2016-17 Formula E Season Preview

Ahead of the 2016-2017 Formula E Season, Craig Woollard looks at the grid ahead of the third season of the racing series.

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The all-electric Formula E series heads into its third season when it hits the streets of Hong Kong on the ninth of October. The calendar has expanded to 12 venues, new drivers have turned up and there is also a brand new team in the form of Jaguar Racing. The 2016-17 Formula E season should be just as fascinating as the first two were.

2016-17 Formula E Season Preview

Rule changes

There are no major rule changes compared to the transition between the first and second seasons in Formula E. However, the front wings have had a cosmetic change which should also make them stronger. The fastest lap (which decided the championship controversially last season) will now only give one point as opposed to two. Michelin will develop a new tyre, regeneration limits have been increased and there are minor weight limit changes too. With no significant changes within the powertrains regulations, it should be expected that some teams will try and look towards converging their powertrain to those used by Renault and by Abt last season, which proved to be the two most successful units.

Calendar

The calendar for season three is bigger than ever before, and there are a number of changes and new venues. Hong Kong, Marrakesh, Brussels, Montreal and New York all make their first appearance in Formula E in place of Punta del Este, Moscow and London. Monaco also returns, having previously held a race in the first season.

Full Calendar:

09/10/16 – Hong Kong ePrix
12/11/16 – Marrakesh ePrix
18/02/17 – Buenos Aires ePrix
01/04/17 – Mexico City ePrix
22/04/17 – TBA
13/05/17 – Monaco ePrix
20/05/17 – Paris ePrix
10/06/17 – Berlin ePrix
24/06/17 – TBA
01/07/17 – Brussels ePrix
15/07/17 – Montreal ePrix*
16/07/17 – Montreal ePrix*
29/07/17 – New York ePrix
30/07/17 – New York ePrix

* – The Montreal ePrix clashes with the 2017 Six Hours of Nurburgring, where many Formula E drivers are expected to participate.

Teams and Drivers

Renault e.Dams
9. Sebastien Buemi (six Formula E wins, reigning champion)

Champion Buemi had a fairly patchy run to the championship last season but ultimately he got the job done. His presence at the front of the field is almost certain to occur again this time around, but he may need to minimise the errors. Renault started the season very strongly last year but their advantage dwindled as the season progressed. Buemi has won more races in the series’ short history than anybody else, but consistently delivering performances has not been one of Buemi’s strongest points.

8. Nico Prost (three Formula E wins, third placed last season)

Two wins in London rocketed Prost up to third in the championship last season. He was simply outclassed by his team mate and will be looking to try and find the form which led him to some strong results in the first season. Arguably Prost could come into play as Buemi’s rear-gunner, should the need arise.

ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport
11. Lucas di Grassi (four Formula E wins, second placed last season)

Di Grassi missed out again on a maiden Formula E championship and not without controversy last season. Once again he was disqualified from a race win and those points would have given him the championship. Expect di Grassi to be very competitive again this time around, and his ultra-consistent performances should play into his hands with the extended calendar.

66. Daniel Abt (four Formula E podiums, seventh placed last season)

Young Abt really came on strong at the end of the season, taking two podiums and even outpacing di Grassi on occasion. If Abt can start the season well, he should be able to help take points away from the other key players more than he did last season.

DS Virgin Racing
2. Sam Bird (three Formula E wins, fourth placed last season)

Bird delivered some sensational drives last season, but also threw away a couple of possible podiums. The car was tough to drive last year but should Virgin get on top of those issues, Bird could feature in the title battle. How he shapes up to his rookie team mate will also be intriguing.

37. Jose Maria Lopez (rookie, three-time WTCC champion)

The first of five rookies in the field is triple WTCC champion Lopez. Lopez has not driven a single seater for a long time since his failed bid in racing in Formula One, but since then he has become one of the best touring car drivers on the planet. How he manages to translate this into the world of Formula E will be interesting.

Farady Future Dragon Racing
6. Loic Duval (two Formula E podiums, eighth placed last season)

Duval was unfortunate to not come away with some stronger results last season, but ultimately he failed to capitalise on the opportunities which arose. Wins are possible with Dragon and their own powertrain, and Duval will be looking for that elusive win.

7. Jerome d’Ambrosio (two Formula E wins, fourth placed in season one)

To misquote Murray Walker: “the man who has won the most races without actually winning any of them” had another strong campaign last season, inheriting another win after another di Grassi disqualification. However, the Belgian does have the speed to win on pace alone, the right situation just needs to arise.

Mahindra Racing Formula E Team
19. Felix Rosenqvist (rookie, 2015 European Formula Three Champion)

There is a lot of hype surrounding the highly versatile F3 veteran, who has also raced Indy Lights, Blancpain and DTM in 2016 alone. Rosenqvist has also won the prestigious Macau Grand Prix on two occasions and has generally been on the pace instantly in new machinery. His arrival is almost certainly going to raise the profile of the series in his native Sweden as well.

23. Nick Heidfeld (two Formula E podiums, tenth placed last season)

Two podium finishes does not really justify Heidfeld’s Formula E performances so far in his career, which last season was hindered by injury. However, he had a really solid first season with Mahindra and seems happy there. How he shapes up to his young team mate will be one of the battles which is expected to be close this time.

Venturi Formula E Team
4. Stephane Sarrazin (one Formula E podium, sixth placed last season)

The incredibly versatile Sarrazin finally secured his first Formula E podium last season, and also finished every single race within the top ten. Expect more of the same consistently strong performances from Sarrazin in 2016 and 2017.

5. Maro Engel (rookie, inaugural FIA GT World Cup winner)

Engel’s appointment was perhaps the most surprising announcement, but the Mercedes GT veteran has shown excellent speed on street circuits in the past, especially at Macau. He may struggle initially, but Engel should not turn out to be a pushover.

MS Amlin Andretti
27. Robin Frijns (one Formula E podium, 12th placed last season)

Frijns dragged his Andretti into positions it simply didn’t belong last season, and he seemed to be right at home in the series in his rookie campaign, comprehensively beating his team mate. Frijns will form one half of arguably the tastiest team mate battle this season. He also seems on very good terms with Michael Andretti, even testing his IndyCar in the off-season.

28. Antonio Felix da Costa (one Formula E win, eighth placed in season one)

The Portuguese driver has ditched his DTM campaign and will focus on Formula E full-time, having single-handedly taken the Aguri team to the front in the first two seasons. How he shapes up to Frijns is going to be absolutely fascinating, and this pairing is probably the strongest of all. How Andretti performs with their own powertrain will also be interesting.

Techeetah
25. Jean-Eric Vergne (four Formula E podiums, seventh placed in season one)

Vergne moves to the team formerly known as Aguri after a tumultuous time at Virgin, where he spent much of the campaign being at the wrong end of the field. He fills da Costa’s shoes, and will be hoping to produce the sort of performances the team should be capable of with the Renault powertrain.

33. Ma Qing Hua (one eleventh place finish, 19th placed last season)

Ma has a few races worth of experience under his belt, and has experience with the team. However, it will be likely that Ma will struggle in his first full season in Formula E against a driver of Vergne’s calibre.

NEXTEV TCR
3. Nelson Piquet, Jr. (two Formula E wins, inaugural series champion)

The title defence for Piquet was absolutely non-existent last season, dogged with an unreliable, heavy and difficult to drive piece of kit. He will not want a repeat of that this season, but his loyalty to his team cannot be questioned. He will also be looking to beat his team mate this time around. The rule changes regarding regeneration should be to Piquet’s advantage.

88. Oliver Turvey (one sixth place finish, 14th placed last season)

Turvey shone in the London races last time out, but ultimately it did not amount to much. His season was also a complete write-off, and deserves a better chance at fighting for points and podiums.

Panasonic Jaguar Racing
20. Mitch Evans (rookie, 2012 GP3 series champion)

Evans has a lot of recent experience in single seaters, and is highly rated by many, including Mark Webber. The New Zealander’s career has stagnated somewhat since joining GP2, and with his F1 chances looking slim, he has had to look elsewhere. He has established himself as a very good sportscar driver, and is now trying his hand at Formula E too.

47. Adam Carroll (2008-09 A1 GP champion)

Carroll is one of those drivers who was destined for good things, but suddenly his career dropped off. One of the stars of the inaugural GP2 series season, he has since driven in a large number of categories since, with varied success. This is a much-deserved opportunity against some top-level drivers for the Briton.
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