Formula E: From Gen2 car debut to hotly contested championship races, ten things that made 2018-19 season special
The high interest from manufacturers is one of Formula E's biggest boasting points and currently almost every major car manufacturer in the world participates in the series
The much-awaited Gen2 Formula E car debuted at the opening round of the season in Saudi Arabia
BMW entered Formula E this season (via their partnership with Andretti), while Mercedes and Porsche started preparing their entry for the next (2019-20)
Jean-Eric Vergne became the only driver in the history of the series to claim back-to-back championships
The 2018-19 Formula E Season has gone down in history for various reasons. Here’s a list of some of the top stories that defined the season.
Gen2 car debut
The much-awaited Gen2 Formula E car debuted at the opening round of the season in Saudi Arabia. The progress for the all-electric racing series was hailed as remarkable because it offered drivers more power through the race and did away with the much-criticised car-changing pit-stops. The result? Flat-out racing for 45mins, the official duration of an ePrix, and with cars lapping almost 3 seconds faster per lap!
For the 5th season, the series introduced new rules and regulations to spice up the on-track action. A time-based race format was introduced - 45mins + 1 lap, along with the mandatory-to-deploy Attack Mode (at least twice in every ePrix). The Attack Mode attracted ‘Mario Kart’ comparisons for the series, but the gimmick offered drivers an extra boost for positions on-track.
BMW entered Formula E this season (via their partnership with Andretti), while Mercedes and Porsche started preparing their entry for the next (2019-20). The high interest from manufacturers is one of the series’ biggest boasting points and currently almost every major car manufacturer in the world participates in Formula E - which manufacturer would follow next? Toyota, Hyundai or even Ferrari? Honda, Formula 1’s newest power unit manufacturer to score a win in the hybrid-turbo era, has expressed a desire too.
9 different drivers scored pole position across the 13 race calendar with only the Nissan drivers (Sebastian Buemi and Oliver Rowland) claiming the much-fought-after grid slot on multiple occasions. However, the pole sitter was able to convert his start advantage into a win only three times this season - an indication of the competitive quotient of the entire grid. In the case of Nissan, they had to wait till the 12th ePrix of the season to score their first win. They came tantalisingly close on a few occasions only to have surrendered to last-lap defeats.
It was only after the first 8 ePrixs that Formula E had a repeat team-driver winner - Dragon, HWA and NIO being the only teams that couldn’t get onto the top step of the podium. On the other hand, Techeetah, Audi and Virgin were the only teams to score multiple wins - proving their top-3 teams status in the series. The lowest placed ePrix winner in the Drivers’ Championship was Edoardo Mortara (winner of the Hong Kong ePrix) - he was classified 14th after registering 6 retirements in the last 7 races. Andre Lotterer and Daniel Abt went winless through the season despite their team-mates registering multiple wins in their race-winning machines. They were classified 7th and 8th respectively.
Jean-Eric Vergne became the only driver in the history of the series to claim back-to-back championships. However, the first 8 rounds saw the leader of the Drivers’ Championship standings change 8 times - it was only after the 9th ePrix that Vergne claimed and kept the lead till the end of the season. Mahindra Racing’s Jerome d’Ambrosio, who claimed a solo win at the Marrakesh ePrix, was in the top-3 of the championship for the first 7 rounds of the season - leading it 3 out of the 7 races, however, the Belgian driver ended the season in a lowly 11th place. The other Mahindra Racing driver, Pascal Wehrlein, was classified 12th - both drivers scoring nearly half the points of the eventual winner.
In 3 out of the 5 seasons contested, Formula E has seen teams split the Drivers’ and Teams’ championships - Renault (Nissan) and Techeetah being the only teams who claimed the double. For Nissan, the double was scored back in 2015-16 and Techeetah finally claimed theirs in 2018-19; they lost the chance of scoring a double last season by only two points. Mahindra Racing led the Teams’ Championship in the early part of the season. The Indian-owned team ended a distant 6th and nearly 100 points down on the winners.
For a series filled with former Formula 1 racers, the big arrivals for the 2018-19 Formula E Season were Felipe Massa, the runner-up of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship, and Stoffel Vandoorne, Mclaren’s discard from 2018, but a highly regarded talent. Pascal Wehrlein, who exited the Mercedes driver program late in 2018, joined Formula E too, albeit after missing the first race of the season. In terms of performances, while neither drivers scored wins, all three scored a podium each with Wehrlein (2) and Vandoorne (1) also claiming honours in qualifying.
Formula E celebrated 50 races at the 2019 Hong Kong ePrix, a race that was eventually settled after a post-race penalty from the FIA. Sam Bird was stripped of his win after a post-race penalty - awarding Mortara his first career win in Formula E. For a series that is relatively new in the world of Motorsport, Formula E’s calendar clashes with the more-coveted World Endurance Championship in 2020 has raised concerns. The unfortunate victims of this clash would be the drivers who will be forced to choose between either one of the series. While most drivers have pledged allegiance to the World Endurance Championship, it would be interesting to see if this would impact driver participation for next year. Thankfully for the drivers, teams and Motorsport fans, the FIA has agreed to intervene and find a solution.
A four-month wait for the next season (2019-20 Formula E Season) and driver changes are already being announced. Andre Lotterer, who spent two seasons with Techeetah, was signed by Porsche to partner Neel Jani. Mercedes, who have links with their partner team HWA Race Lab, are yet to announce theirs. Also, the organisers are ever eager to take the all-electric series to newer cities around the world, which points to an exciting future for the burgeoning sport.
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