Formula E will return to the track in Saudi Arabia on Friday with the first meeting of a season that will hold its finale in London during July. With the all-electric series’s main regulations solidly stable from last season and the arrival of new manufacturers in Mercedes and Porsche, the racing is expected to be highly competitive.
A small piece of history will also be made in Riyadh. It will be the first time all four of Germany’s major manufacturers, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes and BMW, will compete with works teams in the same championship. Motor racing’s Bundesliga, as it has been dubbed.
The addition of Mercedes and Porsche brings the field to 12 teams with a grid of 24 cars. Mercedes, so dominant in Formula One, is the only manufacturer to compete in FE and F1. Porsche come in after the recent successes in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Le Mans, winning both for three consecutive years between 2015 and 2017. They join what is now a formidable field of manufacturers, which also includes Jaguar, Nissan and Citroën in its DS brand.
Testing was difficult to gauge but the Chinese team DS Techeetah, whose driver Jean-Ëric Vergne won the championship in the previous two seasons, look to be in fine form again, with both Audi and Nissan also strong. The rules have been adjusted to ensure an emphasis is placed on efficient energy usage of the cars and by the drivers.
In order to prevent a series of sprints, as was often seen last season, energy will be deducted from the 54kw/h the battery can produce when behind the safety car or with yellow flags. Attack mode, a power boost allocated when going off line, remains and has been increased to 235kw.
Seoul will be a new venue for a 12-meeting, 14-race season which will also see returns to Rome, Paris, New York and Berlin. London, which staged the race in 2015 and 2016 at Battersea park, will now hold the meeting in the Docklands area. The track will feature an indoor section in the ExCel exhibition centre for the start-finish straight.
New drivers will also be joining the field, including Britain’s James Calado with the Panasonic Jaguar team. He won his class at Le Mans this year and was class world champion in the WEC during 2017.
Jaguar are optimistic of challenging but for Calado the series is an opportunity to test himself and plays a part in addressing the climate-change emergency. “You have so many manufacturers and top drivers, and to be part of that is a chance to prove myself against some of the best,” he said.
“That manufacturers like Jaguar are here is the proof that they see electric is the future, not just in motor sport but also for road cars. A lot of what we do in FE goes into road cars. It is a great championship, not just because of the high level of competitiveness but I also like to be here because it has meaning, because this is the future.”