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Lights on in Saudi Arabia to Kick off Formula E Seventh Season

Everything is ready for the debut of Formula E as an FIA World Championship in Saudi Arabia.

The time has come for the curtains to rise in Diriyah when the 24 cars hit the track for a shakedown later today, ahead of the first Free Practice session of the weekend.

On Friday, the Diriyah E-Prix will kick off Formula E’s seventh season; it will be the third year in a row Saudi Arabia serves as host to the series opener venue.

The organizers have been working around the clock, mixing all the right ingredients to prepare a one-of-a-kind event, the series inaugural night races.

The opening rounds of the 2020/2021 season, held at the Riyadh Street Circuit, will be marked by innovation and sustainability – a landmark to the series, under 600 LED floodlights.

The track, spanning 2.49km (1.54 miles), will display the latest low-power LED technology, reducing energy consumption by up to 50 percent. 

As a reminder, Formula E is the first global sport to be certified with a net-zero carbon footprint from inception.

THE NEW CHAPTER 

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship grid features 24 top drivers and 12 teams that make the series one of the most competitive and unpredictable in the world.

The pack is lead by defending champion, Antonio Felix da Costa.

Last season, the Portuguese claimed five victories, clinched four pole positions, and visited the podium on 11 occasions, sealing his maiden driver´s championship at the Berlin Templehof Circuit in Germany.

This season, da Costa will try to emulate teammate Jean-Eric Vergne, becoming a double champion.

The Frenchman is a nine-time winner and Formula E back-to-back champion, aiming to win a third title, the first in the series as a World Championship.

Both drivers will be at the wheel of the DS E-TENSE FE20, driving for DS TECHEETAH, the first team to achieve a one-two podium finish in the series, the only to have conquered two back-to-back double championships.

In December, at pre-season testing in Valencia, Spain, da Costa spoke on the pros and cons of starting the season with the DS E-TENSE FE20 powertrain.

There are pros and cons in starting the season with the old powertrain. We know what we have, and we are very confident we can still be competitive, but we are very maxed out on performance. Other teams coming with powertrains will have a steeper learning curve.” 

Overall, they have two Teams’ Championships and three Drivers’ Championships under their belt.

But as the series evolves, competition increases and the fiercely driven have armored well to the battle ahead.

Pre-season testing gave a clear picture of what is to come, with a 24-car field separated by little over 0.750 seconds.

DRIVERS AND TEAMS

Sam Bird has moved on from Envision Virgin Racing to partner Mitch Evans at Jaguar Racing.

German Pascal Wehrlein rejoins the championship with TAG Heuer Porsche, alongside countryman Andre Lotterer.

Wehrlein joined Mahindra Racing ahead of the 2018/2019 season, leaving the team last year before the 2019/2020 season finale.

TAG Heuer Porsche finished its debut season in the all-electric series in eighth place in the teams´ championship, scoring a total of 79 points.

Dragon /Penske Autosport welcomes back Sergio Sette Camara, who will team up with Nico Mueller.

Sette Camara replaced Brendon Hartley at the Berlin finale; the Brazilian performance resulted in a full-time seat with the American team for the 2020/2021 season.

The Audi e-tron FE 07 is in the hands of the first Formula E race winner and Season 3 champion Lucas di Grassi, and reigning DTM title-winner Rene Rast – contesting his first full season in the series.

René Rast stood for Daniel Abt with Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler at the Season 6 showdown last August.

The German secured 29 points during the six-race grand finale, adapting quickly to the Gen 2 single-seater and even achieving a podium at Tempelhof.

Mahindra Racing challenger, the M7 Electro, will be driven by Alexander Sims and Alex Lynn.

The team comprises a new package, including Mahindra’s first powertrain developed in partnership with ZF Friedrichshafen AG.

Sims debuted in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship as a works driver with BMW i Andretti Motorsport in Season 5.

The 32-year-old enjoyed a strong start to Season 6, securing pole position at Rounds 1 and 2 in Saudi Arabia, winning the second race in Diriyah, which also marked his maiden win in Formula E.

Lynn first joined Mahindra during the 2019/2020 nine-day six-race season finale in Berlin, replacing Pascal Wehrlein.

The 27-year-old helped the squad secure a ninth position in the teams’ championship, scoring 16 points with just six races.

Due to his solid performances, the Briton clinched a full-time race seat with Mahindra alongside countryman Sims.

Under the leadership of new Team Principal Christian Silk, the NIO 333 FE Team will count on Oliver Turvey – having raced for the team every season since the championship’s inception – and Tom Blomqvist to drive the NIO 333 FE 001, featuring a new powertrain into Season 7.

Blomqvist is no stranger to the single-seater all-electric racing series; in the 2017/18 season, he drove for MS&AD Andretti, contesting six races during his campaign with the American team.

The 27-year- old would return to the series for the final two rounds of the 2019/20 season, replacing James Calado at the Berlin E-Prix, with Panasonic Jaguar Racing.

BMW i Andretti Motorsport driver´s line up welcomes rookie Jake Dennis who will partner Maximilian Guenther, contesting his second season with the German team.

Robin Frijns and rookie to the series Nick Cassidy will represent Envision Virgin Racing this season.

ROKiT Venturi Racing features the third rookie to contest the world championship, former test driver Norman Nato, alongside experienced driver Edoardo Mortara.

At Nissan e.dams, the driver’s lineup remains unchanged with 2015/2016 champion Sebastien Buemi and Oliver Rowland.

The Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team has also kept its driver´s line up unchanged with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries.
At the season-finale in Berlin, Vandoorne conquered his maiden Formula E E-Prix; the duo also claimed a one-two podium finish.

Photo Credit: Formula E Media.

About Cecilia Demartini
Cecilia is a freelance Journalist passionate about motorsport and writing.
Her articles appeared on a variety of international media outlets.
Her knowledge goes from F1, F2, and F3 to other series such as MotoGP, IndyCar, Rally, WEC, and particularly Formula E.