second successive title and Daniel Abt has proved that he can back up his teammate in order to achieve results. Stability again could be an advantage, certainly within this team as they hand over to their new partner.
Audi have no distractions from other series and will therefore have been able to develop their technology to focus on giving the best car to their drivers. They will want results and having di Grassi as a works driver with proven success will only heighten their expectations. Expect Audi’s increased involvement, coupled with di Grassi’s hunger, to bring them results and the hope of their first Teams’ Championship—a title that has so far eluded the German outfit.
Arguably one of the standout teams this season, Mahindra managed to rip apart the Abt vs e.Dams battle that has been raging for the past two seasons. Nick Heidfeld has certainly delivered results, taking five podium finishes and helping Mahindra towards securing third place in the teams’ standings over DS Virgin.
However, it’s Felix Rosenqvist that has been somewhat of a revelation in season 3. Rosenqvist has shown star potential and that he could certainly be a future champion within the series. He took an impressive win in Berlin and would have repeated the same feat the following day if it wasn’t for an unfortunate penalty.
Mahindra need to retain Rosenqvist and therefore, they need to ensure that their car remains competitive in season 4. They will face stiff competition, certainly as Audi and BMW step up their involvement within their respective teams but they will have pushed development throughout the season. It’s expected that Mahindra will retain both of their drivers. Stability will improve the outfit and both drivers are extremely capable of producing results. Rosenqvist will want to have a chance of the title next year and with the way things are progressing, it would be foolish to write him off as a serious competitor.
DS Virgin Racing
Finishing in fourth position, DS Virgin are a team in which their overall position does not showcase the entire picture. The car has been improved massively in season 3. They replaced the ‘pancake’ twin motor that hindered their progress in season 2, replacing it with a single motor and two speed gearbox, similar to Renault’s approach. The development worked in DS Virgin’s favour. Without the added weight, the car became lighter and easier to handle for the drivers. The British team will seek to develop the technology they have mastered further, as they will need to produce a car in season 4 worthy of giving Sam Bird a credible shot at the title.
Bird has been one of the standout stars of season 3, winning both races of the double header in New York. His strong results and his commitment will make the team want to retain the British driver. José María López, on the other hand, entered Formula E as a complete novice, but he has had moments of genius and showed that he can deliver. He can be the competition that Bird needs to elevate himself, shown in their many intra-team fights over the season.
The only problem for DS Virgin is that of their reserve driver, Alex Lynn. The young British driver showed excellent potential in snatching pole away from teammate Bird in his first race. Can DS retain Lynn? He has excellent potential for the future but other teams could have an eye on him. Lynn certainly will not want to spend another season on standby. Although retaining Bird and López would allow for stability, Lynn certainly appears to be a driver to watch in the future and DS Virgin will have a headache over what to do for next season. Despite this, DS Virgin are certain to build on their successes in season 3, poised to be a future challenger for the title.
The Chinese team have gone from strength to strength this season, finally able to provide a car in which Jean-Éric Vergne could take his first Formula E win. Techeetah are a Renault customer, so expect improvements within the powertrain technology. After ushering Ma Qing Hua and Esteban Gutiérrez through the revolving doors, the team seem to have developed a good team dynamic with Vergne and Stéphane Sarrazin. Both are experienced drivers, who have cut their teeth in the sport since the inaugural season. Vergne has shown that he can deliver results, taking one race win and four second place podiums. It is expected that the Chinese team will retain him, certainly on the basis of his success over the season.
New team recruit Sarrazin has had mixed luck, picking up two podium finishes but suffering from a handful of races in which he did not score any points. There is certainly a question mark over his future in the team. Although he has delivered, he is ageing and would not be considered a long-term prospect. Could Techeetah change their driver line up again next season? It seems a bit absurd to do so. Sarrazin is a seasoned driver, capable of delivering results when needed and he has no prior racing commitments, a factor that could determine other driver’s futures.
The stability of retaining their successful drivers would certainly aid the team in development. However, despite the unstable nature of their line up, Techeetah have produced some good results in season 3. Regardless of what they do, expect to see them duelling with the top cars next year as they continue to develop.
NextEV NIO have had a relatively quiet season. Nevertheless, they have managed to achieve some success. Oliver Turvey and Nelson Piquet Jr have given the team a healthy supply of points throughout the season. Turvey scored his first pole in Mexico City and Piquet secured pole in the first race, but their progress seems to have been hindered by the same problem that DS Virgin faced in season 2. NextEV operate a heavier twin ‘pancake’ motor set up without a multi-speed gearbox, and the lack of lower and higher gears could have potentially hindered the performance; it’s uncertain if NextEV NIO will continue with this set up into next season or if they will revise the concept.
The car has often let the drivers down, leaving them vulnerable to attack. Turvey has the potential needed to turn the team into a force to be reckoned with if he has the machinery to do it. The NextEV NIO car needs to be competitive next year or they will face losing former champion Piquet. He has not hidden his frustrations with the car’s performance this season. If he is given reassurance that the team will be able to compete with the top runners, he will stay. After his success in season one, he will be hungry to take the title that was once his. Can NextEV retain Piquet, move forward and develop a more competitive car? Only time will tell.
MS Amlin Andretti
Andretti have had a mixed season. Some of the settings used in testing were incorrect for the handling of the car and have been unable to be changed due to the regulations. This has shown in their results as their highest finish was 5th place, courtesy of António Félix Da Costa in Hong Kong. They have claimed a few points positions over the course of the season but have suffered from a number of unfortunate accidents and retirements.
Andretti have always appeared to be on the back foot, ever since they reverted back to the specification technology in season two. The development has progressed since then, although there are still teething issues as it is their first full development of their own powertrain. However, things are looking a little brighter for the American team. The giant of BMW has confirmed that it will begin to take over the running of Andretti next year in preparation for the introduction of their own powertrain in season 5.
Improvements should be seen within the technology in the Andretti car from next season. BMW have placed themselves in a prime spot, copying the model that Audi put forward, by developing and testing technologies within these first few seasons before the 250kW regulation comes into play. They have also begun to bring their own staff into the outfit and the driver line up is expected to change to reflect this. Da Costa has had a poor season marred by accidents, but he is a BMW works driver and will be expected to stay in the team.
Robin Frijns’ future is a little more unclear. Although he has achieved better results than his teammate, he has an Audi Blancpain contract and BMW will want more control over who drives for them next season. It is expected that Frijns will leave the team, possibly going elsewhere and Alexander Sims will be brought in as his replacement. Although Sims is a BMW driver, he would be at a disadvantage as he has relatively little Formula E experience. Season 4 could well be a work in progress for the American team and we may not see clear-cut results until season 5 when BMW fully takes over the reins.
Faraday Future Dragon Racing
Season 3 was one to forget for the American outfit. After sharing Venturi’s effective powertrain in season 2, they moved to adopt their own in season 3, but the niggles of a new power system were seen in the results of their two experienced drivers Jérôme d’Ambrosio and Loïc Duval. Their cars were simply not competitive enough and they often fell victim to first lap accidents. However, season 3 was somewhat of a teething year for their new technology and they could potentially refine this next year, adopting other teams’ successful approaches.
They do have another advantage in retaining the talented d’Ambrosio for season 4. The Belgian has shown in previous seasons that he is capable of producing results, securing a number of wins and podiums in previous seasons. Although the competitiveness of the machinery he worked with this year has hindered his progress, he showed what he was capable of with a defensive masterclass in Mexico City, able to hold the chasing Vergne off for much of the race despite having lower useable energy.
Duval, on the other hand, seems to have driven his last race for the American team. He has had a torrid season, marred by accidents and retirements and he chose to uphold his DTM commitments over the Formula E race in Paris. His results and attitude could cause owner Jay Penske to look elsewhere for a more committed driver. Dragon are a far cry from the team they were—but if they can develop their technology, they stand a chance of being competitive in season 4.
The Monegasque team has had a relatively quiet but unstable season. Their successful powertrain of season 2 was retained but it was the details within the technology that were refined. The older technology, however, caused the team to fall behind the rest of the pack. Many teams had moved on and introduced new technology and concepts to their cars, leaving Venturi behind.
They also suffered a few blows in terms of their driver line up. They lost the experienced Mike Conway before season 3 even started, the British driver choosing to focus on his Toyota WEC commitments. Maro Engel, a familiar face within DTM, was brought in to replace the departing Conway; he has shown some promise but remains inconsistent, still adapting to electric racing. Venturi also lost Stéphane Sarrazin to Techeetah, bringing in rookie Tom Dillmann to take his vacant seat.
Dillmann has so far impressed in season 3, finding his feet before finishing in the points in the last three races. Such instability can have contributed by Venturi’s poor showing this season. Dillmann hasn’t been given enough time to show his potential and Engel too was a novice, both drivers have done a fairly good job, given the machinery they’ve been given. However, if Venturi refine their technology, they may want to cast their eye over the paddock and bring in new drivers who could push their cars to the next level.
Panasonic Jaguar Racing
The new boys to Formula E have certainly had a season to remember. They entered season 3 through a more traditional approach—choosing to create their own powertrain and their own technology, rather than partnering with another team. It certainly seems to be a risk that was worth taking. Although suffering from a shaky start, Jaguar have learned fast and applied these revisions to their car, and there is no doubt that this development will continue into season 4.
Mitch Evans and Adam Carroll soon began to use the machinery they had been given to their advantage. Evans was consistent in qualifying and managed to secure Jaguar’s highest position of fourth place at the Mexico City ePrix. He has produced some excellent results despite driving a car still in the early stages of its development. It is expected that he will be retained.
Carroll on the other hand, has not performed as well. However, these teething issues are part and parcel of being a relatively new Formula E team. Carroll is proven as an experienced driver in many other motorsport series’ and his involvement with the team as they work through their infancy could keep him with the team. Stability could a key as Jaguar seek to refine and develop their car into one that shows competitiveness. Placing an inexperienced driver into Carroll’s seat could hinder the remarkable progress that Jaguar have made. No matter what happens with their line up, expect Jaguar to further develop their technology, drawing influence from what other teams have produced over the course of season 3.
Season 4 of Formula E will undoubtedly be interesting. The technology within the powertrain will continue to be refined in preparation for the one-car set up in season 5. Manufacturers will push the boundaries, using tried and tested technology and newly refined concepts in order to fight for the honour of the Teams’ Championship.
Mercedes and Porsche could also have a role in the new season, despite not coming in until season 5. They could choose to partner with a team in order to exchange data and technology. Do not expect either team to enter the series unprepared. In season 3, nine rookies entered the series either for a single race or an entire season. They all contributed to making the season an interesting one to watch. The uncertainty over some drivers’ seats for season 4 will again make the prospect of fresh blood entering the electric series a exciting one. Whatever happens, it’s certain that Formula E is here to stay and will continue to grow into the new season.
With another Formula E season wrapped up, it’s time to look back over the last twelve races and assess the teams and drivers of the 2016–17 season.
N.B.: All team and driver scores are out of ten. We have included only those drivers who contested at least half of the 2016–17 season with their teams; one-off replacements Conway, Lynn and Gasly, as well as Techeetah’s Ma and Gutiérrez, are therefore not included.
Renault e.Dams (8): Sébastien Buemi (8), Nico Prost (8)
But for a few isolated slip-ups, Renault e.Dams might have enjoyed the perfect campaign in season three. With Sébastien Buemi’s six commanding wins, Nico Prost’s near-perfect run in the points and Pierre Gasly’s superb debut in New York, it was little surprise to see the French team take its third straight teams’ title at the end of the year.
However, with such highlights it’s impossible to ignore those occasions that held Renault back from another double crown this season. The team let itself down more than once with technical disqualifications in Berlin and Montréal, whilst Buemi’s ‘win-or-bust’ results proved his biggest obstacle to a second title; and with such a strong car beneath him, it will be sobering for Prost to finish the season without a single podium to his name. Even for such an all-conquering team, there is still much for Renault to improve upon in season four.
ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport (7): Lucas di Grassi (8), Daniel Abt (7)
For the ABT Schaeffler Audi team, this has largely been a season of two halves. On the one hand, Lucas di Grassi claimed his first Drivers’ Championship by way of two sensational wins, five further podiums and three pole positions, and an on-form Daniel Abt recorded no lower finish than seventh, helping the team close to within twenty points of title-winners Renault.
But on the other hand, the ABT FE02 clearly lacked the pace di Grassi needed to fight Buemi (not to mention Rosenqvist and Bird, too) all season long; in the hands of Daniel Abt, it also proved frustratingly unreliable. Hopes will be high that Audi’s full factory involvement next season will bring both the speed and consistency ABT needs to mount a true dual title campaign.
Mahindra Racing (9.5): Nick Heidfeld (7), Felix Rosenqvist (9)
It should go without saying that Felix Rosenqvist was the standout star of season three, but we’ll say it again anyway. Four podiums, three pole positions, two fastest laps and one ePrix win would constitute a great season for any driver, but for a series rookie Rosenqvist’s results have been nothing short of remarkable. The Swede still has a few inconsistencies to iron out, but there’s no doubt that he’s a Formula E champion waiting to happen.
As for Nick Heidfeld, kudos must be given for his ability to keep up with his rapid young teammate despite being a veritable pensioner in driver’s years. With five podiums and plenty of points helping Mahindra to third in the teams’ championship, any calls for Quick Nick to retire have been conclusively put down this season.
DS Virgin Racing (7): Sam Bird (8), José María López (7)
After a promising pre-season it proved a slow start to season three for DS Virgin, as Sam Bird’s two early podiums were offset by multiple mechanical glitches and José María López took time to find his feet in single-seaters again after a long touring car career.
But in the latter half of the season the team really came together in the way testing promised. New York, with Bird’s double win and Alex Lynn’s pole on debut, was undoubtably their peak, and López’ development from unsettled rookie to double podium finisher proved his critics wrong. If the team can get on top of its technical issues, Bird and López will surely prove ones to watch in next season’s title battle.
Techeetah had a lot of promise coming into the season with Renault power behind them, but it took a while for the Chinese team to come good on that potential. Mechanical failures in Hong Kong and Paris and Jean-Éric Vergne’s terminal collision with Nelson Piquet in Monaco robbed the team of chances to challenge at the front, whilst regular changes to its driver lineup made it difficult for Techeetah to settle down and build on its foundations.
But once the team recruited Stéphane Sarrazin to partner Vergne for the final six rounds, things improved. Vergne finished each of the remaining races in the points and led Sarrazin to two double podiums in New York and Montréal, not to mention to his and Techeetah’s first ePrix win in the season finale—without doubt a superb end to what might have been a torrid campaign.
NextEV NIO (7): Nelson Piquet (7), Oliver Turvey (6)
Compared with last year’s bottom-of-the-table finish, season three was a vast improvement for NextEV. A front row lockout in Hong Kong, double points finish in Buenos Aires and fourth for Nelson Piquet in Monaco helped lift the Chinese team up to a comfortable sixth by season’s end; however, NextEV’s persistent problems with energy consumption in race trim—something with which Oliver Turvey seemed to have especial difficulty handling—robbed both drivers of valuable points on many occasions.
MS Amlin Andretti (5): António Félix da Costa (4), Robin Frijns (6)
Andretti would have been hoping for better than seventh place this season, having picked up two of the hottest properties on last year’s driver market and a technical alliance with BMW, but an uncompetitive ATEC-02 powertrain left Frijns’ and da Costa’s abilities untapped. Da Costa in particular struggled, logging just the one points finish with a clever pit strategy in Hong Kong; and while Frijns made it into the top ten five times, his seat is reportedly in jeopardy for season four.
Despite picking up Faraday Future backing and appearing rapid in pre-season testing, eighth place and a meagre 33 points proved all Dragon Racing could achieve in season three. The US outfit’s main problem lay with the pace of its new Penske powertrain, though matters were not helped by its drivers clashing on track and retiring from a total of six events. Loïc Duval seemed to come off the worst, even with a greater final points total than d’Ambrosio, and may be left looking for a drive elsewhere this summer.
Venturi (7): Maro Engel (8), Tom Dillmann (7)
On paper Venturi’s third season in Formula E looked like something of a backward slide, slumping from sixth to ninth in the standings with even low-key points finishes a rarity. But considering the Monegasque team’s reliability concerns in early testing, their progress this season tells a better story than their results. Maro Engel especially impressed, qualifying second in Mexico and finishing fifth in Monaco, whilst Tom Dillmann’s four points finishes from just seven starts says much about the Frenchman’s future potential.
Panasonic Jaguar Racing (7): Adam Carroll (5), Mitch Evans (7)
Jaguar was eager to play down expectations ahead of its maiden Formula E outing. Initially that modesty seemed well-founded, as the British marque started the season a long way off the points, but a strong push during the European leg brought Jaguar into regular midfield contention. Mitch Evans took the team’s best result with fourth in Mexico City and generally had the measure of his older teammate in both qualifying and race pace; with the driver market still wide open for season four, Adam Carroll may find his seat hard to hold on to from the bottom of the standings.
Renault e.Dams claimed their third straight Formula E teams’ title at Montréal’s season finale, but their celebrations were overshadowed by Lucas di Grassi’s triumph over Sébastien Buemi in the Drivers’ Championship.
Going into the Canadian title decider, it was looking almost impossible for anyone but Buemi to take the top honours this season. The Swiss driver had been a man transformed by his first title win last season—opening up his defence with a hat-trick of wins, Buemi went on to claim victory in almost every race he contested, and such was his form that he still held the championship lead before Montréal despite missing the two previous races in New York City.
But on arrival in Canada, Buemi seemed like a different driver altogether to the one in control of his last ePrix in Berlin. An uncharacteristic off in practice saw him damage his chassis against the wall, denting his confidence ahead of qualifying and handing him a hefty grid penalty for race one; then, starting the race from twelfth, Buemi’s cautious approach left him right in the heart of the opening lap scrum, where he picked up steering damage from contact with Robin Frijns’ Andretti, which severely hampered his progress early on.
By contrast, di Grassi was having every bit the race he needed. His third pole of the season narrowed the championship deficit to just seven points, and after seeing off Jean-Éric Vergne at the start the Brazilian raced away into an early lead. He was then largely not seen again, and despite a late safety car bringing Vergne right onto his tail in the final laps, di Grassi took his second win of the season ahead of Vergne and Stéphane Sarrazin, and with it the lead of the championship by six points—this lead later became eighteen points, when Buemi was disqualified from his eventual fourth-place finish after his rebuilt car was found to be three kilograms underweight.
This stacked the odds considerably in di Grassi’s favour ahead of the second and final race of the weekend. All the Abt driver needed to do to clinch the title was finish ahead of Buemi, and even if his rival went on to win the race, any result within the top four would have given di Grassi enough points to become champion.
Nevertheless, Sunday did not start smoothly for di Grassi. A scruffy Super Pole lap left him only fifth on the grid behind Felix Rosenqvist, Sam Bird, Jean-Éric Vergne and Nick Heidfeld; di Grassi then dropped back at the start and was almost tagged by his teammate going through the first corner.
But compared to his title rival, di Grassi’s troubles were nothing. For the second time in Montréal Buemi started way down the grid, in thirteenth place after making a mistake on his flying qualifying lap. That once again placed him in the firing line at the first corner, and as the pack bunched up he was hit from behind in the braking zone, this time by António Félix da Costa in the sister Andretti. The contact was enough to dislodge one of Buemi’s rear wheel guards, and as it flapped loose from the back of his Renault the stewards called him in to the pits with a black and orange flag—by the time he rejoined the track, Buemi was in last place and his title hopes lay in tatters.
Meanwhile, as Buemi’s impromptu stop all but sealed the title for di Grassi, the front of the field was playing host to a tight race for the win between polesitter Rosenqvist and a charging Vergne.
The Frenchman had been able to eat into Rosenqvist’s five-second lead after saving the energy for a later stop, and partway through the second stint had no trouble breezing past the Mahindra for the lead. Vergne then set about using the remainder of his saved energy to ease clear of Rosenqvist—by the time the chequered flag fell at the end of lap 37, Vergne had built up a buffer of almost a second to seal his and the Techeetah team’s first Formula E victory.
Rosenqvist followed Vergne home in second, despite coming under further pressure from José María López in the closing laps, and with his fifth podium of the season triumphed in his battle with Sam Bird for third in the final standings; Bird himself crossed the line fourth ahead of Rosenqvist’s teammate Nick Heidfeld, who had fallen back from an earlier podium position.
Incoming champion di Grassi had been set to finish sixth, but with his title already secured he swapped places with teammate Daniel Abt on the final lap and finished seventh instead. Stéphane Sarrazin came eighth, Jérôme d’Ambrosio closed a difficult season for Dragon with two points in ninth, and Tom Dillmann took the fourth points finish of his rookie season with tenth. The final fastest lap of the season was set by Nico Prost, who finished outside the top ten for the first time this season and fell to sixth in the overall standings.
Renault e.Dams’ three non-scoring results in Montréal allowed Abt Schaeffler Audi to close up in the teams’ standings, though in the end the French marque still had twenty points in hand to take its third consecutive crown.
Mahindra finished its best Formula E season to date by beating DS Virgin to third, and in spite of numerous driver changes across the season Techeetah ended its impressive debut campaign as the fifth-fastest team ahead of NextEV NIO.
There were no changes in position with the final four teams—Andretti, Dragon, Venturi and Jaguar—even though each team scored at least one top ten finish this weekend. The latter two are unlikely to be disheartened by coming ninth and tenth, considering both have shown great improvement from starting the season well out of contention for the points; as for Andretti and Dragon, teams used to scoring podiums in past seasons, finishing down in the latter half of the table will leave much for the two American outfits to consider over the off-season.
The end of the 2016–17 Formula E season is upon us. In a few days time, the chequered flag will fall at the second round of the Montréal ePrix, and the champion of season three will be crowned.
Mathematically speaking, there are still four drivers in contention for the title going into Montréal—Sébastien Buemi, Lucas di Grassi, Felix Rosenqvist, and Sam Bird. But as anyone who has followed this season will know, it would take something truly special to see three of those four drivers come out on top come Sunday.
Bird, who was propelled into the top four by his double victory in New York, would need to score every available point this weekend—both wins, both poles and both fastest laps—with Buemi scoring none at all if he has any hopes of taking the season three title. Nor does Rosenqvist have much more margin for error, sitting just four points ahead of Bird and 53 behind Buemi; in fact, this pair will be more concerned by Nico Prost, who at twenty points behind them will be a major threat for third overall.
Di Grassi has the best chance of sneaking through to the title, having both arguably the second-fastest car on the grid and only a ten-point deficit to overcome. However, that gap will likely feel more like a gulf psychologically, considering the opportunity he missed in Buemi’s absence to take the lead of the championship in New York. There is still time for di Grassi to turn things around, but it would take a level of performance the Brazilian has frankly yet to show this season.
In the teams’ championship, the top spot is unsurprisingly safe in the hands of Renault e.Dams. ABT Schaeffler Audi, however, will have their hands full fending off Mahindra for second place in what has been by far the Indian team’s best season yet; with just twelve points separating the two squads, another podium for Rosenqvist or Nick Heidfeld could be enough to lift Mahindra to an outstanding best-of-the-rest come Sunday evening.
DS Virgin could move up to take third, providing Bird or José María López can build on the team’s dominant New York performance and recover the 29 points by which they trail Mahindra. The series’ two Chinese teams, Techeetah and NextEV, look set to finish fifth and sixth respectively—an impressive result considering the former is in its debut season and the latter finished last year in last place.
Behind them, the US outfits Andretti and Dragon Racing are locked on thirty points apiece and will both be desperate to break that tie. António Félix da Costa will be especially hungry for points, having yet to score since the season opener in Hong Kong whilst his teammate Robin Frijns sits in twelfth with double the Portuguese driver’s points total.
But as well as each other, Andretti and Dragon will need to keep their eyes on Venturi and Jaguar, who lurk just two and nine points behind respectively. For Jaguar, the opportunity to finish their first season in Formula E as high as seventh will be a major inspiration for the team, and in particular for Mitch Evans, who has acclimatised to the series quickly in his rookie season and scored the lion’s share of his team’s points.
Jaguar will no doubt need Evans, and Adam Carroll too, to have a strong weekend in Canada if they are to finish above Venturi at the very least. Like Jaguar, the Monegasque team enjoys its own pairing of points-capable rookies in Maro Engel and Tom Dillmann, and Engel especially will be someone of whom the lower midfield teams will be very wary: pumped up from his maiden DTM win in Moscow last weekend, the German should have all the necessary momentum to hunt down those few points his team needs to beat Andretti and Dragon.
Although the sharp end of the two championships looks to be a foregone conclusion in Buemi’s and Renault’s favour, 2017’s inaugural Montréal ePrix still has plenty of room to spring a few surprises. Stay tuned to ThePitCrewOnline for all the action and updates across the weekend.