Emerging Stories in Formula E: Week One of Testing

Donington Park saw the return of Formula E in the first two days of six tests due to take place in August. After only six weeks since the final round of inaugural season, focus now turns to the opening round of season two, due to take place on 17th October in Beijing. Races and drivers are slowly being confirmed; here’s what we know so far.

What is Formula E?

In short: all-electric single seater racing. Ten teams, two drivers, two cars each. The series races solely on street circuits, and in the first year held races in the streets of Beijing, Miami and Moscow, and two races in Battersea Park. The cars have three different power modes: 200kW for qualifying, 150kW for the race, and 180kW for three lucky drivers who gain the most Fanboost votes. For a more comprehensive review, check out Current E’s helpful guide to the series.

What’s new for season 2?

Last year, the teams raced identical cars. This year, three manufacturers have joined the series, and now have free reign to develop their own powertrains. Future seasons will allow manufacturers to develop the battery, which will hopefully see the technology filter through to electric road cars.

No UK broadcaster for season 2?

ITV broadcasted live races on ITV4 last year, with the exception of the Battersea Park races, which were shown on ITV. News has emerged today that, whilst ITV describe themselves as ‘interested’ in broadcasting the series, no deal is currently in place. With the first race due to kick off on 17th October in Beijing, and the popularity of the series starting to pick up, this could be a major blunder on ITV’s part, and if the series is forced to move to pay-TV, this growing interest could start to wane.

Jumping Ship-ers and New Faces

After weeks of speculation, some of the pieces of the 2015/16 puzzle began to fall into place.

Following Jaime Alguesuari’s announcement that he will not return to the series, Jean-Eric Vergne was announced as Sam Bird’s team mate for DS Virgin Racing, despite having signed a contract with Andretti at the start of last week. What this means for Vergne’s chances of a drive in the Haas F1 team next year remains to be seen.

The most high profile signing is former F1 champion, Jaques Villeneuve, at Venturi, who finished the first season in ninth place in the Constructors Championship. Stephane Sarrazin also remains at the Monegasque outfit, and appears to have the edge over his Canadian teammate after finishing the second day of testing almost five seconds ahead.

Nick Heidfeld now joins Bruno Senna at Mahindra Racing, replacing Karun Chandhok. Reigning Champion Nelson Piquet Junior remains at NEXTEV TCR for a second season. Also staying put at their respective teams are Daniel Abt, Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, Jarno Trulli, Simona de Silvestro and Jerome D’Ambrosio.

Nico Prost and Sebastien Buemi, who missed out on winning the championship by a mere point, have yet to be confirmed for e.dams Renault, however both were present at testing this week. Having won the Constructors Championship with this pairing, it is difficult to see them changing their line-up for this year.

Oliver Turvey, who made his Formula E debut at the final two races at Battersea Park, was testing this week for NEXTEV TCR, though no formal announcement has be made about his future with the team.

Week One of Testing

Sebastien Buemi topped the time sheets for both days of testing, and even managed to break the lap record at Donington Park. Villeneuve had a tough debut, finishing at the bottom of the time sheets on both days.

ABT and Mahindra both finished within the top seven, and Sam Bird was fourth and second on the first and second days respectively.

The Trulli FE team were present at the track, but announced on Tuesday morning that they were postponing their test until next week. Andretti and NEXTEV were also blighted by technical issues, leaving both unable to set a time. Heidfeld and Vergne both made trips to the gravel traps, and Prost and De Silvestro both stopped out on track.

Fans at testing are reporting distinctive differences in sound between manufacturers. Some Formula One fans may want to check these cars out before they complain about engines being too quiet. It will be interesting to see the true power of Andretti and NEXTEV once they are able to solve those teething problems.

Fans can attend the remaining four tests for free by applying for tickets here.

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