Formula E is set to return this Friday, February 26 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia with the opening two rounds of Season 7 marking the series’ first event as an FIA World Championship. The new season brings with it new faces, updates to the regulations and more ways to get involved than ever before.
Three rookies join the grid for the 2020/21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship — Jake Dennis (BMW i Andretti Motorsport), Nick Cassidy (Envision Virgin Racing) and Norman Nato (ROKiT Venturi Racing).
After both getting a taste of Formula E in Berlin during the Season 6 finale, Sergio Sette Camara (Dragon/Penske Autosport) and reigning DTM champion Rene Rast (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler), start their first full season in Formula E.
Formula E is a truly international affair with nine countries represented on the grid. However one nation has a record number of home-grown talent battling for bragging rights this season. Jake Dennis, Sam Bird (Jaguar Racing), Alex Lynn and Alexander Sims (Mahindra Racing), Oliver Turvey and Tom Blomqvist (NIO 333) and Oliver Rowland (Nissan e.dams) make up a seven-strong group of British drivers.
The battle for top spot is closer than ever. DS Techeetah will have its sights set on getting their name into the record books with three consecutive team and driver championship titles. Antonio Felix da Costa won the Season 6 title by the biggest margin in Formula E history, with 71 points separating him and second-placed Stoffel Vandoorne (Mercedes-EQ). However, at pre-season testing in Valencia, it was Maximilian Guenther (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) who set the early pace, topping the times for a second season in succession.
To support teams during the global health crisis, Formula E and the FIA decided to extend the next homologation period, with manufacturers only able to alter powertrain components once over the next two seasons.
Teams can either introduce a new car in Season 7, for a two-year cycle, or continue to use existing technology before homologating a new car the year after for a single season.
Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler and customer team Envision Virgin Racing, BMW i Andretti Motorsport, Jaguar Racing, Mahindra Racing, Mercedes-EQ, alongside customers ROKiT Venturi Racing, NIO 333 and TAG Heuer Porsche all opted for new machines for the season ahead.
Dragon/Penske Autosport, DS Techeetah and Nissan e.dams have chosen to delay their homologation and will be using their Season 6 package for at least the opening rounds.
Also new for this season, the tire allocation will be reduced by 25 percent per single-race competition and by up to 50 percent at doubleheader events like the Diriyah opener. Based on the Season 5 calendar and comparing to the previous allocation, this could potentially see a saving of 720 tires with 50 t CO2-eq less emissions produced, which is a 29 percent reduction in the overall impact of the tires.
The Riyadh street circuit will once again provide the spectacular backdrop to the opening events of the season and break new ground as Formula E hosts its first night races.
The fast and flowing 2.49km/1.55-mile clockwise circuit flanks the stunning At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site and will remain largely the same this season. Track surface work has led to the reprofiling of Turns 9, 12/13, 14 and 18 for slightly adapted racing lines that promote closer racing.
“It’s one of the most fun tracks for sure,” says da Costa. “The second sector with the high-speed downhill coming back up the hill reminds be a bit of the Macau Grand Prix circuit and it’s a lot of fun combining that with the proper 90-degree city track corners and hairpins. It’s really tight in some spots and it just makes for a great race and one of the best circuits on the calendar.
“We’ll race in the evening and that shifts our whole day forward with the first Formula E’s night races. With the time difference from Europe, I would ordinarily have to do some jetlag adjustments but I won’t be doing that here.
“Temperatures are normally a big topic for us in Saudi. Not only for the batteries but also the tires and warmup procedures — and in the way we prepare a qualifying session and map out a race.”
Formula E’s first night races have been the culmination of many months of planning, working with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Sport to create a sustainable night race.
The track will be lit by the latest low-power LED technology that reduces energy consumption by up to 50 percent compared to non-LED technology.
A team has been on-site since December installing some 600 LED floodlights around the circuit, each using 1.5kW of energy — half the power used by traditional metal halide units and can be instantly switched on and off.
Last season, it was Sam Bird, who battled up the order from fifth on the grid for Envision Virgin Racing to take victory in the season-opening race. The following day, Alexander Sims (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) won after starting from the pole position and securing his first victory in Formula E.
Antonio Felix da Costa holds the fastest race lap around the circuit, with 1m12.481s set in Round 2 last season. The TAG Heuer Fastest Lap Award in each E-Prix, which rewards the driver who sets it — and finishes within the top 10 — an extra championship point. From Season 7, fans can get involved too as the TAG Heuer Fastest Lap becomes part of the Formula E Predictor game.
Formula E’s Open Talent Call for Presenters winner — 21-year-old Derin Adetosoye — will make history as the first black female presenter for an international motorsport rights holder in Diriyah. On site she will be covering all the behind-the-scenes action, connecting with a new, younger audience across Formula E’s digital channels.
Where and when to watch
The ABB Formula E Championship has a new TV home for American viewers this season on CBS Sports. The opening rounds from Saudi Arabia will air live on CBS Sports Network from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET, Friday and Saturday. Practice and qualifying sessions can be streamed via www.cbssports.com/live/ or from Formula E’s YouTube and Facebook pages. For all session times and additional information, click here.