Why 2019/20 will be the most exciting Formula E season ever
With manufacturer support arriving from the likes of Mercedes and Porsche alongside a contigency of fantastic drivers and exciting cities, Formula E looks to level up next season.
Season five of Formula E was somewhat a breakout year for the relatively new all-electric race series. After experiencing four "building years", the series introduced a new chassis with a futuristic Batmobile look, along with drivers such as Felipe Massa and Stoffel Vandoorne joining the fray as well as new circuits in exotic locations to boot. Formula E was going places last season, and the racing didn't disappoint either, with eight different winners from the first eight races showing just how competitive the running order was. And eventually, through all the combative driving and unpredictability throughout the season, it was Jean-Eric Vergne that would repeat his championship success of 12 months prior to become Formula E's first ever two-time champion in it's short history.
And now, with the New York City finale being over a month ago, it's time to look forward to season six, and what could potentially make this coming season the most exciting yet. With the possibility of seeing perhaps the strongest driver grid so far, alongside new races in places like Seoul, South Korea and returning cities such as London, the season could reach further lofty heights. But the most anticipated aspect of the coming campaign is definitely the introduction of two German giant manufacturers in Mercedes and Porsche. And with the series already boasting the likes Jaguar, BMW, Nissan and Audi as current competitors, there's no doubting that Formula E is the place to be at the moment.
Now, with all that being said, let's take a more detailed look at what could make season six of Formula E the greatest season yet.
The new kids on the block
Following their all-dominating period in the World Endurance Championship and sports car racing in general over the last 20 years, Porsche have decided to "start from zero" with a brand new project. Their introduction into Formula E is arguably the most anticipated arrival into any motorsport series in modern history. The most successful manufacturer of all-time across all disciplines of sports car racing has it's eyes set on electric glory, and with drivers Andre Lotterer and Need Jani at the helm, there's no doubting their credentials. Since announcing the project two years ago, the German manufacturer has done extensive testing in preparation for pre-season testing, which is due to begin in October at the famous Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia. Jani and Lotterer have previous experience with the factory Porsche team in the WEC, so they'll integrate with ease, and especially in Lotterer's case, with the German driver having extensive knowledge of Formula E which will help Porsche progress as the season goes on. But don't underestimate Neel Jani. The Swiss driver has a very impressive resume, with a 24 of Le Mans crown, an A1 Grand Prix championship and GP2 wins under his belt. It may be a building year for Porsche, but expect fireworks from them sooner rather than later.
Aother intriguing entry will be the debut of Formula One conquering team - Mercedes. Running side by side with their Grand Prix program, they will have a full works entry in Formula E too. Just like Porsche, it will be their first foray in all-electric racing, although it's no secret that the HWA Racelab team of last season was effectively a Mercedes team in privateer clothing. They may have a head start going into this coming season, especially ahead of Porsche. As season five was winding down, HWA Racelab were putting some great results together, with Stoffel Vandoorne showing some serious pace in qualifying and races. Something that Mercedes don't have sorted for the coming season is a driver lineup. It's strongly believed that Vandoorne will be retained, but alongside who is a different question entirely. While Gary Paffett did a great job in giving HWA all the experience to progress the project forward, he just didn't show the pace and race craft needed to excel in this discipline. Recent rumours are floating around that Formula On exile Esteban Gutierrez could partner Vandoorne for Mercedes' debut season starting this November. It would be a good move, as it would keep their F1 and FE matters separate, so they're not distracted from the potentially massive decision of dropping Valtteri Bottas in favour of Esteban Ocon for 2020 in Formula One. Using Gutierrez would be a great solution, as he is already a test and reserve driver for the manufacturer, and does has previous in Formula E.
The return of new and old faces
As if the debuts of Stoffel Vandoorne and Felipe Massa last season weren't big enough coups for Formula E, it appears they're adding to the calibre of drivers for season six. It was announced just last week that Brendon Hartley would be racing with GEOX Dragon Racing in 2019/20. He will be combining his World Endurance Championship commitments with Toyota and his new commitment to Penske in Formula E, in what will be a very busy "off-season" for the Former F1 Kiwi superstar. It's fair to say that Hartley didn't get the rub of the green during his short tenure as a Formula One driver, getting a surprise call up to race for Toro Rosso at the back-end of 2017 at the ripe old age of 27. He found the majority of his success in sports car racing however, winning two World Championships with Porsche, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2017. If things go well for Brendon during his debut season of all-electric racing, then he could be in the running for a full-time Porsche factory drive somewhere down the line, given he has a very strong relationship with the German manufacturer.
As discussed above, the return to Formula E for Neel Jani and potentially Esteban Gutierrez may also be a great addition to the season six grid, but the fun does not stop there. There's very strong rumours coming out of DS Techeetah that BMW stalwart Antonio Felix da Costa could be joining Jean-Eric Vergne at the championship winning team for 2019/20. If this materialises, then there could be two, if not one seat open at BMW for this coming season. It looks like Alexander Sims' chance of returning to the German manufacturer for another season hangs in the balance, with a 50/50 chance of being retained. The Munich squad have a huge pool of drivers to pick from that could fill Felix da Costa's seat if he leaves. But, they have their eyes on one driver currently in Formula E that had somewhat of a standout season, and that is 22-year old Maximilian Gunther. The German ace had a great year, outscoring his illustrious team-mate Jose Maria Lopez comprehensively, and raising a few eyebrows up and down the paddock with some standout drives. But as previously mentioned, they have a rich pool of drivers from DTM, IMSA, and their previous run in WEC to choose from. Expect names such as Nick Catsburg, Philipp Eng, Tom Blomqvist and Augusto Farfus to potentially make the rounds until the call is made.
29-year old Brendon Hartley continues his unusual motorsport odyssey with Penske in Formula E in 2019/20.
Location, location, location
The wonderful thing about Formula E is the potentially endless number of cities that the series could visit to spread the message of super fast electric cars with zero emissions. Last year was no exception, with the series visiting a couple of new cities for the first time. The return of racing in Switzerland in 2018 in Zurich was not a one off, with another race being staged in the capital city of Bern on a rollercoaster ride of a circuit, and possibly the most bonkers layout of all the season five circuits. Another brand new city that made its debut was the hawaain-esque Sanya, China. With Formula E making it's inaugural appearance in Beijing in 2014, moving to this exotic location seemed like a full circle moment for the series, and the track didn't disappoint. The narrow and fast streets made it more of a challenge for the drivers than the other cars themselves. With palm trees and swimmings pools everywhere the eye could see, it felt more like Miami than China.
This coming season sees the return of some tried and tested classics in Mexico City, Hong Kong, Rome, Paris and Berlin Tempelhof. But the return of London has the people talking, especially with a double header finale inside and outside of the ExCeL Arena. The formative years of Formula E were put in the history books with finale races in London, with Nelson Piquet Jr. winning the inaugural championship and Sebastian Buemi sealing his first championship the following year. We also a have a brand new country entering the calendar in 2019/20, with Formula E visiting South Korea for the first time. An exact circuit layout hasn't been revealed yet, but its thought to be in the Gwanghwamun region of Seoul. This will be the first time in seven years that Korea has held a top-tier motorsport event since the 2013 Korean Grand Prix at the now derelict Yeongam circuit.
So, if these are not the reasons that will make you tune in for another thrilling season of Formula E, then I don't know what will. There has never been a better time to watch as some of the best drivers on planet earth race in the fastest electric race cars ever created, on some of the most iconic city streets ever seen. Porsche and Mercedes are coming to win, Brendon Hartley is arriving into Formula E to bolster the driver lineup once again, and London and Seoul are going to put on a show like no other.
Formula E finally has a voice worth hearing, and quite frankly, you'd be foolish not to listen to it.