Testing has been completed and the sixth season of ABB Formula E officially starts in three weeks time with the Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia. Last Lap previews the upcoming season.
The double race weekend will kick off the premier electric championship in style.The second season featuring the Gen 2 car looks set to carry on the intense competition that epitomised Formula E in 2018/19. Last year a different driver won the first nine races and a different team, the first eight.
With overall testing times being only a second between 22 cars, calling the shots is only going to get harder. (But I’ll give it a go)
How Formula E works
To those who don’t know much about Formula E, this brief guide will hopefully answer a few questions.
Formula E is obviously the top electric car racing series in the world.
The car used is the Spark SRT05e or the ‘Gen 2’ car with batteries supplied by McLaren Advanced Technology. All the teams are allowed to develop their own electric powertrains.
There are 12 teams and 24 drivers competing in the championship which is always very close.
The event is normally one day long on a Saturday to keep the event moving on the day. Practice, qualifying and the race all take place on the same day.
Qualifying uses a group stage system. There are four groups and these are determined by championship order. Drivers higher in the championship go out first for their group stage and at the end of the four groups the top six placed drivers take part in a super pole session. Track evolution tends to keep the grids mixed in terms of pace guaranteeing race action.
The race is 45 minutes long, plus an extra lap. There are no mandatory pitstops. The drivers must manage the battery level to make sure that they make it the end of the race and with this not being to a determined number of laps, only to time, it can cause some upsets as seen in Mexico last year where both Nissan drivers ran out of energy with a lap to go after running in podium positions and Pascal Wehrlein’s ran out on the final corner.
Fanboost is a short burst of power that can be unlocked by the drivers if they are voted for by fans. Normally it is achieved by the same drivers as they have the biggest fanbase, usually drivers that have moved across from Formula 1 do well with Stoffel Vandoorne being the prime example from last season.
Attack mode is a zone on the track which the drivers have to drive through, off the racing line, to unlock 35kW more energy to use for determined intervals. It adds up to 10 minutes over the race and is usually two five minute bursts. It is compulsory to take the attack mode meaning that every driver goes off line the same amount of times.
What happened in testing?
If you didn’t read our wonderful testing report from a couple of weeks back then here is a short summary of the week.
BMW-i Andretti once again topped testing with their new driver Max Gunther. Gunther was followed by Mahindra racer, Pascal Wehrlein and GEOX Dragon’s new recruit, Nico Muller, at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia.
BMW set the pace in the 2018 test with Gunther’s predecessor, Antonio Felix Da Costa, topping the times and going on to win the first race of the season in Saudi Arabia, and BMW nearly won the second round of the year in Marrakech as well until Da Costa and his former teammate Alexander Sims made contact. This early pace could prove critical early in the season.
Gunther’s time was over a second and a half quicker than Da Costa’s from last year, with a 1.15.087 set on the final day of the test. 21 other cars were within a second out of the 24 car field despite thousands of miles of their own private testing, when they come together to be only within a second is Only the two NIO 333 drivers were off the mark.
Audi team principal Allan McNish said in the team principal’s press conference “if you’re a tenth off you may be on the second row two years ago but you’re going to be on the fourth or fifth row in season 6.”
A smattering of new regulations to refine the series will be introduced for Season 6.
Twin motor systems will be banned as a cost saving measure to limit teams to one motor and save them developing multiple. Nissan famously had an innovative dual motor system last year and only had a few months to redevelop a single motor system for the new season with all designs having to be submitted for approval by the FIA at the end of August. To be on the pace with such a large change in Valencia is testament to the quality of the Nissan e.dams squad who won the championship (as Renault e.dams) in Season 2.
Attack mode was one of the highlights of the new regulations for Season 5. The drivers having to go off line slightly and through a detection point to gain a power advantage added a level of excitement to the race that remained consistently during the time limit. The new rules regarding Attack mode involve the increase of the power available during the period from 225kW to 235kW (approx. 313 bhp) with the average race power output being 200kW (approx. 270bhp). Attack mode will also be unable to activate under the safety car and full course yellow periods to ensure that drivers still lose the same track position during the race.
Each car will lose 1kwh (out of the 52kwh they have for the 45 minute race) of energy per lap to avoid risky moves and more banzai restarts where drivers would attempt overtakes with worn tyres and too much energy that would cause more issues.
An additional point will be handed out to the fastest driver in the qualifying group stages. The driver who secures pole position will still achieve three points.
During testing, two trial races were contested to trial a new system that would mean that drivers would lose 1kwh per lap under the safety car to make sure drivers do not contest the restart with excess power and worn tyres. This is wholly supported by the drivers as a concept. The two races were won by Vandoorne and Buemi.
Teams and Drivers
Five of the teams retain the same driver lineup. Audi, Mahindra, Nissan, Venturi and Virgin.
The driver roster also features five rookies to the series, both Dragon drivers, Le Mans winner and former F1 driver Brendon Hartley and DTM challenger Nico Muller, F2 champion Nyck De Vries will drive for Mercedes, 2016 Le Mans winner, Neel Jani will drive for Porsche and James Calado is promoted to a race seat for Jaguar.
The much touted newcomers of Porsche and Mercedes additionally have Andre Lotterer and Stoffel Vandoorne respectively. Porsche has been building up their start from zero campaign whereas Mercedes entered their HWA club last year to tread the water and are also supplying powertrains to Venturi. Neither team expect to be fighting for the championship in their first seasons against a very established and competitive field.
Antonio Felix Da Costa joins championship winning squad DS Techeetah to partner reigning double world champion Jean-Eric Vergne after a stellar campaign for BMW last season. BMW called up Max Gunther to replace him after his few outings for Dragon last season in which he comfortably outperformed Jose Maria Lopez. He partners Alexander Sims.
NIO 333 Racing keep the highly rated Oliver Turvey and Ma Qing Hua makes a return to the series.
The season kicks off in Diriyah with a 2 race double header and continues across 12 other races in five continents in 10 different capital cities.
Seoul and Jakarta join the calendar and London returns with a new venue at the ExCel centre featuring a partially indoors and outdoors track to replace the old Battersea park track from early seasons.
|1||Ad Diriyah ePrix||Saudi Arabia||Ad-Diriyah Street Circuit||22 November 2019|
|2||23 November 2019|
|3||Santiago ePrix||Chile||Parque O’Higgins Circuit||18 January 2020|
|4||Mexico City ePrix||Mexico||Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez||15 February 2020|
|5||Marrakesh ePrix||Morocco||Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan||29 February 2020|
|6||Sanya ePrix||China||Haitang Bay Circuit||21 March 2020|
|7||Rome ePrix||Italy||Circuito Cittadino dell’EUR||4 April 2020|
|8||Paris ePrix||France||Paris Street Circuit||18 April 2020|
|9||Seoul ePrix||South Korea||Seoul Street Circuit||3 May 2020|
|10||Jakarta ePrix||Indonesia||TBA||6 June 2020|
|11||Berlin ePrix||Germany||Tempelhof Airport Street Circuit||21 June 2020|
|12||New York City ePrix||United States||Brooklyn Street Circuit||11 July 2020|
|13||London ePrix||United Kingdom||ExCeL London||25 July 2020|
|14||26 July 2020|
What to expect
You can only expect that it will be insane!
Formula E will subvert expectations and will not go in the direction you will think of! BMW started the season strongly last year but only won the one race. 5 different drivers led the championship and it changed every race for the first nine races.
However you think the season will go, it will definitely involve excellent racing, amazing drama and probably a crash or two.
If it is anything like the standard set by previous seasons, it will be amazing.
The first race is on the 22nd November in Saudi Arabia.