8 reasons why you should get excited about the new Formula E season
It all kicks off in Hong Kong this weekend
Formula E begins its fourth season this weekend when the all-electric series arrives in Hong Kong for a pair of races.
In just three years the championship has established itself as a serious player in international motorsport, attracting major manufacturers and a host of world-class drivers.
Here’s what there is to look forward to in season four.
1. BEST DRIVER LINE-UP YET
The first few seasons of Formula E featured a handful of questionable drivers.
But the 2017-18 field is stacked with quality. New additions include three-time Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer, whose immense ability made him the benchmark in LMP1. Among his few genuine rivals was Neel Jani – and he’s in at Dragon Racing.
F1 veteran Kamui Kobayashi will compete in at least the opening round, while former GP3 champion and Williams development driver Alex Lynn gets a full-time gig at DS Virgin. GP2 legend Luca Filippi joins the NextEv NIO team and erstwhile DTM ace Edoardo Mortara lands at Venturi.
They join a host of existing stars to form a stellar grid. Aided by the arrival of major car manufacturers, Formula E has become a destination for top-level pros who wouldn’t be out of place in any top-line series.
2. ANOTHER SEASON OF ACTION-PACKED RACING
At its core, Formula E is about two things: sustainable technology and entertainment.
While the latter can lead to the odd naff gimmick, it’s also given us an abundance of all-action racing.
Okay, it’s not Formula 1 in terms of performance – it’s not even GP3 – but when it’s happening on a street circuit that’s hardly the point. It’s wheel-to-wheel racing between world-class drivers.
Formula E provides frequent overtaking and unpredictability. You don’t have to put it on a pedestal – just enjoy the entertainment factor.
And the title battle is always a must-watch. The first three Formula E championships all went down to the final race before being decided, with two of them still unresolved on the last lap of the season.
Motorsport should always be entertaining. Formula E has got that much right.
3. THE LATEST INSTALMENT OF DI GRASSI VS. BUEMI
Every sport needs a fierce rivalry and Formula E has a cracker in Sebastien Buemi vs. Lucas di Grassi.
It’s fair to say that the series’ two most successful drivers do not get on. They’ve come to blows on track and fought a pair of bitter championship battles, with Buemi triumphing in season two and Di Grassi snatching the title in season three.
Di Grassi’s Audi Sport ABT squad look to have a real competitive advantage this term, but Buemi and the Renault e.dams team will be their closest rivals and the Swiss can never be ruled out of the fight for victory.
Expect this season’s title to once again be a tussle between Buemi and Di Grassi as they vie to become Formula E’s first double champion.
4. NICK HEIDFELD’S 19-YEAR HUNT FOR A RACE WIN
On 24 July 1999 the International Formula 3000 championship staged its sixth round of the season at the A1 Ring in Austria.
Nick Heidfeld remembers that day well – it was the last time he won a single-seater race.
He’s come close on a number of occasions since, most memorably at the very first Formula E race in 2014, but almost two decades later Heidfeld is still searching for his next win.
It's been a while since Quick Nick last saw the top of the podium (Pic: Sutton)
The German now holds the record for most podium finishes without a race victory in Formula 1 and Formula E. While it’s too late to do anything about the first unwanted record, there’s still a chance to break his duck in the all-electric series.
Will this be the year? It’s very possible. Heidfeld’s Mahindra team were competitive last season and are expected to remain so this term. If things go his way, Quick Nick could finally add another trophy to the cabinet.
5. THE FINAL SEASON OF CAR CHANGES
One of the major complaints about Formula E is the mid-race car change. Sure, the dainty little dance the drivers do as they make their way from one car to the other is funny, but it’s hardly in keeping with the ethos of sustainable motorsport.
In the series’ defence, the plan was always to develop away from the two-car system as soon as possible. Thankfully, that time will come in 2018-19 when Formula E racers will be able to complete a full distance in one car.
So this will be the final season of mid-race swaps. Enjoy the strangely mesmerising sight of Jean-Eric Vergne dancing between two identical cars while you still have the chance.
6. MOTOR RACING IN SWITZLERAND
This doesn’t sound like the biggest news until you remember that circuit racing has been banned in Switzerland for more than 60 years following the Le Mans disaster of 1955.
The country has now relaxed the law to allow electric racing, paving the way for Formula E to stage the first major event since the 1954 Swiss Grand Prix.
It promises to be a momentous occasion. Local star Buemi might even crack a smile.
Say cheese Sebastien! (Pic: Sutton)
7. A BARNSTORMING END TO THE SEASON
The early part of the Formula E season is a bit stop-start. It kicks off this weekend but the next race isn’t until mid January, and there are a few month-long gaps.
But at least there’s serious momentum at the back end of the schedule. The season concludes with a pair of North American double-headers: New York on July 14/15 and Montreal two weeks later.
With four races in a fortnight, the championship battle could alter dramatically in a very short space of time.
8. IT'S HERE TO STAY
Like it or not, Formula E is now a major player in global motorsport and it’s only going to get bigger.
This is where car manufacturers want to be and where sponsor money is flowing. Give it a few more seasons and it will be head and shoulders above everything that isn’t called Formula 1.
As well as eliminating the mid-race swap, the new car is said to be a dramatic departure from the current machine. While Formula E currently looks like a scaled down version of F1, this change should allow it to create a distinct visual identity.
And the technology will improve quickly as the likes of Audi, Porsche and Mercedes battle to be champions. Perhaps it’s not the finished product yet, but season four will still be well worth keeping tabs on.