⚡🔮 Formula E '24: Not a season preview

You can't predict the unpredictable

This might be the silliest post I’ve ever written. I’ve watched Formula E since pitstops involved a second car, and I’ve learned that there is no point in making predictions in Formula E. That’s the beauty of it.

On any given raceday, one of maybe 14 drivers could take the chequered flag first. Unlike F1, it’s not a series that values domination, but instead demands and rewards consistency. Wins are great, but the important thing is about finishing as high up as possible for as many races as possible, because you simply won’t win 7-8 races in a row.

Only one man (Jean-Éric Vergne) has won multiple (and consecutive) Formula E titles. No championship-winning driver has ever won more than four races in their victory season. Last season, Jake Dennis became the first British driver to win the Championship. He did so by winning just two races all season, but his 11 podium finishes made the difference, especially with Nick Cassidy and Mitch Evans winning four races each.

So, please don’t think of this as predictions, but more of a who’s who and what’s what in a series that still feels like a really well kept motorsport secret. Formula E is a globally-represented series, with green credentials, star drivers, teams you’ve heard of and a broadcast package that has historically gone out of its way to welcome new fans, so why aren’t you watching? Let’s start with the defending champions.

DEFENDING CHAMPIONS

TEAM NAME: AndrettiDRIVERS: Jake Dennis (c), Norman NatoPRINCIPAL: Roger Griffiths2022-23: Team - 3rd: Jake Dennis - 229 (Champion) | Andre Lotterer (all but R10-11) - 23 (18th) | David Beckmann (R10-11) - 0 (25th)

Dennis goes into the season with the target on his back as a dominant champion. He is something of a London specialist, with five podiums out of six races, taking the top step twice.

Norman Nato goes into his third full season in the series and his fourth team after Rokit Venturi, a cameo end of season at Jaguar and a very strong second half of last season, scoring points in the last six races of the season, including a second place in Rome. He’s definitely someone to watch.

TEAM NAME: EnvisionDRIVERS: Robin Frijns, Sebastian BuemiPRINCIPAL: Sylvain Filippi2022-23: Team - Champions: Nick Cassidy - 199 (2nd) | Sebastian Buemi 105 (6th)

The Team champions have lost the driver that contributed the most points, but replaced him with a familiar face. Robin Frijns spent four years with Envision, collecting a dozen podiums before heading for ABT Cupra where it went a bit wrong. He broke his wrist on the opening lap in the opening race, missing four races and then only scoring six points on his return. Heading back to where he has had success will be a fun plot to watch.

Sebastian Buemi is one of six former F1 drivers on the grid, and the Swiss driver won the second season ahead of Lucas di Grassi, back in the days when the London E Prix was held within Battersea Park. He won six races the year after in 2016-17, but didn’t win the title, and since then, only New York City (also, Formula E, please bring back New York City) in 2018-19 was his his only win. In 59 races since, he has had five podiums. Last season was better for him, but now aged 35, time is not on his side.

THE CONTENDERS

TEAM NAME: Jaguar TCS RacingDRIVERS: Mitch Evans, Nick CassidyPRINCIPAL: James Barclay2022-23: Team - 2nd: Mitch Evans - 197 (3rd) | Sam Bird - 95 (8th)

How many other racing series can boast an all-Kiwi pairing? Nick Cassidy scored two more points than Mitch Evans last season as Jaguar show they are really going for it in 2024. There has never been a season where the top team’s drivers also finished one-two in the championship, and if Formula E is going to have a Hamilton-Rosberg style season, this adds the same nationality to it too.

Both drivers are well-regarded and can dominate over the course of a weekend. Evans, a Jaguar mainstay, won the double-header in Rome in 2021-22 - the first time a driver had had a perfect weekend. Four wins last season for Evans, the same number as Cassidy. However, both drivers will hope for a better start to the season. After three races in 2022-23, Evans had 11 points while Cassidy had 10. The eventual champion, Jake Dennis, had 60.

TEAM NAME: TAG Heuer PorscheDRIVERS: Pascal Wehrlein, Antonio Felix da CostaPRINCIPAL: Florian Modlinger2022-23: Team - 4th: Pascal Wehrlein - 149 (4th) | Antonio Felix da Costa - 93 (9th)

Continuity for Porsche for the first time since coming into the sport, achieving their best finish with Wehrlein and former Champion da Costa. Wehrlein was the early season contender to Dennis, and while he scored in every race except one, didn’t score highly enough as his title charge faded.

da Costa was stuck on 93 points for the final four races of the season. With the exceptions of Rene Rast, Andre Lotterer, Robin Frijns and Roberto Mehri, every other driver on the grid scored at least one point in that time. The last time da Costa had a four-race pointless streak was during his Andretti days in 2018-19. The Portuguese driver was the lowest-ranked race winner last season.

TEAM NAME: DS PenskeDRIVERS: Jean-Éric Vergne, Stoffel VandoornePRINCIPAL: Jay Penske2022-23: Team - 5th: Jean-Éric Vergne - 107 (5th) | Stoffel Vandoorne - 56 (11th)

A pair of ex-F1 drivers, the series’ only two-time Champion and continuity in an already strong driver lineup. Yet they finished fifth last season with just three podium finishes - all from Vergne. Penske only scored 26 points in the last six races of the season, so finishing stronger is going to be a key theme for them next season.

Vandoorne took the final points-paying position at the opening race in Mexico, but from then, it was all downhill as he never broke past that position in the standings. A fourth place in Jakarta a rare highlight, as well as pole position in Sao Paolo, but in a series which has a defined and unpredictable silly season for drivers, this feels like a make-or-break season for the Belgian.

OCCASIONAL CHALLENGERS

TEAM NAME: Maserati MSGDRIVERS: Max Günther, Jehan Daruvala (Rookie)PRINCIPAL: I don’t actually know? It WAS James Rossiter until October2022-23: Team - 6th: Max Günther - 101 (7th) | Edo Mortara - 39 (14th)

The official Formula E website lists James Rossiter as team principal but he left in October (he’ll be part of their expert panel), so there’s some upheaval already. Jehan Daruvala joins from Formula 2 and was part of the Red Bull Junior Team. He was also Mahindra’s reserve driver and is the only true rookie on 2024’s grid. A superb defensive driver, it will be interesting to see how he competes against Max Günther.

Maserati had a disastrous start last season, with Edo Mortara scoring just three points in the first six races for the team. When his German teammate did get going, GĂĽnther gave the team four podiums (including a win in Jakarta) and actually recorded his best career finish. A driver who has won, and can win in this car, he can challenge.

TEAM NAME: NissanDRIVERS: Oliver Rowland, Sasha FenestrazPRINCIPAL: Tommaso Volpe2022-23: Team - 7th: Norman Nato - 63 (10th) | Sasha Fenestraz - 32 (16th)

Oliver Rowland left Mahindra after Monaco last season and gets another chance at a team that he had success at previously, including a race win in one of the Berlin COVID Thunderdome races during the pandemic. Despite mild improvements from 10th and 9th, Nissan finished 7th last season, and the hope will be that Rowland can improve on what Nato gave them.

Fenestraz keeps his place after four points finishes and a surprising pole position in Cape Town. A pair of fourth places in Monaco and Jakarta helped salvage his season, but he’ll be expected to take a step forward in 2024.

IMPROVEMENT NEEDED

TEAM NAME: Neom McLarenDRIVERS: Jake Hughes, Sam BirdPRINCIPAL: Ian James2022-23: Team - 8th: Jake Hughes - 48 (12th) | Rene Rast - 40 (13th)

A name you’ll all know, this year Formula E veteran Sam Bird is welcomed to the McLaren Extended Universe. He has 11 wins, but only two of those came after the Pandemic and his move to Jaguar. Overshadowed by Mitch Evans, Bird now gets the McLaren fans behind him as part of all-British lineup.

The other half of that lineup is Jake Hughes, who took a couple of pole positions in 2023, but both times finished in fifth. These points in Diriyah and Monaco were still valuable, but there was something of a what could have been for him. After his Monaco result, Hughes only added three points to his season total.

TEAM NAME: MahindraDRIVERS: Nyck de Vries, Edo MortaraPRINCIPAL: Frédéric Bertrand2022-23: Team - 10th: Lucas di Grassi - 32 (15th) | Oliver Rowland (first half) - 9 (21st) | Roberto Mehri (second half) - 0 (23rd)

If you’ve followed this blog (thank you), you’ll know de Vries. The Dutchman is more than just another F1 driver. He won the Formula 2 title and took the Formula E title with 99 points during the Royal Rumble 2020-21 season. This is a real statement of intent from Mahindra, with de Vries one of seven world champions on the grid (Piquet is the only former champion not on the grid).

And then there’s the other half of the grid. Edo Mortara might be one of the most universally-liked drivers but his last season with Maserati was a failure. Normally an exciting and brave driver, Mortara will be hoping that a change in team bring a change in results as Mahindra bring in two well-known drivers.

HAPPY TO SCORE POINTS

TEAM NAME: ERTDRIVERS: Dan Ticktum, Sérgio Sette CâmaraPRINCIPAL: Alex Hui2022-23: Team (As Nio 333) - 9th: Dan Ticktum - 28 (17th) | Sérgio Sette Câmara - 14th (20th)

For the first time since 2016-17, China Racing have retained their drivers. Way back in the day, the first version of this team won the first season, with Nelson Piquet Jr. jumping into a car halfway through the race.

But as the car and the team name have moved on, the results haven’t really matched it, registering their best finish in 9th last season - their last season as Nio 333. 

However, the continuity in everything but the team name might lead to higher expectations. Dan Ticktum is a name familiar with fans of Formula E, Formula 2 and memes. The British driver is known for making his feelings clear in the cockpit, but on his day, can make an unconventional strategy work.

Sérgio Sette Câmara finished as high as fifth last season, with that result in Hyderabad being the team’s best since their last rebrand in Berlin 2017-18. Formula E isn’t going back to India in 2024, but they will have a home race with two races in Shanghai returning to the calendar.

TEAM NAME: ABT CupraDRIVERS: Lucas di Grassi, Nico MĂĽllerPRINCIPAL: Thomas Biermaier2022-23: Team - 11th: Robin Frijns 6 (22nd) | Kelvin van der Linde - 0 (24th) | Nico MĂĽller - 15 (19th)

Lucas di Grassi has raced in all but one of Formula E’s 116 races, withdrawing from Cape Town last season due to a suspension failure. The Brazilian’s first five seasons in the series went 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and then wasn’t fully able to recapture his form with Audi, despite his unmatched 40 podium finishes.

Last season was a nightmare at Mahindra for di Grassi and at 39 years old, left the Indian team a year early to return to the team where he had so much success, albeit under a different name. He will be a name to watch, even in the ABT Cupra.

Nico Müller showed flashes of potential in 2022-23, coming from 19th on the grid to finish 6th in Rome. However, they were still 20 points back from their closest rivals, so the only way is up, hoping this year’s Mahindra powertrain is better than what they had last year.

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