We are almost a third of the way through the second season of Formula E, so this is a good opportunity to reflect on what’s happened so far.
With the rules regarding the powertrain technology opened up, the season one form book was thrown out of the window. It also meant that all of the new manufacturers kicked off their pre-season testing way before the official sessions commenced at Donington – in some cases even before season one had finished.
Yet despite the new gearboxes, invertors and motors, once again it was Sebastien Buemi and the Renault e.dams team that monopolised the top spot on the timesheets. At the other end of the table there were long faces at Andretti and Trulli as reliability issues were limiting their running.
With testing drawing to a close, Andretti made the bold decision to switch back to the season one technical package. Trulli on the other hand opted to keep faith with its new tech…
As well as new-look liveries and some fresh drivers, the second season also heralded a new sound for Formula E, with the different motor/gearbox combinations resulting in an audible difference between the cars.
A change to the track layout in Beijing meant that a direct like-for-like comparison of the lap times between season one and two was impossible, but everyone in the paddock was in agreement that Buemi’s best lap of 1:36.991 (almost five seconds faster than the best time from the opening practice session in season one), was an impressive and ominous performance.
Buemi duly converted this sensational pace into pole position and although a large chunk of the impressive lead he’d built up was lost behind the safety car, he still romped home to a comfortable win. By bagging the fastest lap in the process, Buemi became the first driver in Formula E history to score a maximum 30 points at an ePrix.
With the track unchanged in Putrajaya, a direct comparison between the pace of the cars in season one and two was possible, and once again it was Buemi leading the way, setting a pole position lap 1.7s faster than Nico Prost managed when he topped the times in season one.
In the race Buemi was once again heading to victory – the first back-to-back win in Formula E – when out of nowhere his car suddenly stopped. A handful of seconds later it burst back into life, but the lead had been lost, and Lucas di Grassi took full advantage to secure victory for the Abt Schaeffler team.
Buemi redressed the balance in Punta del Este, recovering from a rare qualifying error, which left him fifth on the grid, to charge to victory and back to the head of the championship table.
Despite Buemi and Renault e.dams showing a clear pace advantage in the races, such has been the consistency of di Grassi, who’s taken two second places as well as the Putrajaya win, the Swiss is just a single point clear of the Brazilian.
Unsurprisingly the lead duo is way ahead of the chasing pack. Indeed, they both have more than double the points of their nearest challenger, Dragon Racing’s Jerome D’Ambrosio. The Belgian took his first Formula E pole in Punta, which he converted into second place and was a fighting fifth in the Beijing opener. But a broken suspension component denied him a probable podium finish in Putrajaya.
Only two teams – DS Virgin and NEXTEV TCR – opted for a dual-motor solution. And while both teams, DS in particular, have shown flashes of speed, the increased rearward weight bias has made these cars look very tricky to drive. Nevertheless, Sam Bird was on form again in Putrajaya, picking up an excellent second place to go with the seventh place he scored in Beijing.
He was heading to another solid top-six finish in Punta when his car stopped on track. His new team-mate at DS Virgin, Jean-Eric Vergne had a great late-race dice with Nelson Piquet Jr in Punta as he claimed seventh for his first points of the season.
It’s been a tough title defence for Piquet so far, with NEXTEV struggling to match the pace of the race-winning Renault e.dams and Abt Schaeffler teams. A solid run to eighth in Putrajaya is his only points finish so far, although he was set for another top-10 finish when he crashed out in Punta. NEXTEV team-mate Oliver Turvey got a lucky break with the timing of the safety car deployment in Beijing to score a great sixth place, but they are his only points thus far.
Loic Duval made it the first all-Dragon front row in Punta, but slipped to fourth in race. This was the same position he finished in Beijing too. He was on for a podium finish in Putrajaya when he suffered the exact same damper failure as D’Ambrosio and retired.
Nick Heidfeld switched from Venturi to Mahindra during the closed season and started his career with his new employer with a great run to third in Beijing. He took ninth in Putrajaya but had damaged his hand in a mid-race impact, which meant he was forced to miss the race in Punta, where Formula Renault 3.5 champion Oliver Rowland stood in. Heidfeld returns to the series in Buenos Aires.
Bruno Senna enjoyed a strong race in Putrajaya to take fifth, but they are his only points of the season so far.
Alongside Andretti the only other team to stick with the season one tech was Team Aguri. The benefit in running the older tech was proven reliability, and when the searing heat of Putrajaya set the mice among the machinery, this theory was proven as Robin Frijns took a brilliant third place, despite crossing the line with deranged suspension after a late-race brush with the wall. Antonio Felix da Costa is on a run of back-to-back sixth-place finishes for Aguri and will have Salvador Duran as a new team-mate in Buenos Aires in place of Nathanael Berthon, who scored his only Formula E points with eighth place in Beijing.
Stephane Sarrazin showed the potential of the Venturi package by qualifying on the front row in Putrajaya, but was unable to take up his place on the grid when the car cut out on the dummy grid. A great fightback from the pitlane to fourth showed what could have been. He too will have a new team-mate in Buenos Aires, with fellow Toyota WEC racer Mike Conway taking over from ex-F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve.
There are just nine teams in the series at the moment as Trulli gave up the fight with its new technology after failing to make the grid in either Beijing or Putrajaya. The shortfall will be short-lived however, as Jaguar has already confirmed that it will be joining the series in season three, clearly demonstrating the appeal of Formula E to major car manufacturers.
FIA Formula E Championship 2015-16 – Driver Standings
|1||Sébastien Buemi||Renault e.Dams||62|
|2||Lucas Di Grassi||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||61|
|3||Jérôme D’Ambrosio||Dragon Racing||28|
|4||Sam Bird||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||24|
|5||Loïc Duval||Dragon Racing||24|
|6||Nick Heidfeld||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||17|
|7||Robin Frijns||Andretti Formula E Race Team||17|
|8||Stéphane Sarrazin||Venturi Formula E Team||16|
|9||Antonio Felix Da Costa||Team Aguri||16|
|10||Nicolas Prost||Renault e.Dams||11|
|11||Bruno Senna||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||10|
|12||Daniel Abt||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||10|
|13||Oliver Turvey||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||8|
|14||Jean-Eric Vergne||DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team||6|
|15||Nathanaël Berthon||Team Aguri||4|
|16||Nelson PIQUET JR||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||4|
|17||Simona DE SILVESTRO||Andretti Formula E Race Team||0|
|18||Jacques VILLENEUVE||Venturi Formula E Team||0|
|19||Oliver ROWLAND||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||0|
FIA Formula E Championship 2015-16 – Team Standings
|2||ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport||71|
|4||DS VIRGIN RACING FORMULA E TEAM||30|
|5||Mahindra Racing Formula E Team||27|
|7||Andretti Formula E Race Team||17|
|8||Venturi Formula E Team||16|
|9||NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team||12|