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Formula E season five: Our predictions

Season five of the all-electric ABB Formula E Championship kicks off tomorrow, with many questions soon to be answered as to what the pecking order will be and who could emerge as a likely title contender.

In the office we have been discussing who might go onto to enjoy title glory and who might be the next electric superstar, and have put together our predictions for the upcoming season.

On the panel is Deputy Editor in Chief Topher Smith, Creative Director Rajan Jangda, Statistics expert Tom Bryan and editors Amylia Hilda, Francisco Aure and Cecilia Demartini.

Driver’s champion

Will Jean-Eric Vergne retain his title?

Topher: With the beginning of a new era it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be champion. Testing is notoriously difficult to read into as we don’t completely know what type of runs the teams were doing. However, I have a feeling that the pace from BMW was absolutely genuine and they could be contenders this season. If that is the case, Antonio Felix da Costa is my early tip for title glory.

Rajan: Jean-Eric Vergne. He just seems to be on an unstoppable roll at the moment which carrier over into his performances in WEC and ELMS throughout the year. He appears to still have that ‘swagger’ that drivers have about them when they’re at the peak of their powers and Techeetah appear to be right up at the front again based on testing. Although my dark horse for the title is Antonio Felix da Costa as BMW showed a lot of pace at testing.

Tom: After a tough last three seasons in Formula E, Antonio Felix da Costa deserves some luck and is my pick for Drivers’ Champion. His experience in the series and having what seems like the best car puts the Portuguese driver in great stead for a championship charge.

Amylia: I think Lucas di Grassi might take the title after coming so close to winning last season. He definitely has the determination and a car that could definitely challenge for some strong wins.

Francisco: Jean-Eric Vergne is for sure my candidate: he has no pressure, he has nothing else to prove, but has grown a lot as driver in Formula E. Now, in the strongest team (in my opinion), boosted by DS alliance, they’re the ones to beat.

Cecilia: A season like no other, we can all feel it coming and to predict who is going to be the first champion of the Formula E second generation isn’t an easy task to do. There are plenty of potentials and talented drivers, but I’m putting my money on experience, passion, and talent, represented by Lucas di Grassi.

Team’s champion

BMW showed supreme pace in testing, could they challenge?

Topher: It takes consistency from both drivers to mount a challenge for the team’s title and there are many teams who have the potential to claim the crown this season. This is where I believe experience will be beneficial and I believe the team best poised to take top honours, providing they continue on their improved reliability from the second half of last season, will be Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler.

Rajan: This will be an three-way between DS Techeetah, BMW and Audi, possibly four-way fight if Envision Virgin make good use of their customer Audi powertrain. It appears from testing, unless others are sandbagging, that these teams are going to be the front-runners this season.

Tom: It can take time to adapt to being in Formula E, as we saw for Andre Lotterer at the start of last season. So I think that Audi’s experienced lineup will just have the edge over BMW, with rookie Alexander Sims being in the second car. BMW might be stronger by the time we reach New York City in July, but I think consistency from Audi will enable them to claim a second consecutive Teams’ Championship.

Amylia: I’d have to say it might be the Audi Formula E team, even though they’ll be facing even more competition on the grid this season, they’ve got two very capable and determined drivers and as we’ve seen from previous seasons, they seem to be good at handling the more unpredictable circuits and conditions.

Francisco: Again, DS Techeetah are the team to beat. They proved in S4 what they could do with not a large budget.

Cecilia: Techeetah has become DS TECHEETAH as the team switched from Renault to a DS powertrain.  Last October at the pre-season test in Valencia the deal appeared to suit the team just fine. I believe the team has the strongest driver line-up, so to me it would be no surprise if they get the teams’ title.

Rookie of the year

Gary Paffett comes into Formula E off the back of winning the DTM title.

Topher: We have so many strong rookies this season and choosing who will perform the best is difficult, especially considering that some cars will be outright better than others. Taking into account my predictions on which teams will do well, I believe that the top placed rookie at the end of the season will be Alexander Sims.

Rajan: Alexander Sims. There’s very encouraging signs that BMW are going to be strong this season and Sims is one rookie who is in the best place possible to score some big results as a result of that. The second best rookie will probably be hotly contested between the likes of Felipe Massa, Maximilian Günther, Stoffel Vandoorne, Gary Paffett and Pascal Wehrlein.

Tom: Driving what is seemly the best car, Alexander Sims should come out as rookie of the year for season five. Even though it will be unlikely for Stoffel Vandoorne to be fighting at the front in HWA’s first season, the Belgian has a lot to prove after two lacklustre seasons in Formula One. Vandoorne might not be the highest scoring rookie this season, but I expect him to outshine his car and pick up unexpected results.

Amylia: Alexander Sims has already proved he knows what he’s doing in the car from his results at the pre-season test, but he also seems like a natural in a Formula E car maybe because it suits his driving style. I have no doubt that he’ll be able to gain some excellent results for the BMW Andretti team.

Francisco: I feel Gary Paffett will be the one who adapts quicker than the rest of the rookies to the series given his large experience in motorsports in general. Of course, ex F1s Pascal Wehrlein, Stoffel Vandoorne and Felipe Massa will be tough contenders too, but I’d vote for Paffett.

Cecilia: Calling a former Formula 1 driver a rookie again must be an exciting feeling for Felipe Massa who debuts in the electric series this weekend driving for Venturi FE Team. We have seen him preparing non-stop, the car and driver have established a notorious connection.

New race winners

Big things are expected of Andre Lotterer this season.

Topher: The first name that immediately springs to mind is Andre Lotterer. The versatile German showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie year and is continuing with the strong Techeetah team, which should provide him with a maiden victory this season. Panasonic Jaguar Racing has been consistently improving since they joined the series and entertained thoughts of winning races in season four, so don’t be surprised to see Mitch Evans finally stand on the top step in season five. Finally, with Envision Virgin taking on Audi powertrains I expect them to be at the sharp end, which could help Robin Frijns towards his first Formula E victory.

Rajan: As with the rookie of the year, I’m going with Alexander Sims as he is best placed to get the big results at BMW.

Tom: After scoring two Podiums in his debut campaign, it seems like only a matter of time before André Lotterer gets to stand on the top step of the podium. With Jaguar’s improvement from season to season, it is not a long shot to expect Mitch Evans to claim his first victory. I cannot discount Alexander Sims on being the first rookie to claim a victory since Felix Rosenqvist.

Amylia: I think we’ll definitely be seeing Andre Lotterer on a few more podiums this season as well as Oliver Turvey who has shown immense potential in the last few seasons despite luck not being on his side.

Francisco: André Lotterer has been quite close in his role of backing JEV for his run to the title in Season 4. Now, it might be a bit more flexible inside DS Techeetah, so I think he has the most chances. Then, possibly Mitch Evans can get a stroke of luck. Will be much harder, but if Dragon manage to put together a solid weekend, Jose María López might have a little chance of celebrating his first victory in FE, but I’m not so sure.

Cecilia: Due to his experience as a racing driver and to the performance the team has shown at the pre-season test, BMW i Andretti Motorsport Formula E delt the cards impressively well, and Alexander Sims seems born ready to drive the car. He will definitely be a race winner.

Surprise of the year

Will Nissan pick up where Renault left off?

Topher: I’m not expecting Nissan e.dams to immediately pick up where Renault left off and challenge for victories, but with two immensely strong drivers in Sebastien Buemi and Oliver Rowland we could see them spring a surprise at head of the field in the right conditions.

Rajan: Sanya being the best looking E-Prix. Yes, I know, it doesn’t guarantee it being the best of races tracks, and I know people will moan about a new track just because it’s not Spa or the Nordschleife, or the fact that it’s a place they’ve never heard of, but, let’s just take a step aside and ignore all of those idiosyncrasies that come to us as a result of being a motorsport fan and just do a google image search for ‘Sanya China’. It looks stunning, if the track location is anywhere near what you see on on that page then we’re in for an absolutely stunning track.

Tom: After showing his full potential last season and claiming two victories, my surprise of the year is for Daniel Abt to outscore his Audi teammate, Lucas di Grassi, for the first time.

Amylia: The series is already well known for its unpredictability, I’m sure we’ll have more than one big surprise this season but I think a major event that would have people talking about would most likely be triggered by an “attack mode” episode.

Francisco: I think HWA will prove itself as a big team which will be a strong contender as soon as it completes its adaptation to these cars.

Cecilia: Stoffel Vandoorne. He’s too talented but comes from disastrous seasons with McLaren. I wouldn’t picture him as a surprise if that was not the case. He’ll have to work hard to regain confidence in himself, and he’ll have to do it while racing in a totally new series, which can serve him surprisingly well.

Race of the year

Rome proved to be a popular location last season.

Topher: Mexico City has produced some blinding races while it has been on the Formula E calendar, with a circuit that provides some inviting overtaking opportunities and nose-to-tail racing that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Also thinking about it’s time slot on the calendar, this should be the race where we start to get a true idea of who will be in contention for the title.

Rajan: Ad Diriyah, the big step into the unknown where drivers will be using Attack Mode mid-race and racing for the first time (sort of, if you don’t count the race simulation at Valencia) in the new Gen2 cars. Also, this is Formula E, when has the opening race of the season never been chaotic?

Tom: With the introduction of Attack Mode, each race has the opportunity to be great. With Ad Diriyah being the first race under the new format it could be very unpredictable and produce some unexpected results.

Amylia: It would probably be one the European rounds, maybe Rome. It was a mega event last year and as it’s towards the end of the season, that’s usually when you can feel the tension between the teams ahead of the title decider rounds.

Francisco: Riyadh means a lot in many cultural aspects, apart from one of the newest venues. It can mean a break in history of motorsport in Middle East.

Cecilia: Rome. Last season the eternal city hosted its first E-Prix in-style, and as tradition shows we can only expect the spectacle to be the greatest.

About Topher Smith
Topher is an experienced and passionate Motorsport journalist with Formula E, Formula 1, GP2/F2, GP3 and IndyCar all on his resume. When he isn't at the trackside you can find him furthering his own capabilities and knowledge through his endless search for original ideas and material. Also plays league pool.