Formula E: Mercedes, Porsche & Other Talking Points For New Season

12 teams and 24 drivers line up to fight for the 2019-20 FIA Formula E Championship
  • The sixth season, known as the 2019-20 Formula E Championship, commences this weekend with a doubleheader.
  • The one-day format of Formula E may take some time for the debutants to settle into before showing off their might.
  • Jean-Eric Vergne will start the 2019-20 Formula E season as a two-time series champion. But his past accolades and titles will count for nothing in the new season as history has shown.

After a four-month-long break, Formula E is back. The sixth season, known as the 2019-20 Formula E Championship, commences this weekend with a doubleheader round at Ad Diriyah ePrix in Saudi Arabia.

In our previous post, we outlined what’s new for the upcoming season. In this post, we dive into some of the key talking points to follow.

Porsche and Mercedes: Formula E debut

It is without a doubt that Porsche and Mercedes’ debut in Formula E will be the biggest talking point. Every move of theirs will be analysed, criticised, or praised given the Motorsport heritage and success these brands represent. Will the new boys be able to challenge the established order in the series? For starters, there’s barely an established order — but that’s barely a blessing. The one-day format of Formula E may take some time for the debutants to settle into before showing off their might.

Porsche’s driver line-up seems smart. The freshness of Neel Jani is likely to make an interesting partnership with the experienced Andre Lotterer. Lotterer, who starts his third season in the series, spent two years at Techeetah.

Mercedes have opted for a relatively fresh pairing. The reigning Formula 2 champion, Nyck de Vries, will make this debut this season alongside former Mclaren Formula 1 driver, Stoffel Vandoorne. Vandoorne raced in Formula E last season with HWA Race Lab, the former avatar of Mercedes’ Formula E team. In the battle between the two, Mercedes hold a slight advantage as they have a season of learnings from the HWA Race Lab operations.

Teams’ Championship: Battle of the Titans

In the last five seasons, only twice has the same team won the Teams’ and Drivers’ championship with Renault (now Nissan) claiming top honours thrice. Given the uber-competitive nature of the series, there are several teams capable of winning races with an average of five-plus teams winning a race every season. In fact, the previous season saw drivers from eight different teams winning races and several more capable of scoring podium finishes and points.

In the last two seasons, the average gap between the winning team and the team finishing second has been about 10 points, with the championship fight going down to the wire. Given that there are eight global car manufacturers fighting for the title, expect the Teams’ Championship to be hotly contested this season too. And of course, who will win the battle of the German giants — Audi, BMW, Porsche or Mercedes?

Mahindra Racing: Can they stay consistent?

The Indian-owned team has been racing in Formula E since its inception and has scored several pole positions, race wins, and podium finishes. However, the general trend for the team has been a loss of form after a strong start to the season. In the previous seasons, they have led the Teams’ and Drivers’ Championships at the start only to be beaten as the season progressed. In the 2019-20 Formula E season, Indian Motorsport fans would be eager to see the team tackle this trend.

The team have retained their drivers from the previous season — Jerome d’Ambrosio (58 race starts) and Pascal Wehrlein (12 race starts), choosing a balance of youth and experience. The team’s best finish in the Teams’ Championship has been a third-place (2016-17) and here’s hoping that they are able to deliver to their potential and expectations.

Vergne vs Others for the Championship?

Jean-Eric Vergne will start the 2019-20 Formula E season as a two-time series champion. But his past accolades and titles will count for nothing in the new season as history has shown. Formula E is unlike other Motorsport series where a good car can sort of guarantee a good finishing position. If one were to look back at the previous season, after the fifth round, Vergne was sitting outside of the top-5 in the Drivers’ Championship. He clinched his title with the help of consistent performances in the second half of the season.

Jean-Eric Vergne: The Lewis Hamilton Of Formula E?

Formula E 2019-20: Porsche and Mercedes debut, Jean-Eric Vergnes title defence, and other talking points ahead of ChampionshipJean-Eric Vergne will start the season as a two-time champion, but history will matter little when races get underway. Getty Images
So who can challenge for the title? All 24 drivers can, they know it and so do Formula E regulars. The competitive quotient of the grid is extremely high with an average of six drivers winning at least one race every season. In a highly capable grid, it will be season-long consistency that will win against occasional spikes in performances.

In the 58 races held till date (across five seasons), Vergne, di Grassi, Buemi, and Sam Bird have won 39 between themselves. Let’s see which of the newer drivers can break into this group this season. In the pre-season test, the fastest 20 drivers (out of 24) were separated by only 1 second!

Equal Opportunity Series

Felipe Massa, a former Formula 1 driver, is one of the big-ticket drivers in the series. In his debut last season, the Brazilian finished a lowly 15th in the Drivers’ Championship with only a podium to his name at the Monaco ePrix. Likewise, for Stoffel Vandoorne, the former Mclaren driver who debuted last year. The Belgian finished 16th with a sole pole position and podium finish to his name.

There are other drivers who have plenty to prove: Brendon Hartley (who was unceremoniously dropped by Red Bull Racing for the 2019 season) returns to racing single-seaters with Formula E. Ma Quinghua, the only Chinese driver in Formula E, will be eager to prove that wasn’t only his nationality that won him a drive at the Chinese racing team NIO. Neel Jani, who raced one round with Dragon two seasons ago, returns to Formula E with Porsche and will be aiming to replicate the success he’s had with Porsche in other series. The other Porsche driver, Andre Lotterer, has secured extremely competitive results but is yet to win a race in Formula E, will the season ahead give him a chance to do so?

To summarise, almost every driver has a point or two to prove and in Formula E, they get much of an equal chance as their rivals as compared to other series.

Formula E — The business is growing

A couple of months ago, Formula E appointed a new Chief Executive Officer — Jamie Reigle — who will be responsible for the series’ growth plans and overall management. It is clear that Formula E wishes to expand itself as a series and business. Would that mean an increase in the number of teams, races, sponsors, and fans? For the 2018-19 Formula E season, the series reported a revenue of 200 million Euros — a 50 percent jump in earnings over 2017-18. Similarly, there was a 24 percent jump in overall television viewership. And of course, expect Formula E to release fresh numbers explaining how sustainable and environmentally friendly the series is.

In all, Formula E is at the brink of yet another blockbuster season — miss it at your own expense!

This post was first published on Firstpost

Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

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