In part two of our season five Formula E preview, Harry Slade looks at the prospects for the teams battling it out in a hugely competitive midfield – Jaguar, Venturi, NIO, Dragon, BMW Andretti and newcomers HWA.
Panasonic Jaguar Racing
The switch to the Gen 2 cars for the 2018-19 ABB Formula E championship marks a significant point for the Jaguar squad. A team who began to rise up the all-electric series ladder in season four following a year of simply making up the number in season three, it could be time for Jaguar to become race winners. The team has retained its unquestionably strong lineup of season one champion Nelson Piquet Jr and former GP3 champion, the kiwi, Mitch Evans to bolster its charge.
Pre-season has passed with the sense of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde looming large over the British-based team. Evans encouraged many by setting the third fastest time on the third and final day of pre-season, however, this was dovetailed by a technical fault that ailed Piquet’s running. In the combined timed stakes, Jaguar only languished down in 13th and 22nd respectively, more pace seemingly needed to be found before this weekend’s opening race in Riyadh.
Venturi Formula E team
The Monegasque team has overgone a substantial makeover since season four. Susie Wolff is now team principal, and through her links to Mercedes, the team has agreed on a technical partnership to supply its powertrain to the newfound Mercedes-affiliated HWA team. For Venturi, the changes haven’t stopped there. Arguably the biggest driver coup for the series as a whole so far has been Venturi’s signing of eleven-time Formula 1 Grand Prix winner Felipe Massa. He will partner current incumbent Edoardo Mortara who returns for a second season with the team he made his debut with last year.
For Venturi, pre-season testing in Valencia was solid, the combined time leaving it in 8th and 9th position respectively, with Massa leading his more youthful teammate. For season five, the statement of intent put down by the signing of Massa is clear, and the privateers will surely be aiming to ruffle the feathers of the leading lights of Audi, Virgin and Mahindra respectively.
NIO Formula E team
NIO is a team that may look back on last season with the sense of ‘what if’. The McLaren-affiliated Oliver Turvey shone, so much so that he was rated as the series most underrated driver by his peers, an accolade which underlines his incredible talent. However, the dichotomy between his results and that of outgoing teammate Luca Filipi is clear. Filipi toiled in the championship, ultimately finishing 21st and last of the full-time drivers. His lacklustre displays clearly not lost on team principal Gerry Hughes, who made the decision to snap up talented Frenchman Tom Dillmann as his replacement.
Pre-season, however, was not as promising. Pace-wise the season five NIO machinery looked slow, running 19th and 20th overall. This was quicker than only this Nissan e.dams team, although the absence of Alexander Abon left the Japanese newcomers a driver down for two of the three test days. This leaves NIO right now looking like potential backmarkers for the start of the Gen 2 era.
Geox Dragon Racing
Dragon Racing is another team to go over some renovations during the offseason. Arguably the most obvious being its newfound title sponsorship with Geox. This will come with a major cash influx aimed at boosting the Penske-linked side up the grid for season five. In less positive news, longtime servant to the US team, Jerome D’ambrosio, who brought victories and podiums to the team, has left. His intentions on challenging for the title with Mahindra being the main pull factor. In his place comes the young German Maximillian Günther, a race winner in Formula 2,. Günther will be aided by the experience of three-time World Touring Car champion Jose Maria Lopez, who returns for a second season with the team.
Pre-season was solid without being spectacular for Dragon. Undoubtedly the team looked in a stronger state than twelve months ago, ‘Pechito’ was 12th overall with Günther close behind in 14th. For Dragon this season has to be about building into a stronger midfield team, filling the d’Ambrosio spaced void will be critical for their chances.
BMW I Andretti Motorsport
BMW and Andretti, two names that have been hugely successful in various forms of motorsport, the expectation now on these two companies working together harmoniously will be to win. However, Andretti alone certainly did not achieve anything near to that last year, and finished the season bottom of the constructors’ championship as the only team that failed to reach the podium.
However, the step into Gen 2 together with its budding BMW partnership seems to have flipped that on its head. Longtime incumbent to the BMW family and former Red Bull junior, Antonio Felix Da Costa will spearhead the charge, with Formula E rookie Alexander Sims completing the partnership. BMW Andretti proceeded to lay down the gauntlet at Valencia, topping all three days of pre-season testing. Costa was the only man to lap in the 1m 16s, while Sims was in hot pursuit with a respectable 3rd on the overall times.
For BMW Andretti, to borrow a phrase, returning to ‘victory lane’ has to be the aim. A title challenge, however, is expected by many with rival team principals, including Audi’s Allan McNish telling motorsport.com that “BMW right now is the one that we look at and they are the one that we are going to be chasing as a principal point.”
HWA Racelab, the newest arrival on the Formula E grid, has the DNA of one of the biggest names in motorsport running through its veins – Mercedes AMG. This coupled with a star-studded driver line-up of two former McLaren linked drivers. Reigning DTM champion Gary Paffet and former GP2 champion, Stoffel Vandoorne. This exciting lineup being a statement of intent to many.
The team’s debut in testing didn’t run as smoothly as hoped with a couple of mechanical issues cropping up throughout the week, however, it was a relatively successful debut for the paddock’s newest entity. Vandoorne and Paffett finished 15th and 18th respectively on the cumulative timesheet. HWA is utilising its partnership with Venturi to capitalise on a deal that will secure them Venturi electronics this coming season. While HWA has a rich history of success in the DTM, its goal this season will simply be to rival partners Venturi on-track.
Images Credit: Formula E
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