The fifth season of the FIA ABB Formula E Championship launches Saturday at the Ad Diriyah ePrix with brand-new cars and a heavy influx of new driver and team combinations. Steve Matchett, ex-Formula 1 mechanic and former NBCSN F1 color analyst, will host the series for FOX Sports and shared his thoughts on the key stories to follow.
“The most fascinating story of Season 5 has to be the introduction of the Gen 2 car,” he said. “The engineering ‘drive’ behind this new machine is quite phenomenal — in just four seasons of racing, the engineers of this championship have managed to double the competitive duration of the car’s duty cycle. No more need for drivers to pit in order to swap cars at the halfway mark — the Gen 2 has been built to cover a full ePrix distance. It’s no hyperbole to suggest that this pace of technical advancement is nothing short of stunning.”
Without the mid-race chassis swap, drivers in the faster Gen2 cars will face a new challenge of making tires last the entire race.
“The second most fascinating story is linked to the first: Tires. How competitive will Michelin’s latest generation of Formula E rubber prove?” Matchett continued. “It’s easy to overlook the fact that just like the Gen 2 car itself, these new generation tires have also got to last twice as long — not only last twice as long but work competitively for twice as long. I say this because it’s my understanding that this series does not intend to introduce Formula 1-style mid-race pit stops to change tires — the cars will use but one set throughout a race. It will be interesting to see how these same tires are holding up during the final 10 racing laps.”
Citing the growing list of major auto manufacturers who’ve joined Formula E, Matchett believes the series is ready to join other established championships as a staple in the world of motor racing.
“Formula E is unique. The series has no rivals; it stands alone. Frankly, upon its inception, the series seemed to be treated as a quirky novelty, something all but ignored by many enthusiasts of motorsports’ established championships,” he said. “But this did nothing to dampen the ardor of this new ‘green’ series — quite the opposite! Over the last four years the sport has done nothing but grow. Increasingly, the automotive giants of the world realize they must be involved: Jaguar, BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Nissan — the list of A-listers wanting to compete grows by the year.
“Formula E is catching a new audience — a whole new fanbase — a younger crowd that view cars differently; a crowd disinterested in the wails of a Ferrari V12 or the thudding roar of a ‘big block’ V8. This ‘new’ crowd play video games; they are fascinated by electronics; they don’t long to own a car, rather they ride-share. They see the world differently — and, naturally, this younger crowd will outlive the rest of us… Again, the future isn’t just around the corner — rather, it’s already here.”
FOX Sports opens the ABB Formula E Championship season live from Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Dec. 15 at 6:30 AM ET on FS1.
Qualifying for the Ad Diryah ePrix is on FS2 prior to the race from 5:30 to 6:30 AM ET (delayed), following the Jaguar iPace Series from 4:30 to 5:30 AM ET on FS2.