Formula E 2016/17 – top and flop

The third season of the FIA Formula E Championship season has been amazing, when you look at the competition and great racing.

The start of the season looked like it was going to be a very one-way, when Sebastien Buemi and Renault e.dams started the season with 5 victories out of 6, only broken by Lucas di Grassi for Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport in Mexico City. But from the double round in Berlin onwards, we saw a change. Felix Rosenqvist and Mahindra Racing was suddenly faster than Renault e.dams, and if they hadn’t made an error during the pit stop at the Sunday race, a pretty secure double victory were on the cards for Rosenqvist.

The New York round was without Buemi, who was unable to attend due to a date clash with FIA WEC, and then Sam Bird and DS Virgin Racing was the fastest grabbed the opportunity and won both races. At the final round in Montreal, Lucas di Grassi was fast enough to claim the Championship while the Techeetah driver Jean-Eric Vergne was both his and his team’s first victory in Formula E.

But let’s have a look at the teams one by one – we will give the score 1 as the best while 6 is the worst.

Renault e.dams

Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.Dams, Spark-Renault, Renault Z.E 16.
Photo: Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E

The team was completely dominant in the first half of the season, but then something happened. An error from the team saw Buemi disqualified from the Saturday race in Berlin, and when the same thing happened in Montreal, it cost him the Drivers Championship. He couldn’t however, as previously mention, participate in the New York, but the team should have been dominant enough to claim the Championship. And Buemi didn’t. Teammate Nico Prost was never really a part of the Championship hunt. With 8 top six finishes he has been there or there about so many times, but after winning the two final races of the 2015/16 season, on top of several other podium positions during the first two season, he simply didn’t deliver this year. The Teams Championship was primarily won by the superb driving of Buemi, who delivered 2/3 of the points. If they want to reclaim the Teams Championship in Season 4, Prost needs to perform way better. Even though they won the Teams Championship this year, they don’t get a higher score than 2, since two disqualifications simply isn’t good enough for such a professional team, combined with a second driver (Prost) who simply couldn’t follow his teammates pace. The team has however announced that both drivers will be retained for Season 4.

Score: 2

Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport

Lucas di Grassi, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, Spark-Abt Sportsline, ABT Schaeffler FE02.
Photo: Andrew Ferraro/LAT/Formula E

The team had two mediocre races at the start of the season, before Lucas di Grassi got into the grove with three podium positions in a row. A collision at the Paris round for di Grassi, gave him an egg, but he fought back in Berlin, where he drove two perfect races, with a broken foot. In fact he was so injured that he wasn’t allowed to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans the following week by the doctors, since he couldn’t get out of the closed car fast enough. It had been easier for him in the open cockpit car in Berlin. He didn’t do the perfect job in New York, missing out on an opportunity when Buemi was absent, but he still claimed the Championship at the end. But if, but and maybe’s – he won the Championship, and there is no asterix next to him in the record books. Daniel Abt was the perfect number two driver – he was a great part of driving the second place home in the Teams Championship, and hadn’t he been unlucky with many technical issues, he might have had those 20 points missing in the Championship, to grab the title from Renault e.dams. He retired or fell back quite a few times near the podium positions, and especially New York was a tough loss for him, retiring from a podium position on the very final lap of the race. If the team can fully solve their issues, the Audi Sport factory team will be really hard to beat in the 2017/18 season. Both drivers are confirmed for the team.

Score: 1,5

Mahindra Racing

Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing, Spark-Mahindra, Mahindra M3ELECTRO.
Photo: Malcolm Griffiths/LAT/Formula E

The team did a huge leap from Season 2 to the just completed Season 3, jumping from 5th to 3rd in the Teams Championship. On top of that, their new driver, Felix Rosenqvist finished third in the Drivers Championship. With a victory in his Rookie season, against far more experienced guys, including his teammate Nick Heidfeld, it was an impressive display from the young Swede. Heidfeld finished third a total of five times during the season, but had two races outside the points as well on top of two fully retired races. If the team can find just a bit more speed, and more luck on their second car – and can keep Felix Rosenqvist, they surely can fight the top guys in the future.

Score: 2

DS Virgin Racing

Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing, Spark-Citroen, Virgin DSV-02.
Photo: Alastair Staley/LAT/Formula E

A team that should be able to do so much more, but they had a terrible start of the season, with a lot of technical problems. That was only underlined in New York, when Sam Bird more than doubled his points tally with his two wins in The Big Apple. He was lacking the points from the first half of the season to really be fighting for the Championship. Jose Maria Lopez was thrown into the deep water straight away, after having been out of single-seaters for many seasons. It wasn’t until Paris that he found the key, and was awarded with a podium finish. From that point onwards, only broken up by a FIA WEC race at the New York round, he really helped the team consolidate their fourth place in the Teams Championship. If that driver combination is going to continue, at least Mahindra can start checking their rear view mirrors. If they can catch Renault and Audi too, only time will tell.

Score: 2,5

Techeetah

Jean-Eric Vergne, Techeetah, Spark-Renault, Renault Z.E 16.
Photo: Patrik Lundin/LAT/Formula E

The brand new team got a turbulent start to the season, where Jean-Eric Vergne was plagued by mechanical gremlins through the first two weekends, but after that, performed well, all crowned with a victory at the season finale. The team has Renault e.dams drive train, so they should have been fast enough, but perhaps it was about the adapting to the Formula E Championship plus finding the perfect setup for the car, that was bugging them. The team started out with Ma Qing Hua in the second car, but with 3 bad opening rounds, he was fired by the team, and replaced with Esteban Gutierrez. Gutierrez claimed 5 points for the team, before Indycar was more to the interest of the Mexican driver, and the team had to find a new driver again. That was Stephane Sarrazin, who got tired of the Venturi team, who had been racing for them ever since the start of Season one. After finding his place in the new team, he was on the podium for two times in the second half of the season – previously he only had one other podium during two and a half seasons. If we only had a look at the second half of the season, the team would get a much better score, but it was their choice to start out with Hua, and that was a bad choice points wise. Gutierrez wasn’t their fault, and in fact they are complaining to him about breach of contract.

Score: 3

NextEV NIO

Nelson Piquet, NextEV NIO, Spark-NEXTEV, NEXTEV TCR Formula 002.
Photo: Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E

Following the Championship win for Nelson Piquet Jr in Season one, they had a terrible Season two, where both drivers finished outside top-10. The team continued with Piquet Jr and Oliver Turvey for Season 3, but once again it wasn’t really great in the Championship. Only four top-10 places for Piquet Jr and six for Turvey – all far from the podium – resulted in a very bad points collection. As far as we can see, its down to the technique on the car, since both drivers have proved that they are among the best regarding power saving. But the small Chinese team doesn’t appear to be able to follow the development of especially Renault and Audi, but has lost out to Mahindra, DS Virgin Racing and Techeetah too. There was a massive 97 points gap up to Techeetah, which is the biggest gap in the Championship between two teams. With two drivers both finishing outside top-10, they really have to thing about what to do for Season 4 regarding the car. Both drivers perform on the same level, so it appears that they get the maximum out of the car.

Score: 4

MS Amlin Andretti

Antonio Felix da Costa, Amlin Andretti, Spark-Andretti, ATEC-02.
Photo: Sam Bloxham/LAT/Formula E

After a bit of drivers roulette in Season one, the team settled down in Season two. They kept Robin Frijns into Season 3, while Simona De Silvestro was looking for new adventures, and made space for Antonio Felix Da Costa, who had his third team in three seasons. The team is already supported by BMW and will be full works team from 2018/19. Frijns was in the top-10 five times during the season, but only just about stuck his nose in there. Antonio Felix Da Costa had a 5th position at the opening Round in Hong Kong, but was outside the points for the rest of the season, including three rounds where he retired. Part of the missing points was both drivers being in the middle of the pack, and there it’s always easy to make contact with other drivers – either by your own fault, or by being hit. Andretti and especially BMW can’t be satisfied with the season, and are quite likely looking around for potential new and better drivers. Other than that, the technical aspects also need to be improved.

Score: 5

Faraday Future Dragon Racing

Loic Duval, Dragon Racing, Spark-Penske, Penske 701-EV.
Photo: Zak Mauger/LAT/Formula E

The team chose to stick with the same driver combination, who has started for the team since the 5th race weekend in Season 1. Loic Duval and Jerome D’Ambrosio are the two French speaking drivers in the American team. After the team finished second in the Teams Championship in Season one, it has slowly but surely gone backwards with a 4th position in 2015/16 and now only 8th. The drivers were often busy battling each other instead of the competition, and that gave team owner Jay Penske both loads of grey hairs and plenty of expense for the swear box, each time the two teammates hit each other, or was close at doing so. There appears to be a lot of frustration from both drivers, so perhaps it’s time to clean out before Season 4 and at least replace Jerome D’Ambrosio, who scored only 13 points against Loic Duval’s 20. Only highlight for the team was to beat their power train providers, Ventuti.

Score: 5,5

Venturi

Maro Engel, Venturi, Spark-Venturi, Venturi VM200-FE-02.
Photo: Alastair Staley/LAT/Formula E

It has been a real roller coaster for the team, who showed glimpses of results in Season 1 and 2. They had a big driver rotation in the team this year, starting out with Stephane Sarrazin and Maro Engel, finishing off with Engel and Tom Dillmann. Like mentioned before, Sarrazin got a better opportunity and was quick to leave the team. They only got a handle of the car after Sarrazin left the team, and Engel and Dillmann has claimed about the same points each, in the rest of the races of the season. But Engel had too many races where he tired. 6 out of 11 races (he didn’t participate in one round due to a DTM date clash) is simply too many retirements. So the 9th position in the Teams Championship really reflects the performance of the team this year. The small privateer have a hard time against the bigger teams, who can just pump loads of money into the programme. But with 4 cars running through the 2016/17 season, they have plenty of data and hopefully had gained a lot of experience for Season 4. Otherwise we might soon see the end of the Monegasque team, if the money flow suddenly stops.

Score: 6

Panasonic Jaguar Racing

Mitch Evans, Jaguar Racing, Spark-Jaguar, Jaguar I-Type 1.
Photo: Steven Tee/LAT/Formula E

The team started as a brand new team for the 2016/17 season, with their own power train. With two brand new Formula E race drivers, with a bit of experience from testing and development, everything was brand new around the team. After a difficult start to the season, the team really hit the right setup in Mexico, and scored 4th and 8th finishing positions, getting their first points. Evans continued with another two straight points finishes, while Carroll only managed to score points one more time during the rest of the season. The team had big problems with their power management, and they often lacked at least one lap over the other competitors, and therefore had to dive to the pits earlier for their car change, and then then run on eco-programme for the second half of the race. That cost them several top-10 finishes, when they were overtaken on the final laps of the races. But when you take into account that they had zero experienced compared to already two seasons of experience by everybody else, it was really well done for Evans to beat Engel, D’Ambrosio and Felix Da Costa, who did full seasons too. They surely have learnt a great deal through the season about both strategy and the technology, so they are even better prepared for Season 4.

Score: 3

The new season of FIA Formula E Championship starts in Hong Kong on December 2nd-3rd.

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