Formula E starts its fifth season in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, and there are many new changes to look forward to. Let’s take you through them all…
There are several new drivers on the grid for this season: the most well known being 11-time Grand Prix winner Felipe Massa, who will drive for Venturi. Also joining the grid this season will be two more former F1 drivers, in the form of ex-Sauber and Manor driver Pascal Werhelin driving for Mahindra and former McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne, for the new HWA team.
Elsewhere, British GT champion Alexander Sims joins the series driving for BMW Andretti, Austrian F2 driver Maximilian Gunther gets a call-up for Dragon Racing, and Williams test/reserve driver Oliver Rowland will be driving for Nissan e. Dams, after a cameo appearance in season two for Mahindra. Also returning for his first full-time drive will be Tom Dillmann for NIO, and popular Dutchman and FE podium finisher Robin Frijns also makes a return to the grid with Envision Virgin Racing.
As mentioned earlier, a brand new team will also join the grid this season in the shape of HWA AG RACELAB. The crack DTM squad has called upon the services of Vandoorne and 2005 and 2018 DTM champion Gary Paffett, who already has a long history with the squad in touring cars. With the Mercedes factory entry arriving in season six, many see HWA’s entry as the German manufacturer dipping their toe in the water.
With the car swap being eliminated this season due to the cars having the battery charge to last a full race, the series has created a new strategic element called Attack Mode. Marketed as “Real life Mariokart”, Attack mode will be activated after the first two laps of the race, in which cars go wide into a selected corner, losing them time but in the process passing through loops which enables the driver to use a button on their steering wheel to activate a higher power mode of 225KW/H for a limited period of time, which they may use either to overtake cars ahead or to come out into a gap in which to speed through.
Much has been done to make this system as unpredictable as possible, including race control not revealing the duration, minimum usage time, or how many Attack mode attempts drivers will be allowed until an hour before the race start.
Other new rules include a time limit of 45 minutes +1 lap for every race this season, and the often maligned Fanboost system has been altered; instead of just the top 3, it’s now the top 5 drivers who will now be able to use a maximum of 250KW/H after the vote has been closed 22 minutes into the race.
Season five will see Formula E visit several new venues; Saturday’s season opener takes place in Ad Diriyah on the outskirts of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Formula E will also return to mainland China for the first time since season two with a race in Sanya. Two season 4 races will have new venues; the Santiago E-Prix has moved from Parque Forrestal to Parque O’Higgins after vitriolic local complaints, whilst the E-Prix in Switzerland has moved from Zurich to Bern due to the Zurich venue being unavailable. The abridged Monaco layout also returns from seasons one and three, and just like season four, the championship ends in Brooklyn, New York City.
Finally, for the first time since season one, Formula E will have a support series on its schedule in the shape of the Jaguar I-Pace series, which will be present at 9 of the 12 FE weekends. This is especially good news for fans trackside, as due to the need to recharge cars between sessions, there has previously been a lot of downtime in between qualifying and the race.
With five days to go until the first race of the season, it will be interesting to see how all the new changes will affect the championship, that has grown tremendously over the past four years,