Today, among a full-batteried fanbase built on five years of progress, a sixth one will be kicking off in the city streets of Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Incidentally, it’s not only the spectators which are charged – the cars are too. Because this is Formula E, the world’s pioneering electric series, and Season Six is about to unleash itself on the planet. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
Formula E revolves around a few core rules, first of which is the fully-electric drivetrain propelling every car in the series. For Season Six we’re entering the second year of a four-year lifespan in the Gen2 era, and it’s a very capable car. A powertrain capable of as high as 250kw – that’s 335bhp – is what’s powering these machines.
Such power is scaled back in the races – a base of 200kw, and 270bhp is the standard in active E-Prix – but there are two outside factors that can bump those power levels back up again; FanBoost and Attack Mode. FanBoost, an ever-present of the series where fans can vote for drivers to receive a temporary spike in available power during the race, will take the power between 240 – 250kw (321 to 335bhp).
Attack Mode is a little different, more Mario Kart-esque. And it’s debut in Season Five proved that to be no bad thing. An activation zone placed on the track, off the usual racing line in that given corner/straight, will give the driver’s wagon a power boost of up to 225kw (301bhp) if the activation sensor is hit. Think a boost pad that takes between 5-7 minutes to wear off and you’re about there. Though drivers have had trouble at hitting the sensor before…
Other stats you might want to know about the Gen2 cars, just to prove their racing credentials – we’re talking 280km/h max and a 0-100kph of 2.8 seconds. Michelin Pilot Sport 18’ tyres keep this power and pace firmly on the road, while a 5,160mm length and 1,770mm width supply the cars with the dimensions they need to perform.
Another core value of Formula E is how the race weekend is formatted. Unlike other high-profile racing series, the electric action takes place over a two-day maximum period (for double race events), so often only one for the standard weekends. Tomorrow’s action in Diriyah kicks off the first double event of the series, so Saturday action will be present too.
Two practice sessions, the first being 45 minutes long and the second 30, soon make way for the qualifying sessions. But this isn’t the qualifying format you may be used to. Instead of a free-for-all timed session, the 20 drivers are split up into two groups of five and two groups of six – the groups of five always go first and who is selected for what group is dependant on their championship order. Example: if Jean-Eric Vergne is leading the standings, he’d be in Group One, whereas if he were 13th he’d be in Group Three.
Top your group, and you not only get a Championship point to your name but also your best chance at a ticket to Superpole – the six fastest cars all duke it out with one timed lap apiece in this final showdown session. Go quickest and that’s three more points in the bank and a prime spot to win the E-Prix later in the day.
The main attraction is the E-Prix; 45 minutes and one lap of action. And I mean action. FE racing is as hectic, thrill-a-minute and tense as anything you’ve ever laid eyes on before. Unlike the first four seasons with the original Gen1 car, the Gen2 machines can last the entire race on one charge – that is, if they’re managed properly. A major challenge (and a fun one) is how the drivers manage their energy levels and when they decide to attack. It always goes down to the wire.
The same points structure as F1 applies here – the 25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 and 1 points are dished out to the top ten in that order, but unlike that series FE awards a point for fastest lap wherever the quickest driver finishes… or if they even finish at all. And it’s even decided a title fight before this one time. Attack Mode can be used at least once a race (very often required to be twice, every driver must use the maximum amount) and FanBoost is deployed only once to the drivers who gain the top five votes.
Season Six’s calendar has it all on offer. First, the venues: Seoul and Jakarta, of South Korea and Indonesia respectively, will be hosting an E-Prix for the first time. Both are Far Eastern cities very much suited to the rigours of Formula E, and there’s another debutant joining them…
…the return of the London E-Prix, last seen in 2016’s Season Two finale (remember that hint to the fastest lap-decider showdown? Yep, that happened here), except the event is located at ExCel London rather than the old Battersea Circuit. Marking the season finale, London’s E-Prix will be one of two double-header races, the other being the season-opening Ad Diriyah E-Prix which is running this format for the first time.
The European leg of the season kicks into life on the 21st March in 2020 for the Rome E-Prix, after the first five flyaways are stored into the history vaults for another year. If you’re big on F1, you’ll recognise Mexico City as a venue you already know about – it’s a different layout to the one you’re familiar with but still makes brilliant use of that atmospheric stadium section.
Ad Diriyah E-Prix – 22nd to 23rd November 2019
Santiago E-Prix – 18th January 2020
Mexico City E-Prix – 15th February 2020
Marrakesh E-Prix – 29th February 2020
Sanya E-Prix – 21st March 2020
Rome E-Prix – 4th April 2020
Paris E-Prix – 18th April 2020
Seoul E-Prix – 3rd May 2020
Jakarta E-Prix – 6th June 2020
Berlin E-Prix – 21st June 2020
New York E-Prix – 11th July 2020
London E-Prix – 25th to 26th July 2020
(new E-Prix in bold, double header E-Prix in italic)
The teams and drivers
The reigning Formula E Teams’ Champions DS Techeetah line up to defend their title, while their star man Jean-Eric Vergne attempts to defend his own Drivers’ Title for a second season running, aiming for an unprecedented triple. He’s joined by the ex-BMW Andretti driver Antonio Felix da Costa, to make arguably the strongest Formula E pairing the series has seen.
Close behind them are a set of unchanged teams. Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, once again fielding Season Three champion Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt in the only unchanged line-up since the series began in 2014, will attempt to claw their position on top back with Envision Virgin Racing, an Audi customer team fielding perennial-challengers Sam Bird and Robin Frijns close behind.
Nissan e-dams, entering their second season after taking over Renault’s efforts, will also be unchanged. Season Two champion Sebastien Buemi and Oliver Rowland will be competing for the top prizes, while Mahindra Racing also keep their cards the same with ex-Marussia/Manor F1 duo Jerome d’Ambrosio and Pascal Wehrlein.
BMW i-Andretti Motorsport are changed, however – Last season’s GEOX Dragon driver Maximilian Gunther make the leap to BMW’s factory outing to replace the departing da Costa while Alexander Sims stays to take on the role of experienced team leader. NIO have kept their talisman Oliver Turvey while hiring ex-Techeetah man Ma Qing Ha for another shot at electric racing.
Panasonic Jaguar Racing have decided to once again keep their race-winning star Mitch Evans, while also handing an FE debut to GTE-Pro regular James Calado, and Ventur Racing have decided to stay put with their driver line-up of Edoardo Mortara and Felipe Massa. The biggest shock yet comes in the form of GEOX Dragon, though. Their brand new line-up consists of 2018 Toro Rosso and WEC-winning man Brendon Hartley and DTM perpetual Nico Mueller.
Finally, the new teams – Porsche have at last entered Formula E, and to kick off their life away from endurance racing a line-up of Andre Lotterer, a man so instrumental in their WEC endeavours and DS Techeetah’s title-winning 2018/19 season, and fellow ex-Porsche factory driver Neel Jani. Finally, Mercedes have taken over the HWA Racelab outfit to become a full works team and will field Stoffel Vandoorne and newly-crowned F2 champion Nyck de Vries.
There are many teams and drivers to watch out for, so to help here’s a guide as to who’s hot property and who’s new on the block.
DS Techeetah – reigning champions, both Teams’ and Drivers’ (Vergne). The team to beat with a line-up stronger than ever.
Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler – Season Three Drivers’ (with di Grassi), Seasons Three and Four Teams’ champions, always contenders with a classically great line-up.
Nissan e-dams – has the potential to bounce back to their old ways of winning under the Renault name, Season Five rookie Rowland is settled and Season Two champ Buemi can’t be discounted.
Envision Virgin Racing – unlucky not to have won a title yet with Bird. Frijns proved his mettle by beating him, expect the two to be very close and propel Virgin into the upper regions of the table.
BMW i-Andretti Motorsport – a relative risk in Gunther could well pay off handsomely. Expect a capable car and Sims to have them finishing high.
Mercedes EQ – The going may be rough at times for the semi-debutants, but expect a youthful and energetic line-up to have them in the mix for poles and wins. De Vries has the potential to be the quickest rookie.
Porsche Motorsport – Don’t expect these full debutants to be a busted flush, but a title tilt is to be thought of in caution in their maiden season. The drivers are capable, although Jani’s inexperience in the series may prove a slight obstacle to overcome.
Venturi Racing – a new Mercedes customer powertrain could see gains, and their line-up of Mortara and Massa is more than capable to grab opportunistic wins/podiums if the chances arise. Expect consistent results in the midfield.
GEOX Dragon – Last season’s hectic whirlwind saw the team fall below their expectations, but with proven winners from other series in Hartley and Mueller there’s a chance they can catch back up again. Caution is the word.
333 NIO – The main strugglers of Season Five, Ha’s return in place of Tom Dillmann is an unknown as to effectiveness but Turvey is as strong as ever. Could yet match teams above but don’t raise hopes too high.
Why this is all so exciting
Well you must be thinking it is, why else would you bother to read this? There’s a thought in your head that’s telling you ‘I’ve heard nothing but glowing praise for Formula E and I want to know if it’s worth it, and how to understand its intricacies. Let me tell you now – that praise holds true. It’s been a spectacular ride and one you’ll want to be on for Season Six.
The closeness of racing is virtually unparalleled in top-tier motorsport, and the cars are stylish and sleek with the capability and pace to match. The sound is even likeable – an electric whirr can soon grow on you as much as the action present on the series’ abundance of street tracks are.
It’s a pioneering sport – one that is incredibly easy to catch up with right from the beginning of Season One on YouTube, and live sessions are shown in full there as well as on Facebook and Twitter. You get to directly impact the race with your FanBoost votes, so the social media engagement is there to make you feel even more than a viewer from a TV screen or spectator in the stands.
Finally it’s already garnering major recognition. The stunning documentary And We Go Green is a worthy side-watch to this season’s action, to really get a feel as to why Formula E is so special. The wholesome and engaged nature is heartwarming, and the difference in format and mechanics to other series provide a truly unique experience that captivates.
So today, if everything I’ve laid out for you is intriguing enough to persuade your heart into following electric cars on city streets across the planet, then by all means join in for Diriyah and beyond. In this community, everyone’s welcome and integral to the future chapters of an exciting, breath-of-fresh-air series high on fun. And as a final offering to help you into the world of Formula E, e-racing.net will be here all season long with coverage, social media activity and fan interaction to give you a supporting outlet in the quest to fall in love with this crazy, wonderful sport.