Formula E will lead the way in motorsport once again this weekend, when it becomes the first international motorsport series to race in one of the five boroughs of New York City.
For many racing series, staging a race in the unofficial capital of the world has been the holy grail, so for Formula E to be the first championship to make it happen is a fantastic indictment, not just of the hard work put in by Founder and CEO Alejandro Agag and his team, but of the concept of the all-electric street racing series.
The Qualcomm New York City ePrix is a double header, which means that fans get two opportunities to watch the 20 best all-electric racing drivers in the world tackle the track at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in New York. This is the penultimate event of the season, so things are really heating up in the fight for the championship and should guarantee plenty of wheel-to-wheel action.
The story so far
This season has been dominated by one driver so far: Sebastien Buemi. The reigning champion has won six of the eight races for Renault e.dams. However, a clashing commitment in the World Endurance Championship means that he will have to miss the New York City event.
This presents a fantastic opportunity for his principle title rival Lucas di Grassi. The Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport driver produced a superb drive – aided by some inspired pitwork – to win in Mexico City. He’s 32 points behind, but with a maximum of 58 points on offer in New York, a strong weekend could swing the championship in his favour.
There are nine drivers who maintain a mathematical chance of winning the title, but of these Felix Rosenqvist is the outsider most likely to join the party. The Swede bagged Mahindra’s first ever win last time out in Berlin, and only a penalty for an unsafe release denied him a double win. If he repeats that form this weekend, he’ll have to be taken seriously as a title contender.
Another driver who will be missing New York is Jose Maria Lopez, who like Buemi has a clashing WEC engagement. Reigning GP2 champion Pierre Gasly will stand in for Buemi while his former team-mate at DAMS, Alex Lynn, has been given the nod to replace Lopez at DS Virgin Racing.
It’s been a tough season for the two US teams. Andretti started well with Antonio Felix da Costa and Robin Frijns fifth and sixth in the season opener in Hong Kong, but there’s been just one further top-10 finish since.
Between them Jerome D’Ambrosio and Loic Duval scored points in each of the first three races of the season for Jay Penske’s Faraday Future Dragon Racing outfit, but there’s been nothing since then and the team has slipped to the foot of the points table.
1. Sebastien Buemi – 157
2. Lucas di Grassi – 125
3. Felix Rosenqvist – 86
4. Nico Prost – 72
5. Nick Heidfeld– 63
6. Jean-Eric Vergne – 52
1. Renault e.dams – 229
2. Abt Schaeffler – 171
3. Mahindra – 149
4. DS Virgin – 97
5. TECHEETAH – 57
6. NextEV NIO – 51
The Qualcomm New York ePrix
A New York street race first appeared on the Formula 1 calendar ahead of the 1983 season. But a series of complications meant it didn’t happen and the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch was hastily scheduled as its replacement (Nelson Piquet, father of the inaugural Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr, won).
It appeared on numerous provisional calendars since, the last as recently as 2014. However, arranging a race in New York proved to be beyond even the influence of Bernie Ecclestone, which demonstrates just what a coup this race is for Formula E.
The track is located at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook. This means that the famous Manhattan skyline forms a stunning back drop.
Turns: 10 – 4 left, 6 right
Outright lap record: n/a
Official lap record: n/a
Unfortunately there are no American drivers currently racing in Formula E. In the past there have been two in the series, with both Marco Andretti and Scott Speed turning out for the Andretti team.
Speed did a fantastic job on his debut to take a charging second place in Miami – the first and so far only time the Stars and Stripes has flown over a Formula E podium.
Michael Andretti’s team has been an enthusiastic supporter of the series since the beginning. So far, a win has proved elusive, but there have been three Julius Baer Pole Positions and five podium places.
Jay Penske’s Faraday Future Dragon Racing team also flies the flag for the American fans. Thanks to Jerome D’Ambrosio it has taken two Formula E wins.