The third season of Formula E gets underway on Sunday in Hong Kong. Here’s a look at the runners and riders for the 2016/17 championship.
█ Renault e.Dams (manufacturer: Renault)
Sébastien Buemi & Nicolas Prost
Reigning constructors’ champions Renault start the season as favourites to take the title again. With all the financial and technical clout of the factory behind them, the French team undoubtedly had the best car in the field last time round, and will build from very strong foundations this year. Buemi took the drivers championship last year with a points tally boosted by several fastest laps and pole starts. He drove magnificently throughout the season and remains the man to beat. But Prost’s contribution from the other side of the garage should not be underestimated (he ended last season with two first-place finishes), and he will also be challenging for the title.
█ Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport (Abt Sportsline)
Daniel Abt & Lucas di Grassi
Lucas “but they have a better car than us” di Grassi had a frustrating season last year. An outstanding driver held back by the limitations of the car, his constant finger-pointing at Renault was as much about keeping the rival team on their toes as reminding everyone else just how well he was doing given the circumstances. An avoidable error by the team led to a disqualification in Mexico City which ultimately cost him the championship. Team Abt will not make the same mistake again, and with Audi’s backing the car will be much-improved. Di Grassi will be keen to right wrongs this time around, whist Daniel Abt will continue to bring in points (but not many podiums).
█ DS Virgin Racing (Citroën)
Sam Bird & José María López
Sam Bird finished fourth overall last season, and was still technically in with a shot at the title before the London finale. Given how difficult the car was to drive, this was an incredible performance (and one that an increasingly-unhappy Jean-Éric Vergne wasn’t able to get close to). If the team have fixed the reliability issues and the car’s pendulum-like back end, it will be fascinating to see how the Brit will perform with an improved machine underneath him. New teammate “Pechito” López – a former F1 test driver and double WTCC champion – will also be one-to-watch.
█ Faraday Future Dragon Racing (Dragon)
Jérôme d’Ambrosio & Loïc Duval
The best of the mid-field teams in 2015/16, Dragon Racing have new technology partners in electric vehicle company Faraday Future, but their involvement came too late to have had any impact on developing the car (and the team’s new powertrain) for season three. D’Ambrosio had a mixed season, picking up three podium finishes but only a handful of points from his other races. Duval was a consistent points scorer, but suffered three retirements towards the end of the season.
█ Mahindra Racing (Mahindra)
Nick Heidfeld & Felix Rosenqvist
Bruno Senna is replaced by European Formula 3 champion Rosenqvist, who is hotly tipped as the best of the new drivers. Alongside Heidfeld, the line-up for Mahindra looks like a classic combination of youth and experience, and Mahindra should be well placed to pick up points.
█ Venturi (Venturi)
Maro Engel & Stephane Sarrazin
Venturi owe much of their success to Sarrazin, who quietly went about picking up points at every single race last year, including a second-place finish at Long Beach. Former DTM driver Engel replaces Mike Conway, and will make his Formula E debut for the team in Hong Kong. How quickly he adapts to life in the series is what could set Venturi apart from the “best of the rest”.
█ MS Amlin Andretti (Andretti)
António Félix da Costa & Robin Frijns
Andretti’s name may be on the powertrain, but you won’t have to look too far around the garage to find the initials B-M-W. The German manufacturer recently confirmed one of the paddock’s worst-kept secrets, that it has partnered with the American team to develop their technology. Whether this will result in a takeover-by-stealth come 2018/19 remains to be seen. Frijns and Da Costa (a BMW works driver, so transferred over from Team Aguri) will hope for an improved performance this year, having been solidly average last season, and with only a single podium finish between them.
█ Techeetah (Renault)
Ma Qing Hua & Jean-Éric Vergne
An interesting proposition. The new owners of Team Aguri have brought with them a new name and significant changes, including the adoption of Renault’s powertrain. Ma struggled to make much of an impact in his four races at the end of last season, but testing over the summer has given him much more time in the car. Vergne, who is also rumoured to have a strategic role within Techeetah, should be much happier as the number one driver.
█ NextEV NIO (NextEV)
Nelson Piquet Jr. & Oliver Turvey
Season one champion Piquet never stood a chance to defend his title with the car he was given. It was immediately apparent that the team would be well off the pace from race one, and they finished the season with just 19 points (the same tally Renault won from fastest laps and pole starts alone). The only way is up, and both drivers are technically very capable, but they start a long way behind the rest of the field.
█ Panasonic Jaguar Racing (Jaguar)
Adam Carroll & Mitch Evans
Formula E’s PR department have made the most of Jaguar’s return to motor racing. A famous name with racing pedigree was just what the series needed while it waits for the bigger manufacturers to make their move. But don’t be fooled, there’s nothing remotely old or nostalgic about Jaguar’s team. Both drivers are new to the series: 22-year old Evans currently races in GP2, while Carroll has experience of A1GP, British GT and the WEC. Both men will shoulder a lot of expectation, but the team may find it hard to find their feet in a field full of series-specific experience.
The Hong Kong ePrix starts at 4am EDT / 9am BST / 10am CEST on Sunday 9 October.
Image: Panasonic Jaguar Racing team livery © Formula E