Formula E 2021: Season Preview

After what feels like an eternity, the fast-growing sport of Formula E is almost back with us. We have plenty of new faces to get used to, and many more who will be wearing new colours. This preview will look at all of the 12 teams in the World Championship, providing some key details about each one and some analysis on their performance last season, before setting out what we can hopefully expect from them in 2020/2021.

Envision Virgin Racing

NATIONALITY: Great Britain

2020 DRIVERS: Sam Bird (GBR) and Robin Frijns (NED)

2021 DRIVERS: Robin Frijns (NED) and Nick Cassidy (NZL)

ANALYSIS:

Envision Virgin are a team who blow hot and cold, with some good races and some where they struggle to pick up points. This is the reason why they finished 10th and 12th in the Drivers’ Championship last season, with a few retirements (and one disqualification in Mexico) for Frijns, as well as the Dutchman not able to start the fourth race in Berlin near the end of the season. This time around, we need to see them step up a little bit more, with Nick Cassidy needing to hit the ground running. They finished fourth last season, 26 points behind third-placed Mercedes, but only three points ahead of fifth-placed BMW i Andretti, so their aim will be to increase the distance between them and fifth place, as well as decreasing the gap to fourth.

Mercedes Benz-EQ Formula E Team

NATIONALITY: Germany

2020 DRIVERS: Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) and Nyck de Vries (NED)

2021 DRIVERS: Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) and Nyck de Vries (NED)

ANALYSIS:

Mercedes unofficially entered Formula E in 2018/2019, as their affiliate team HWA Racelab, but renamed the team ahead of last season to their current name. Last season, they finished third in the Constructors’ Championship, with Vandoorne in particular having a really impressive first season with them, with the Belgian only finishing outside the top 10 in three out of 12 races, and two of those were a retirement (in the first Berlin race), and a non-classified finish (in Mexico). This season, we can expect that they will finish around the same place in the table, with Nissan and DS Techeetah likely to be battling it out at the top again. However, we cannot rule out Mercedes making a push for the title, as they looked strong last season in the individual races.

Dragon/Penske Team

NATIONALITY: USA

2020 DRIVERS: Brendon Hartley (NZL), Sergio Sette Camara (BRA) and Nico Muller (SUI)

2021 DRIVERS: Sergio Sette Camara (BRA) and Nico Muller (SUI)

ANALYSIS:

Last season, as GEOX Dragon, the team struggled to compete with the majority of the other teams on the grid, finishing second bottom of the table, winning only two points (through a ninth-placed finish in the second race in Diriyah at the start of the season), with only NIO placing below them. Set up by American businessman Jay Penske in 2007, the team made their debut in Formula E in the opening season for the sport, and have competed in it ever since. They have slowly gone down the table, and we now only expect them to finish lower down the grid in each race. This season could be another struggle for them.

NIO 333 FE Team

NATIONALITY: China

2020 DRIVERS: Oliver Turvey (GBR), Ma Qinghua (CHI) and Daniel Abt (GER)

2021 DRIVERS: Oliver Turvey (GBR) and Tom Blomqvist (GBR)

ANALYSIS:

NIO have been very active in the electric car market, but their Formula E performance has perhaps missed out because of this. Last season, they finished bottom of the table, scoring no points at all. They did have to make a change of driver for the second half of the season, with Chinese driver Ma Qinghua unable to travel outside China, so former Audi driver Daniel Abt took his place in Berlin, but still couldn’t finish higher than 15th. The thing holding them back is the car, it does seem, and that appears unlikely to change this year unless there have been huge developments made on it. Unfortunately, it looks unlikely they will finish any higher than bottom this season, unless they have a good start and the teams who finished just above them last season, such as Dragon, have a really bad first few races.

Jaguar Racing

NATIONALITY: Great Britain

2020 DRIVERS: Mitch Evans (NZL), James Calado (GBR) and Tom Blomqvist (GBR)

2021 DRIVERS: Sam Bird (GBR) and Mitch Evans (NZL)

ANALYSIS:

Jaguar are one of the teams who have genuine title credentials, and who could be one of the strongest teams this season. Team director James Barclay has built a team of drivers who have proven they can win points in races, with Evans only finishing outside the top 10 in four races (three of those being 11th, 12th and 13th, so only just outside), and he won the Mexico City ePrix and placed third in the Santiago ePrix, so he really can win big points. Sam Bird raced last season for Envision Virgin, winning the opening event in Diriyah, as well as securing third place in the first Berlin race. He had five races where he didn’t secure points, which included retirements in the second Diriyah race and in Mexico, so putting both together will definitely give Jaguar a chance in every race. They didn’t have the best finish in the Constructors’ Championship last season, placing seventh, but their lineup this season is arguably the best combined one, so hopefully we will see them battling nearer the top this time around.

Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler

NATIONALITY: Germany

2020 DRIVERS: Lucas di Grassi (BRA), Daniel Abt (GER) and Rene Rast (GER)

2021 DRIVERS: Lucas di Grassi (BRA) and Rene Rast (GER)

ANALYSIS:

Audi finished sixth in the table last year, but they have the quality, facilities and drivers to be challenging higher up the table. Lucas di Grassi is a former champion, winning the 2016-2017 season, but only managed to finish sixth in the Drivers’ Championsip last time out. He finished consistently in the points, but only gained one podium; a second place in the second race in Diriyah at the start of the season. Rast, meanwhile, replaced Daniel Abt halfway through the season, after Abt was sacked for using a ringer driver in the virtual races during lockdown. He quickly set about making his name, gaining third and fourth-placed finishes in the last two races of the season, and looks to be a really good driver for Audi to keep around. Given the quality of both drivers, we hope that Audi will have a little more consistency in their results, and finish higher up the Championship this season.

DS Techeetah

NATIONALITY: China

2020 DRIVERS: Antonio Felix da Costa (POR) and Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA)

2021 DRIVERS: Antonio Felix da Costa (POR) and Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA)

ANALYSIS:

DS Techeetah are another team who have not changed their driver lineup for this season, and, frankly, why would they when they have won the last three Drivers’ Championships (da Costa last season and Vergne the two before that), as well as the last two Constructors’ Championships. There isn’t much to say about them, except that we can only see them going on to win a third consecutive Constructors’ title. Vergne had a tough season last year, and lacked the consistency we usually associate with them. This is reflected by his retirement from two of the first three races, as well as having a non-classified finish in the first Berlin race. He also only found himself on the podium in three races, but only won once, in the fourth Berlin race. However, he will be back this season, and we expect that he will push his teammate and the other top drivers in what could be a very interesting title fight.

Nissan e.dams

NATIONALITY: France

2020 DRIVERS: Oliver Rowland (GBR) and Sebastien Buemi (SUI)

2021 DRIVERS: Oliver Rowland (GBR) and Sebastien Buemi (SUI)

ANALYSIS:

Why change a driver lineup when it is working? That’s exactly what Nissan have decided in the interim period between both seasons, and we have to agree. Oliver Rowland had a mixed start to his Formula E career, but has shown plenty of promise overall, and last season saw him start to pick up major points for his team. The highlight has to be the penultimate race in Berlin, where he gained pole position and turned it into his only win of the season. As for Buemi, who is another former champion (taking the title in 2015-2016), he finished one place higher than his teammate, in fourth, so will look to continue that form and challenge for the title again this season. He didn’t have the greatest start in 2019/2020, failing to pick up any points until the fourth race of the season, in Mexico. The team claimed second place in the Constructors’ Championship, but will hope to close the gap a little more to reigning champions DS Techeetah this time around (last season there was a 77 point gap between the two).

BMW i Andretti Motorsport

NATIONALITY: USA

2020 DRIVERS: Alexander Sims (GBR) and Maximilian Gunther (GER)

2021 DRIVERS: Jake Dennis (GBR) and Maximilian Gunther (GBR)

ANALYSIS:

BMW i Andretti have been one of the “nearly” teams in recent seasons, always challenging for race wins, but never quite reaching the same levels as Nissan, DS Techeetah and others. Former driver Antonio Felix da Costa left the team for DS Techeetah ahead of last season, going on to win the Drivers’ Championship, and his replacement, Max Gunther, who came in from Dragon Racing, showed that he had the form to continue helping the team build. They ended last season in fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship, four points ahead of Audi, but only three behind Envision Virgin Racing. However, we now need to see them step up even more, showing what they can really do, and this season, with Alex Sims leaving for Mahindra and being replaced by Jake Dennis, they have a chance to really go for it. If they can take fourth place in the league, and show a little more consistency in their results (they had five retirements and one disqualification, as well as plenty of races where one of their drivers didn’t score points), then they can hopefully get there.

Mahindra Racing

NATIONALITY: India

2020 DRIVERS: Jerome d’Ambrosio (BEL), Pascal Wehrlein (GER) and Alexander Lynn (GBR)

2021 DRIVERS: Alexander Sims (GBR) and Alexander Lynn (GBR)

ANALYSIS:

Last season saw Mahindra finish ninth in the Constructors’ Championship, with all three of their drivers placing outside the top 10 in the Drivers’ Championship too. Their best individual finish was a fourth place for Wehrlein in Santiago, when the German came fourth, but it really wasn’t a season the team will want to remember. We know they are capable of more, as they finished sixth in 2018/2019, so let’s hope that they can find some form this season, be more consistent, and pick up more points on racedays. Alex Lynn came in for the last six races of the season, replacing Wehrlein, and showed some form, with a ninth, fifth and eighth-placed finish coming in the last three races of the season. This is the kind of thing they now need to build on this season. They have brought in Alex Sims from BMW i Andretti, following Jerome d’Ambrosio’s retirement from racing, but there have been some questions over his consistency, so it remains to be seen whether this is a good move or not.

TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team

NATIONALITY: Germany

2020 DRIVERS: Neel Jani (SUI) and Andre Lotterer (GER)

2021 DRIVERS: Andre Lotterer (GER) and Pascal Wehrlein (GER)

ANALYSIS:

Last season, Porsche’s first in Formula E, saw them simply establish themselves as a team in the paddock. However, this season could be the one where they really enter the fray, with the German theme now running throughout the team, as they have two German drivers on their books. All they need to do now is to gain more points on racedays. Last season, they only got both cars in the points once, which was in the penultimate race in Berlin, so they need to change that this time around. However, now they have settled into the sport, it is likely that they will begin to challenge the teams who finished above them in the Constructors’ Championship, with Jaguar only two points behind them, whilst Audi were the next up from them, but with a bigger points difference.

ROKIT Venturi Racing

NATIONALITY: Monaco

2020 DRIVERS: Felipe Massa (BRA) and Edoardo Mortara (SUI)

2021 DRIVERS: Edoardo Mortara (SUI) and Norman Nato (FRA)

ANALYSIS:

Out of all the teams on the grid, Venturi is the one with the most showbiz feel to it. They were co-founded ahead of Formula E’s debut season by Leonardo diCaprio; their team principal for the last couple of seasons has been Susie Wolff, former racing driver and wife of Mercedes F1 boss Toto; and long-serving former F1 driver Felipe Massa has been on their books for the last two seasons too. With the Brazilian leaving the team after last season, Venturi have named 28-year-old Frenchman Norman Nato, their reserve driver for the last couple of seasons, as a full driver for this season, and the fact that he knows the car should help them in the season ahead. Mortara, meanwhile, is a fairly consistent driver, tending to end races last season in the middle to lower half of the points positions. What will concern the team is that they were 10th in the Constructors’ Championship last season, with only GEOX Dragon and NIO below them. However, they were only five points behind Mahindra, so the battle between those two could be interesting in the season ahead, with both having something to prove. To help solve this, they have appointed former Mahindra driver Jerome d’Ambrosio as their new Deputy Team Principal, and his experience could be what they need to improve this season.

2021 Calendar

Some of these races are still to be 100% confirmed (at time of writing), as they are dependent on the pandemic situation at times, so this calendar could change at points.

The 2020/2021 Formula E season is now just around the corner, and fans are really looking forward to hearing the now instantly recognisable whirring of electric motors when the season opener in Diriyah gets underway this weekend. Hopefully, we get a full season of racing, in all the planned locations, with the ongoing pandemic not interrupting the schedule too much. In this preview, we have looked at each of the teams competing in the World Championship this year, and have seen how there is plenty for us to look forward to.

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