The dawn of the tenth Formula E season is almost upon us, and with the powertrains being homologated from season nine and carrying over to this season, it is easy to suggest that the status quo will remain.
However, as motorsport always proves, anything can happen. All the teams spent three days together on track in Valencia. The main thing we learnt from those test days is that we are in store for another close season. All 11 teams were separated by a second, which proves that we could have one of the most fascinating seasons to date. So who are the favourites? It’s hard to look past Jaguar even though Envision won the teams’ title with the Jaguar powertrain.
The acquisition of Nick Cassidy from Envision creates a fierce driver line-up alongside fellow Kiwi Mitch Evans. Cassidy has improved immensely since he joined the series and narrowly missed out on the championship, due primarily to two late-season collisions that occurred through no fault of his own. Arguably the Jaguar powertrain was the best hardware package throughout the season, despite the Porsche powertrain being stronger and more reliable at the start of season nine. It’s hard to look past the British team as the favourites for season ten, as the teams can only make improvements to the software of their cars.
If Jaguar are the favourites, then who will be their main rivals? Well, first up it has to be Envision. The Silverstone-based squad have the same powertrain as Jaguar, and if Cassidy and Evans look like a strong partnership, then Sebastien Buemi and Robin Frijns must be a close second. Buemi, the season 2 Champion, has had a year to settle into his new surroundings after leaving Nissan.
From speaking to Buemi in our November issue, he knows that this season is a big year for him. It is a chance to fight for a title with a car he has a good understanding of. On the other hand, for Robin Frijns this season sees the Dutchman’s return to Envision after spending a year away with the ABT squad.
Frijns has repeatedly proven that he is a spectacular fighter on track, and has already enjoyed 12 podiums and two victories with the green Envision machines; if Evans or Cassidy slip up, or if Jaguar is once more outshone by their customers, then Frijns and Buemi could well be the two best placed to battle it out for the world drivers’ championship.
The other main competitors are Porsche and Andretti. Porsche had the next-best powertrain which powered Jake Dennis’ Andretti to a well-earned drivers’ championship through the 28-year-old Brit’s metronomic consistency, finishing on the podium in 11 of the 16 rounds.
The American team has signed Frenchman Norman Nato to partner the reigning world champion this season, his fourth different team in as many years, and he’ll be keen to compete with the front runners to ensure he stays with Andretti for longer than one season.
However, all eyes will be on Porsche to see if they can use their powertrain and engineering might to close the gap to Jaguar and Envision. The German manufacturer has a strong line-up with Pascal Wehrlein and season six champion Antonio Felix Da Costa.
However, they struggled to be consistent in qualifying last season which proved to be the source of their downfall. If Porsche has made the right improvements to its software, it could easily challenge the Jaguar-powered cars this season and potentially create one of Formula E’s best championship fights.
Then there is DS Penske. You can never rule out the French squad; a championship-winning driver line-up of Jean-Eric Vergne and Stoffel Vandoorne suggests that they should be near the front. Their powertrain unfortunately was not the quickest or most efficient last season, but DS has spent several years at the top of this championship, and they could be the team that makes the biggest step forward this season in their software and close in on the Porsche and Jaguar-powered cars.
This would also benefit Maserati, who continue to run the same hardware as part of the Stellantis brand. Jehan Daruvala as the only rookie driver in Formula E this season, joins the Monegasque-based team alongside race winner Maximilian Gunther.
What about Nissan and their customer team, McLaren? Both teams field strong driver line-ups, with McLaren signing hardened veteran Sam Bird to partner fellow Brit Jake Hughes, and Oliver Rowland rejoining the factory Nissan team alongside Sacha Fenestraz. Early rumblings suggest that the outfit hasn’t made as much progress with their software as they would have liked.
However, both McLaren and Nissan have the opportunity to spring a couple of surprises. especially after they took pole positions in Diriyah, Cape Town and Monaco last season. The potential is in the car, but will they be able to unlock it more often in season ten?
Mahindra, ABT Cupra and ERT (Formerly NIO 333) are sadly in for another trying season of fighting each other for the lower order in the top 10. Edoardo Mortara did set headline times for Mahindra in pre-season testing, but considering how all three teams struggled last season it is unlikely that they will make significant improvements considering that they haven’t been able to create a new powertrain to solve their pace or efficiency issues.
Former champions Lucas Di Grassi and Nyck De Vries have moved to ABT and Mahindra respectively, and ERT retains their previous lineup of Dan Ticktum and Sergio Sette Camara, who will both be aiming to achieve further giant-killing feats in 2024.
It is set to be a cracking season for Formula E this year, and it all gets underway in Mexico on January 13th.