Pre-Season Testing – With pre-season testing at Donington Park ahead of Season Three of the Formula E Championship right around the corner, we take a look at what you should keep an eye on throughout the two tests.
Season Thee sees the cars decrease in weight by 8kg to 880kg, as well as a new front wing making an appearance. Teams will also be permitted 150kW of regeneration, up from the previous 100kW, which will see the drivers being able to push harder for longer in races.
Renault eDAMS were the first to get their Season Three car on track to start their fifteen days of private testing, which is expected to be an evolution on their championship winning car from Season Two, generally trying to lighten the car and improve efficiency through the software in particular.
With the secrets of their performance from last season now open for all the teams to see, it is likely that many teams will adopt some of the characteristics of the ZE15, such as the two-gear gearbox, although the manual shifter may be something to be desired despite it being lighter than the flappy paddle option.
Within the team itself, there is very little that needs changing. The team errors from Season One were quickly erased to create a well-oiled machine for Season Two. They clearly have one of the best drivers on the grid in Sebastien Buemi, with Nico Prost able to act as a strong number two who is still able to bring home the bacon when he needs to, as he proved with two wins in London.
Audi Abt Schaeffler Sport
Abt know that they have to improve in all areas if they are to beat eDAMS and not let a third championship allude them. Although it looked at times last season that their car was a match from their French rivals, the raw pace advantage still lied with the Renault team.
Like eDAMS, they have a clear lead driver in the form of Lucas di Grassi, and a strong back up with Daniel Abt. Di Grassi was considered the “worthy” champion of last season having been able to lead the championship for so long in a lesser performing car, which leaves it up to the team to find that extra one or two per cent they need to close the gap to the champions.
Now with a single motor set-up, DS Virgin could be one of the dark horses of Season Three. Last season’s car was indeed fast, with four pole positions, but the increased weight of their twin-motor powertrain made it a handful to drive and inconsistent in the race.
With a more traditional layout, DS Virgin could initially take a step back as they adapt to the new car. But the expertise of the team ought to put them in race-winning contention early on in the season.
Although Jose Maria Lopez in new to the all-electric series, word from the team suggests he is settling into the sport very well. Partnering Sam Bird, it is one of the best pairings on the grid. However, like we saw with Bird and former team mate Jean-Eric Vergne in Paris, is one that could come to blows with both drivers fighting for the number one position.
MS Amlin Andretti
Andretti teased in testing last season with a powertrain supposedly so powerful it would wipe away the rest of the field. Unfortunately it could barely it make it to the end of the pit lane before a terminal problem occurred, which saw them revert to the Season One car.
Having had a year to work away on the ATEC-02, now with engineers from BMW in the team and an alleged alliance with Magneti Marelli, Andretti are certainly ones to look out for.
They also feature the most exciting driver line-up on the grid, pairing two midfield stars of last season in the form of Antonio Felix da Costa and Robin Frijns puts the team in a very strong position. However, as with DS Virgin, two young drivers keen to impress could create trouble down the line.
Faraday Future Dragon Racing
Having secured the luxury of manufacturer status for Season Three, Dragon Racing are another team who stand to gain much in the year of racing to come. While Faraday Future will only be developing the software for this season’s car, the arrival of the company sets up a mid-term plan to secure victories in the near future.
With the solid pairing of Jerome D’Ambrosio and Loic Duval, they have every chance at taking more podiums and occasionally fighting for a win in Season Three. However, it will most likely not be until the following season, by which time Faraday Future will be designing the entire powertrain, that they can fight for the championship.
The Venturi powertrain, also used by Dragon Racing, proved to be on that needed certain factors to be correct in order to get good speed out of it last season. Their new powertrain, the VM200-FE-02, again will be an evolution from the previous model: lighter, faster and more efficient.
Stephane Sarrazin proved in Season Two he can still play with the youngsters of the sport, with new team mate Maro Engel a suitable fit for Formula E with his high level of street circuit racing.
Mahindra’s new two-gear Magneti Marelli powertrain is rumoured to be the one that takes the Indian team from midfielder to podium contender. A good foundation has been laid by the team in the first two seasons, but now the time has come to build upon it.
Nick Heidfeld is expected to stay with the team for Season Three as a strong developer of racing cars, with his team mate expected to be announced before the start of testing.
Tiago Monteiro and GP3 driver Alex Paulo were used by the team in private testing, but are not expected to be contenders for the race seat alongside Heidfeld.
After a dismal Season Two, NextEV enter the new season with a fresh face. However, behind the make up lies the same twin-motor layout that caused them so many headaches last season.
The car has gone on a serious diet since last year’s car rolled out of the garage to reduce the impact of the incredibly powerful, but very heavy, second motor.
Although unconfirmed both Nelson Piquet Jr. and Oliver Turvey are expected to remain with the team, who will surely see a vast improvement over what they last drove in London.
After taking over Team Aguri at the end of last season, the new name in Formula E has been unable to complete any private testing whatsoever, meaning the new car will be taking to the track for the first time at Donington Park.
It will be an uphill struggle for the newcomers early on, but a Renault powertrain in the back of the car can only help matters.
With Jean-Eric Vergne leading the team with Ma Qing Hua alongside, Techeetah, with the exception of NextEV, have the most to gain in Season Three.
The big name in Formula E that everyone wants to hear more about has been playing its cards close to its chest. Little information is known about what lies underneath the rear bodywork, or how private testing has been going for them. Abandoning a demo run ahead of the London ePrix weekend does not point towards immediate greatness.
But with so many resources available to them, it should not take long for Jaguar to find their feet in the sport and to start making progress. They may well find themselves at the back of the grid at the first race in Hong Kong, but development should be strong from then on.
Adam Carroll seems to be the most likely option for Jaguar to take up, with the team reportedly using public testing to field Williams’ Formula One development driver Alex Lynn, as well as Mitch Evans and Harry Ticknell.
Of the three, Lynn would be the most favourable for the team. However, given how Formula One’s driver market has played out so far, Lynn still stands a chance with Williams in Formula One. While it may currently be an unlikely scenario, Lynn will want to keep his options open for 2017.