Formula E Saudi Arabian E-Prix


No passing through my dirty air please
10 days before Xmas and in the country of Saudi Arabia is the chosen place and time to flick the on switch on Generation 2 of Formula E. Gone is the car swap and in place we have a brand new futuristic looking car that is far more faster and looks to be a lot of fun.

Gen 1 of Formula E did a great job in establishing the series, bringing in the drivers, attracting the manufacturers and building the grass roots of a fan base. Gen 2 really needs to deliver on a few promises. Already the series brand seems to be focusing less on the environment and more in pulling in the gamers. This season sees the launch of the Ghost Car app which means gamers can drive alongside the live action whilst the race is going on and post vids of themselves taking better lines that the pros. We of course also have the launch of the much talked about Attack Mode.

Attack mode was known for a bit as hyper boost but I prefer the new name. The basic concept is that there is a zone completely offline that drivers can chose to drive through which means later on they will be able to activate a faster race pace. A full 25kwm more speed which computes as a big advantage. Drivers can then chose when to activate this. The thing to remember is that all cars still have a limit on the amount of energy they can use so will have to save energy elsewhere in order to use it to great effect. In my mind this hands advantage to the known good energy savers like Piquet, Di Grassi and Buemi and moves it away from the likes of Vergne and Evans, but I guess we'll see. The boost lasts for 8 mins but might be split into 1, 2 or 4 activation. No real news on this because the powers that be are being very sneaky and not revealing the whereabouts of the activation zone or the amount the boosts are split into until an hour before the race. This is to prevent teams running simulations which is well thought out. On the same tact all races are now 45mins plus 1 lap in order to ensure those gen 2 cars really can last the full distance. Attack mode may turn out to be a big bust but if you break it all down it comes down to a choice between track position or extra speed with a sprinkling of car management on top. That's basically all motorsport so it's just old format in a new way.

That's the rules let's look at the team:

Audi - Commited to a factory team earlier than most and were expected to dominate last year but it failed to materialize until the back end of the season. Now with the new cars it's a complete reset and Audi did not top the time sheets at all during testing. Di Grassi was reg making the top 5 though and Audi have always been about race pace so I'm not counting them out. Di Grassi is one of the best out there and he still has Danny Abt as his team mate who seems to get better every year.

Nissan - so Renault traded out of Formula E to bring their sister brand Nissan in. Great idea as the ratings in Japan for Formula E are huge. Not so great that they've suddenly become mixed up in a financial crime scandal. Nissan greatest asset is Sebastian Buemi who at one point was the most in form race driver in the world and is probably the overall best driver in Formula E. Buemi was meant to be partnered by young gun Alex Albon but Torro Rosso nicked him. So Nissan end up with Oli Rowland who is arguably the better driver anyway. Rowland has a rep for dragging cars up the grid and overtaking at places it shouldn't be possible too. Perfect for Formula E.

Virgin - So Virgin lost their manufacturer over the break with Citreon DS jumping ship. This leaves them as a customer team of Audi which is in no way a bad thing. It does give them less pre-seaaon testing though so its possible they won't be up to speed with their new tech when the season starts. They have Sam Bird though who is always the bridesmaid but finds his way to the front by hook or by crook. The disaster that was Alex Lynn has been replaced by one of my personal favourite drivers Robin Frinjs. Frinjs could be wonderful or anon but I'm very much looking forward to him locking wheels with Buemi again after their pit lane tiff a few years back.

Jaguar - Jag are here for their 3rd season but our resident Jag expert cider_and_toast predicts that they will pull out at end of the year if they don't get results. Testing hasn't looked too promising but they do have two great drivers. You grudgingly have to give Piquet respect for being the best energy saver on the grid and Evans just has raw speed. Speed needs to be harnessed though and I think Evans may struggle with the new format.

BMW Andretti - BMW have been lurking around Formula E since it started but have now taken the full plunge with Andretti. They've also shocked everyone (and themselves) by topping testing times in every session. Driver wise they have the highly rated Felix Da Costa who only needs a good car to become great. This year they also have a dark horse in Alexander Simms. With pretty much no budget Simms has been an eternal test driver jumping into series when he can. Usually when he jumps in he wins. Could be sensational or I could be wrong.

Teechetah - Last years romance story being the customer team that beat all the manufacturer giants. This year they've picked up DS Citreon as a works entry. DS have always been near the front with Virgin so they should be in the running but this is Gen 2 and they may get swallowed up. Probably the best driver line up on the grid in reigning Champion Vergne and multiple Le Man's winner Lotterer. Both are drivers not to be messed with and are not afraid of being aggressive with other drivers and even with each other. Until last year Vergne was seems as a bit of an energy waster which could come back to haunt him. Great in qualifying though - still the only driver I've ever seen take pole going backwards over the line.

Dragon - basically Penske by any other name. They've been in Formula E since the start and even picked up a few wins but last year was terrible. Team have chosen to drop D'ambrosio and keep Lopez who did at least show some speed. They've also gone for Gunther who is a young driver who has done some good things in junior formula without setting the world alight. I'm not really expecting much from Dragon. They are in danger of being swallowed up by this series.

Mahindra - Always a fan favourite team as they are really good with interaction and were really one of the front runners last year. That was mainly because of a certain Felix Rosenqvist. It's not being talked about much but Rosenqvist jumped ship from Formula E to Indy Cars and Mahindra have lost its young talent. They are attempting to replace him with Pascal Wehrlein who could be a great hit or could revert to Princess Pascal mode. Wehrlein's signing is odd because he left the Merc stable because he didn't want to do Formula E and then promptly signed for Mahindra. I don't get it either. Quick Nick Heidfeld has finally hung up his gloves but remains an advisor for the team. He has been replaced by vet Jerome D'ambrosio who can be brilliant one minute and awful the next.

NIO - NIO took the drivers championship in the first year but went the wrong way with the powertrain in season 2 and have never really recovered. They do have great one lap pace though and Oliver Turvey was often seen sticking it on the front row and then trying to defend his ass off in the race but sliding down the field. Turvey is very under rated and has earned his seat. Equally his new team mate Tom Dillman is just as under rated and I'm glad he got a seat. Not sure on the car but would not be surprised to see these two fighting for podiums at some tracks.

Venturi - Venturi are the Cosworth of the Formula E world with a reliable powertrain they'll supply cheaply but is not likely to get results. The person running the Venturi team now is a certain Suzie Wolff and she has snapped up a Felipe Massa on a three year contract. He is here because of the series popularity in Brazil but I have a feeling it's going to go the way of other ex F1 drivers joining the series. I think he has probably under estimated how different the cars are to drive and how competitive the field is. I might end up eating my words but we'll see. There other driver is Edoardo Mortara who was a sensation for all of one race last year.

HWA - New kids on the block. What does HWA stand for? Hanging With AMG Mercedes. It is no secret that HWA is the advance scouting party for Mercedes coming in next year having run their DTM entry. The team are running a Venturi powertrain this season (apparently someone at Merc knows someone who runs things there) and I fully expect them to be just picking up data in the middle/back of the pack. In one of the most boring driver choices ever they have chosen to run permanent McLaren test driver 72 year old Gary Perfect. Mega yawn. The other driver is Stoff Vandoorne who comes straight from the mega depression and gaslighting relationship with McLaren F1 team. I'd love to see the same driver we saw in junior formula resurface. Guess we'll see what happens.

Whats the situation TV wise in the UK? Well the great news is the series has been picked up by the BBC. Bad news is they are only running races live on Red Button and on catch up on iPlayer. Although it was mentioned today that the occasional race would go live on BBC2. I still think this is a good move for the series and will get more attention than it did tucked away in CH5. Highlights will also be shown on Quest - you might have to hunt for that one.

So are we all on board with Formula E generation 2 or are we still sceptical? Race is Saturday 15th of December. Remember it's Saturdays people!
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What a wonderful country to hold a race in.

For the first time this year Women can legally drive to the race.

God help the journalists reporting on the E-prix. Hope they don't have to pop in to a government building to pick up some documents.
I hope they don’t send any women reporters, but if they do, I hope they know to cover up from head to toe, not to travel in a car with a male colleague who isn’t a member of their family , or husband, and not to talk to strange men, as in strangers, or they might end up in chop square being stoned to death.
It's very much at odds with a series that has has 3 different female drivers in the past and is encouraging female driver development by allowing teams to run 3 cars at test sessions if they run a female driver.

It very much hands a shadow over what should be an exciting start of a new era.
as always looking forward to this. as glad for Formula E I think the motorsport world has been crying out for a "winter" (or summer depends what hemisphere your in) series for ages as you have a lot of racing mid March to November. but December to 1st few weeks of march there is nothing bar a WRC rally a month

interesting from my favourites audi who were brilliant once they had sorted out the reliability that dogged them I do t think di grassi scored a point in the 1st 4 rounds who think that BMW could do a brawn & go from the midfield to title contenders.

I think techeetah might drop a bit because no offence to them but I thought their success was down to basically been a Renault team rebadged as its same chassis & same engine. but different mechanics so the change to citroen might effect them.

very intrigued in Nissan because eDams were the dominant force under Buemi for the majority of gen 1 could've won 3 titles. so interested to see if they take hit with Gen 2 car & new management. but Buemi will always drag that car to place it shouldn't be, if I was in charge of red bull he would be partnering Verstappen in F1. ill get behind my local guy oliver rowland

HWA should be good the car is coming straight outta compton & I like the line up of Vandoorne depends which 1 turns up good car & F2 could be dark horse. Paffett will surprise I feel

the only person I have confidence in is sam bird because he is mr dependable & mr consistent. because he has always won races & title challenges in gen 1 with the different drive trains, privateer / manufacturer.
Well that will be a problem. Although I’m sure that the Saudis hosting the race will grit their teeth and try to portray the place as a normal country. Away from the race track though she might encounter a lot of hostility.
HWA reckon Formula E is like having a new girlfriend - you have to find out what she likes for lunch (ermmmmm what?)

Formula E switch like 'a new girlfriend', says HWA team principal Ulrich Fritz

BMW claim Audi labelling them favourites is a distraction from the fact Audi and Teechetah are setting the pace.

BMW: Formula E 2018/19 favourite tag a distraction from Audi

...and Porsche, who don't even come into next year, will be at the test sessions and will name one of their drivers for next season in just a few weeks (mental).

Porsche close to naming first Formula E signing for 2019/20
Only it is. All on BBC and highlights on Quest.

They've done a last min deal with BT because BBC will only put it on iPlayer and Red Button. But Beeb have said they are going to run live races.
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Will also be in catch up service iPlayer for 28 days after the event. Which is great for me because if I can't get to it at weekend I can watch it on my commute in Monday morning!
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