The first two rounds of Formula E get underway this weekend in Saudi Arabia with the all-electric single seater championship marking the start of the eighth season and the last season for the current second generation (Gen2) cars.

 

Season eight being the last year of the current generation of cars means there will be little development of powertrains for this season compared to last. There are some changes however, a new safety car, new drivers and new tracks. If you’re not familiar with Formula E then the start of the season is a great time to get involved.

The Basics

Formula E is an electric open-wheel single-seater championship with sustainability at its core. Everything down to the Michelin Pilot Sport for Formula E tyres are designed to make the series more sustainable. The durability and all weather versatile nature of the tyres means they are only changed during a race in the rare event of a puncture; offering a sustainable alternative to the thirteen sets of dry tyres F1 teams can get through over a weekend.

 

While the bodies of Formula E cars are identical, powertrains can be developed further by manufacturers meaning that the eleven teams aren’t equal. The current Gen2 cars are all limited to a maximum of 250kW of power delivered from a 385kg battery pack, reaching a top speed of 175mph. When in races however, the limit is capped at 220kW of power.

Courtesy ABB Formula E

Crucial to a Formula E race is the management of battery power and regenerative braking. While long gone are the days of car swaps during races, drivers do still need to manage power usage and regeneration during races. This means that hard breaking zones are needed on circuits to limit energy usage.
If a driver can manage their battery usage well – compared their rivals – then they will be more competitive in the closing laps of the race meaning the closing laps are often action packed.
Formula E is also the only motor racing series in the world that lets fans play an active role in influencing the outcome of any round. Fanboost gives the driver with the most votes a 100kJ jolt of energy to give them a competitive edge in a race.

The all-new qualifying format

This season a new qualifying format has been introduced to help make the qualifying more stable and more predictable somewhat – however this is Formula E nothing is predictable.

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Two groups of eleven drivers battle at 220kW to set a lap time, with the fastest four from each group progressing onto the next phase. This leaves 8 drivers who will face off in “Duels” at 250kW over a quarter final, semi-final and final. The drivers that don’t make the quarter-finals, line up accordingly in their first group raking. (They promise us it will make sense when we watch it!)

The Teams and Drivers

There are eleven teams currently in Formula E: Mercedes EQ, Jaguar TCS Racing, DS Techeetah, Envision Racing, Avalanche Andretti, Rokit Venturi Racing, Tag Heuer Porsche, Mahindra Racing, Nissan E Dams, Dragon Penski and Nio 333 Racing.

If you already follow Formula E, then you’ll be aware that Audi left the championship last year but Envision Formula E team will still drive with an Audi powertrain. In similar fashion, BMW sold their shares in the Andretti Formula E team to Avalanche but the team will still be using a BMW powertrain this season.

The defending champions Mercedes EQ will be hoping to match their successes from season seven. Defending Formula E champion Nyck De Vries and former McLaren F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne will  be behind the behind the wheels and along with a new qualifying format, Mercedes could be the ones to beat this season.

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While the Mercedes EQ drivers have not always been on the podium they were consistently strong in races, making up places in sometimes poor qualifying performance.

After gaining momentum last season, Jaguar TCS are going into Season 8 with the prospect of taking the championship crown from Mercedes EQ. With an experienced driver line up of Sam Bird and Mitch Evans they are another team to watch this season.

No need to forget DS Techeeta though. 2019-20 series champion Antonio Felix da Costa and winner of season four and five, Jean-Eric Vergne, will be looking to take the crown from Mercedes EQ this season. We could at least expect a top three championship finish for DS Techeeta this year.

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Envision Racing finished 5th last season and will be hoping to progress further to the front of the grid. Inconsistency is what hampered any attempt at challenging for championships last season, but the team are capable of setting good pace.

Much like DS Techeetah, Nissan E.Dams are a ‘bread and butter’ Formula E team. However, last season their performance was not exactly anything to shout about – well maybe for all the wrong reasons. This year the team will be hoping to make serious improvements and get back to fighting at the front of the grid. This year Maximillian Guenther joins Sebastian Buemi at Nissan E.Dams and they’ll both be hoping for a better season than last.

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Avalanche Andretti under their new name after the departure of BMW are hoping to reach for glory this season. Putting their faith in Rookie Oliver Askew and the consistent performer, Jake Dennis. Dennis came 3rd in the championship last year and the Brit could be an outside chance to take the number one spot this year. However, luck will have to be on Avalanche Andretti’s side.

Rokit Venturi Racing will be welcoming Lucas di Grassi this season after the departure of Audi. di Grassi has been in every season of Formula E to date and will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the team. Together with Edoardo Mortara, who finished 2nd last season, Rokit Venturi could be fighting for wins in season eight.

Last season was a disappointing result for Tag Heuer Porsche with the team finishing only 8th. Inconsistency and neither of their drivers able to make it to the front end of the field led to a painful season for the team. They will be hoping to make progress this year however, retaining their two drivers Andre Lotterer and Pascal Wehrlein.

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Mahindra welcome Oliver Rowland to the team this year and along with Alexander Sims, the team could pull of a race victory this year. We are likely to see them at the back of the grid though but Mahindra are a great underdog team to get behind.

Dragon Penske Autosport have often found themselves at the bottom of the grid in recent seasons. This season the team will be using a NIO powertrain but it is unlikely the team will make much improvement on last season. A strong driver line up in the form of former Alfa Romeo F1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi and Sergio Sette Camara will mean they will likely fight for positions in the midfield.

Courtesy ABB Formula E

 

NIO 333 racing is the backmarker of Formula E. The team have finished last in the past three seasons. This year, Formula 2 star Dan Ticktum joins the team in his rookie season and along with appointing a new senior management team, NIO 333 will be hoping to finish at least one place higher this season.

When to watch

In the UK and Ireland, Formula E will be broadcast on Channel 4. While many of the European races will be live on the TV channel, the other races (including the season opener) will be streamed on the Channel 4 Sport YouTube channel.