Season 5 half-term report

With the first half the season over, it’s time to reassess how all the teams are performing; have they met their expectations, or are they struggling under the weight of them?

Geox Dragon Racing – 11th, 2 points

Dragon has been gradually dropping down the table each season; now Jay Penske’s team finds itself at the very bottom of the team’s championship. Things began promisingly with Jose Maria Lopez getting the car onto the front row in Ad Diriyah. However, the big problem this season has been getting the car to the chequered flag; when the drivers haven’t been crashing out of races, the car’s woeful lack of reliability has prematurely ended their E-Prix on far too many occasions.

On top of this, Dragon has shared the second seat between Maximillian Guenther and former F1 driver Felipe Nasr, which means that neither driver has really been given enough seat time to shine. However, despite this Guenther was running a fairly strong 8th in Santiago before the car came to a halt with technical issues. It would be a shame to see Dragon finishing last, as their car has shown flashes of pace on occasion.

Dragon is a fiercely independent outfit but it is being left behind by the growing number of OEM’s joining the sport; after false starts with Faraday Future and Porsche over the years it’s high time that Dragon secured a long-term deal with a bonafide manufacturer. Until then, it’s not going to get any easier for the U.S. outfit.

Grade: D

NIO Formula E Team – 10th, 6 points

With NIO finally breaking through onto the podium in season four, and with super-sub Tom Dillmann finally getting his big break with the team, much was expected of NIO this season. However, the car flattered to deceive on long runs in pre-season testing, and has proved recalcitrant and slow at every race so far, often propping up the back of the grid.

Operationally they have been poor too, with Tom Dillmann’s car exceeding the allowed number of qualifying laps in Ad Diriyah and being disqualified as a result. The Frenchman has endured a torrid first full season, suffering various misfortunes and unreliability, (Including having a brake failure in the Marrakesh pitlane which caused him to crash into Robin Frijns) but also being consistently beaten by his teammate.

Oliver Turvey has been driving brilliantly to eke a few points finishes out of a machine that has no business being anywhere near the top 10, but his against the odds performances this season have often gone unheralded. You have to wonder if Turvey regrets not taking up the Nissan e.Dams seat which instead went to another Englishman named Oliver.

You could be forgiven for forgetting that NIO is still a part of this championship. There’s no #BlueSkyComing; only grey misery seems to await NIO at each round. It’s only through the efforts of Turvey that they are currently ahead of Dragon in the standings.

Grade: E

HWA Racelab – 9th, 7 points

Mercedes may be preparing to put their full factory might behind this team in season six, but as it stands the HWA team, after limited testing with their customer Venturi powertrain, are actually punching above their weight and putting far more experienced Formula E teams to shame.

Both rookie drivers have also adapted well, with Stoffel Vandoorne in particular excelling, sneaking into Superpole twice, and taking pole position for FE’s 50th race in Hong Kong. Gary Paffett meanwhile has been more solid than spectacular, but he still bought the car home 8th in Hong Kong. Both drivers have suffered from chronic unreliability, with Vandoorne’s driveshaft failure in Hong Kong whilst running 3rd being a particularly painful instance.

However, as a new team teething troubles were expected for HWA; after bad luck and driver errors in the first few races the team has been able to turn things around and lift themselves off the bottom of the points table, which many observers would not have believed was possible at the start of the season.

Overall the highs have definitely outranked the lows; considering this is a brand new team they have made a very promising start to a new championship, and there’s much more to come.

Grade: C+

Panasonic Jaguar Racing – 8th, 37 points

Despite starting the season well with Mitch Evans finishing fourth in the season opener, and scoring points in every race so far, Jaguar do not have the pace or efficiency that they’d hoped they would, meaning that Evans is often left fighting for minor points placings rather than for podiums. But that disappointment pales in comparison to Nelson Piquet Jnr., who has left the team after crashing out of three races in a row and failing to score more than a single point.

The season one champion has been replaced by former Virgin driver Alex Lynn, but whether the Brit will be able to help turn the team’s fortunes around remains to be seen. Qualifying has been the team’s main achilles heel this season, with Evans breaking into Superpole just once in Marrakesh; they have been largely inconsistent.

It’s turning into a turbulent and slightly disappointing season for James Barclay’s team. Evans remains an outside bet for the driver’s title but Jaguar is unlikely to make much progress in the team’s championship.

Grade: C

Nissan e.Dams – 7th, 46 points

The former 3-time team’s champions had a difficult pre-season, but are finally starting to find their feet. Sebastien Buemi took pole in Santiago but crashed out of the race. Oliver Rowland meanwhile, after having next to no pre-season testing, was 7th on his debut and then took pole position and finished 2nd in Sanya.

There was a major error in Mexico when the team miscalculated their energy targets following a red flag, leading both cars to drop out of the points on the final lap. Whilst Buemi has been with the team since the first season, it’s interesting to see his new teammate Rowland get the upper-hand over him at this stage of the season. Both cars seem to have found a lot of speed down the straights, which is very encouraging.

Expect Nissan to be strong contenders for race victories in the rest of the season, even if the title is perhaps a little too far out of reach; we’ve yet to fully see the best of them.

Grade: B

Venturi Formula E team – 6th, 67 points

After a disappointing start to the season, Venturi has turned things around dramatically under team principal Susie Wolff, who was appointed at the end of season 4. Mortara, in particular, has been impressive, finishing 4th in Santiago, 3rd in Mexico City and taking the team’s first ever victory in Hong Kong after Sam Bird’s penalty.

Felipe Massa has had more of a learning curve to overcome, but he has now started to score more consistently since his breakthrough weekend in Mexico. Venturi will be hoping for further points hauls throughout the rest of the season.

Venturi has done very well so far, but it’s unlikely that we will see them fighting for the championship at the end of the season. Still, they have belied their underdog status and outperformed bigger and better-funded teams.

Grade: B+

BMWi Andretti Motorsport – 5th, 80 points

After coming dead last in season 4, BMW Andretti has improved the most in the pre-season by building arguably one of the fastest cars this season, but after winning the first race in Ad Diriyah they have struggled to turn their pace into another win.

Sometimes there have been embarrassing moments such as Marrakesh where Alexander Sims and Antonio Felix Da Costa collided into each other whilst leading. However, Da Costa has since backed up his win with second place in Mexico, and third in Sanya. Alexander Sims though has suffered appalling bad luck, losing a podium in Santiago due to a penalty for contact with Mortara, and then being an innocent victim of crashes in Mexico and Sanya. Without these misfortunes, the team would likely be significantly higher up the standings.

This is Andretti’s best chance yet of winning a Formula E title, considering that Da Costa currently leads the driver’s standings. Crucially, Sims in the second car needs to be finishing races if the team hopes to climb further up the team’s table.

Grade: A-

DS Techeetah Formula E Team – 4th, 95 points

In the opening few races, Techeetah was definitely one of the biggest underachievers. They’ve had their fair share of misfortune, in particular Andre Lotterer’s puncture in the closing stages of the Hong Kong E-Prix whilst he was leading, but the team also made some small errors, such as receiving penalties which lost them a one-two finish in Ad Diriyah, or Jean-Eric Vergne’s spin whilst trying to snatch the lead from Sam Bird at the start of the race in Marrakech.

But with Vergne’s victory in Sanya launching him up to 3rd in the driver’s standings, the team is firmly back in the mix. Whilst the reigning champion has captured more headlines by criticising the quality of racing in the championship, Lotterer has also been very impressive this season with some aggressive and decisive driving; the German’s first Formula E victory can’t be too far away.

They’re just starting to recover from their disappointing start; you’d be foolhardy to bet against them for the team’s title.

Grade: B+

Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler – 3rd, 96 points

Despite a brilliantly judged last-gasp victory for Lucas Di Grassi in Mexico, and second place in Hong Kong, last year’s team’s champions have been incredibly inconsistent this season; the team hasn’t been able to maintain their pace advantage from the end of season 4.

Despite this the team has been able to secure a few podiums which have kept them in title contention; Daniel Abt has done a good job to pick up the pieces in the races where Di Grassi has struggled, such as Santiago where he finished third. However, Di Grassi’s penalty in Chile, which saw him lose a brilliant pole position, was especially costly.

Whilst Audi have bought points home at every round, they have fallen short of their own high expectations. Whilst the car is very efficient, it’s often lacked slightly on one lap pace, with the team only securing one front row start in Mexico, despite several appearances in Superpole.

Audi could yet be repeat team’s champions, but there’s some work to do if that’s to happen.

Grade: B

Mahindra Racing – 2nd, 97 points

Mahindra has been one of the most consistent teams in a championship which rewards consistency in abundance. Aside from a disaster in Hong Kong when both cars qualified badly and could not avoid the Dragon of Felipe Nasr immediately in front of them, Mahindra has scored decent points in every other race; they were on the podium in Ad Diriyah, Marrakesh, (Where D’Ambrosio won) and Santiago.

Recent races have been harder going, but Mahindra was able to stay out of trouble in Sanya on a day when they weren’t the quickest and as a result, they’ve tied up the score at the top of the driver’s standings. Whilst D’Ambrosio is a well-deserved second in the driver’s standings, the Belgian consistently making progress up the field from his grid positions, Pascal Werhlein has also been very impressive in his rookie campaign with a podium and a pole position to his name.

Mahindra has been a class act this season and has gotten the maximum out of their package. With the championship being so tight at the top, it could very easily be their year.

Grade: A+

Envision Virgin Racing – 1st, 97 points

The championship leaders have impressed with Sam Bird finishing second in Marrakesh and winning in Santiago, with Robin Frijns picking up podiums in Marrakesh and Hong Kong and reminding everyone that he is still one of the best overtakers in the business. The car has often been quicker than the factory Audis, but Sam Bird suffered a reliability issue in Mexico which forced him to start from the back of the grid.

Bird also lost a victory in Hong Kong due to a penalty for making contact with Andre Lotterer and unintentionally giving the Techeetah driver a puncture. Minor mistakes have eroded their margin in the team’s championship and allowed Mahindra, Audi and Techeetah to close in. Bird is capable of winning the driver’s championship but he will need to qualify a little better and stay out of trouble to fully realise his potential.

Virgin has been strong this season, but they are starting to lose ground in the driver’s championship, and that’s bled through into the team’s standings. One thing is for sure; they have a major fight on their hands if they’re going to end this season as team’s champions.

Grade: A

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