Friday, October 23, 2015

2015-16 Formula E Season Preview Special

The second FIA Formula E season is set to commence this Saturday from Beijing, China. All ten teams from 2014-15 season return with a few new faces on the grid. Ten rounds, 11 races make up the 2015-16 schedule with one round still to be announced.

This preview special will go team-by-team looking at each driver contracted for the Beijing ePrix.

The team formerly known as China Racing brings back inaugural Formula E champion Nelson Piquet, Jr. and he will be joined by Oliver Turvey, who competed for the team in the final round of the 2014-15 season in London. The team has developed its own powertrain for the 2015-16 season. Their 2015-16 entry will be the NEXTEV TCR Formula E 001.

Nelson Piquet, Jr.: #1 NEXTEV TCR Formula E 001
The Brazilian won the title by one points over e.dams' driver Sébastien Buemi. Piquet, Jr. won two races (Long Beach and Moscow) and finished on the podium on five occasions. He finished in the points in ten of 11 races. Piquet, Jr. did not win a pole position last season but he did score two fastest laps, tied for the most. His lone retirement came at Putrajaya. He finished eighth at Beijing last year.

Oliver Turvey: #88 NEXTEV TCR Formula E 001
The British driver didn't make his Formula E debut until the final round of the inaugural season in his home country. Turvey finished ninth in both races, scoring more points than his predecessors Ho-Pin Tung, Antonio García and Charles Pic in the #88 China Racing entry. Turvey has spent most of 2015 competing in the Super GT championship.

Renault e.dams
Renault e.dams was one of four teams to run the same two drivers in all ten rounds of last year's championship. Sébastien Buemi fell a point shy of the Drivers' championship but he and Nicolas Prost led the French team won the Teams' championship with 232 points from four victories, seven podiums and five pole positions. Their powertrain will be the Renault Z.E. 15.

Sébastien Buemi: #9 Renault Z.E. 15
The Swiss driver is the all-time leader in Formula E victories with three. The Toyota factory driver and defending world champion in the FIA World Endurance Championship won at Punta del Este, Monaco and London 1. He is also tied for the all-time lead in Formula pole positions with three. Buemi is the only driver to win from pole position in Formula E history and he did it at Monaco and London.

Nicolas Prost: #8 Renault Z.E. 15
The son of Alain Prost won the first two pole positions in Formula E history and gave the series it's first memorable moment last year in the inaugural event when he blocked his FIA WEC Rebellion Racing teammate Nick Heidfeld going into the final corner on the final, causing the top two cars to retire and handing history to Lucas di Grassi. Prost would win at Miami but had only one other podium in the inaugural season.

Dragon Racing
The American team Dragon Racing finished second to e.dams in the first Teams' championship and came on strong in the second half of the season. All five of Dragon Racing's podiums came in the final four races of the season. Jérôme d'Ambrosio ran the full season last year and will return. Loïc Duval replaced Oriol Servià after four rounds last year and he will be back for the 2015-16 season. Dragon Racing will using Venturi Grand Prix's VM200-FE-01.

Jérôme d'Ambrosio: #7 VM200-FE-01
The Belgian driver finished fourth last year in the drivers' championship as he finished first or second in three of the final four races. He won the Berlin round after Lucas di Grassi was disqualified for using a modified front wing. D'Ambrosio was the only driver to take the checkered flag in every single race in 2014-15.

Loïc Duval: #6 VM200-FE-01
The 24 Hours of Le Mans winner was able to finish ninth in the Drivers' championship despite missing the four races. Duval finished third at Berlin and in London 2. His lone retirement came at Monaco. Duval has two rounds remaining in the FIA WEC for Audi but neither clash with his Formula E commitments.

ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport
The winners of the inaugural Formula E race, ABT Audi Sport, had a chance at the Drivers' championship entering the final race of the season with Lucas di Grassi but the Brazilian had to settle for third. Both Di Grassi and Daniel Abt return for the 2015-16 season after both ran all 11 races in 2014-15. The German team's powertrain will be the ABT Schaeffler FE01

Lucas di Grassi: #11 ABT Schaeffler FE01
Di Grassi made history last year at Beijing and he will get a chance to make more this year and become the first driver to win at a track multiple times. He finished on the podium in the first three races last year and would score three more podiums over the course of the season. His lone retirement was at Buenos Aires when he suffered a suspension failure. The disqualification at Berlin arguably cost him the title.

Daniel Abt: #66 ABT Schaeffler FE01
The German finished third on track last year at Beijing but was given a time penalty for exceeding maximum power usage and dropped to tenth. It was just a sign of things to come. Despite finish tenth in the next round at Putrajaya and finishing third at Miami, Abt finished outside the points in seven of 11 races and finished just outside the top ten in the championship. He won pole position at Long Beach and scored fastest lap at Punta del Este.

DS Virgin Racing
The British team closed out the inaugural with a victory on home soil with British driver Sam Bird. Bird won two races in 2014-15 and finished third last year at Beijing and will return for year two with Virgin Racing. He will have a new teammate in Jean-Éric Vergne, arguably the biggest signing of the Formula E offseason. Their powertrain will be called the Virgin DSV-001.

Sam Bird: #2 Virgin DSV-001
Bird finished third in Beijing and won the next round in Putrajaya. He scored fastest lap at Buenos Aires but finished seventh after a penalty for ignoring the red lights at the end of the pit lane. Every race he finished, he finished in the points but he couldn't get back on the podium until the London finale, when he took victory and scored his second fastest lap of the season and he finished fifth in the championship.

Jean-Éric Vergne: #25 Virgin DSV-001
The Frenchman did not join Formula E until the third round at Punta del Este for Andretti Formula E but he won pole position on debut and nearly won on debut only to have his suspension with two laps to go while in second. He would win another pole position in Miami only to have his race end two laps early when he ran out of power. A second at Long Beach, a third pole at Moscow and a third in London 1 were the highlights of his season.

Andretti Formula E
Despite having many promising rounds with Jean-Éric Vergne, the American team could not break through and get their first victory. The team scored four podiums, three of those were runner-up finishes, including second in the inaugural round with Franck Montagny. Eight drivers drove for the team in year one. Simona de Silvestro ran the season finale at London and will return. Her teammate will be Dutch driver Robin Frijns. Andretti will be one of two teams continuing to drive the SRT01-e powertrain.

Simona de Silvestro: #28 SRT01-e
The Swiss driver finished 11th and 12th in her lone two starts in London last spring. De Silvestro will be the lone female driver on the grid at Beijing. A woman has yet to score a point in Formula E. De Silvestro drove three races for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar this year and she made her Bathurst 1000 debut a few weeks ago pairing with Renee Gracie. They finished 21st, 40 laps down.

Robin Frijns: #27 SRT01-e
Frijns will be making his Formula E debut and he should become the first Dutch driver in the series history. Frijns won the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 championship over Jules Bianchi, Sam Bird, António Félix da Costa and Kevin Magnussen. He won in his third GP2 start in 2013 driving for Hilmer Motorsport in Barcelona. Frijns won the 2015 Blancpain GT Series championship with five victories, all in the Blancpain Sprint Series and two podiums in the Blancpain Endurance Series.

Team Aguri
Team Aguri picked up a victory in the inaugural season of Formula E and the Japanese team will bring back Portuguese driver António Félix da Costa for season two. The team has hired Frenchman Nathanaël Berthon to team with da Costa. Last year, Aguri had five drivers compete for the team, including Takuma Sato, who scored fastest lap in the inaugural race. Aguri is the other team that will continue to use the SRT01-e powertrain.

António Félix da Costa: #55 SRT01-e
Da Costa missed the inaugural round last year in Beijing because of DTM duty. He would also miss the London round due to DTM commitments. He won at Buenos Aires after a handful of drivers retired due to contact with the barriers. He finished in the points in six of eight starts with only one retirement. This year in DTM, da Costa scored his first career victory in the series at Zandvoort.

Nathanaël Berthon: #77 SRT01-e
Berthon will become the seventh Frenchman to race in Formula E. He has spent the better part of the last four seasons competing in GP2. His lone victory came at the Hungaroring in 2013. He finished second in the sprint races at Barcelona and Hungaroring in 2012. He finished third in the Bahrain sprint race earlier this spring. In 84 GP2 starts, Berthon has scored 122 points. He has one victory in Formula Renault 3.5. That came at Magny-Cours in 2010.

Mahindra Racing
The Indian team had only six finishes in the points last year and were one of two teams not to score a podium in the inaugural season of Formula E. Bruno Senna will return after running every round in 2014-15. The team has brought in Nick Heidfeld from Venturti Formula E to replace Karun Chandhok. In 2011, Senna replaced Heidfeld at Lotus Renault GP prior to the Belgian Grand Prix. Mahindra's powertrain will be known as the Mahindra M2ELECTRO.

Bruno Senna: #21 Mahindra M2ELECTRO
Senna failed to finish the first two races of inaugural Formula E season (he failed to complete a lap at Beijing) but did go on to finish in the points in the two South American rounds. He would finish fifth at Long Beach and fourth in the finale from London but he finished outside the top fifteen in six of the 11 races. He finished tenth in the championship with 40 points.

Nick Heidfeld: #23 Mahindra M2ELECTRO
The German infamously was blocked by Nicolas Prost last year at Beijing, costing Heidfeld a shot at history. He would recover to finish in the points in five races, including a third at Moscow. Heidfeld was one of four drivers to be disqualified from a race in the inaugural Formula E season. At Putrajaya, he was disqualified for changing his car outside his permitted area during a pit stop.

Venturi Formula E
The Monegasque nearly won at Beijing last year and appeared to have won the season finale in London only to have that be taken away due to exceeding the maximum power usage. Venturi is the oldest team on the grid, as their two drivers average age is 41.5 years old. Stéphane Sarrazin returns and his teammate will be the decorate Jacques Villeneuve. Venturi's powertrain will be the VM200-FE-01

Stéphane Sarrazin: #4 VM200-FE-01
The Frenchman scored points at Beijing last year and finished in the points a total of six times in 2014-15. He scored pole position for the finale at London and crossed the start/finish line first but was handed a 49-second penalty for exceeding maximum power usage and dropped him to 15th. He suffered two retirements, both because of suspension failures.

Jacques Villeneuve: #12 VM200-FE-01
Villeneuve will become the first Canadian to ever compete in Formula E history and he will become the oldest driver in the series' history. The 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner, 1995 IndyCar champion and 1997 World Drivers' champion last competed in a competitive race earlier this year when he ran the Stock Car Brasil season opener alongside Ricardo Zonta. His last open-wheel race was the 2014 Indianapolis 500, where he finished 14th.

Trulli Formula E
Jarno Trulli's team was the cellar dweller in 2014-15. The team finished in the points once twice with Trulli scoring the team's best finish at Punta del Este, where he came home from fourth. Vitantonio Liuzzi returns to the team after running in five races last year. Salvador Durán joins the Italian team after running ten races with Aguri in 2014-15 season. The powertrain for Trulli Formula E will be known as Motomatica JT-01. Trulli Formula E will miss the opening round at Beijing after failing to submit their cars for scrutineering.

Vitantonio Liuzzi: #10 Motomatica JT-01
The Italian replaced fellow Italian Michele Cerruti in the #18 last year and the former Red Bull development driver scored two points with a ninth place finish in Berlin. He missed the final round in London because of GT Asia Series duty. He won that weekend in GT Asia driving the #55 FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren 650S GT3 alongside Hiroshi Hamaguchi. He is missing the GT Asia finale in Shanghai to run Beijing.

Salvador Durán: #18 Motomatica JT-01
The Mexican driver replaced Katherine Legge after two races at Aguri. He finished eighth in his second start at Buenos Aires but was disqualified for exceeding maximum power usage. In the next round in Miami, he would pick up his first point with a tenth place finish. Durán finished sixth at Moscow and eighth in the finale in London.

Eight rounds return from the inaugural Formula E season. The schedule remains the same in autumn 2015 and winter 2016. Putrajaya, Malaysia will follow Beijing in a fortnight on November 7th. Punta del Este will be the final race of the calendar year on December 19th. After a month and a half off, Formula E will return to South America for the Buenos Aires round on February 6th.

There is currently a TBA for March 12, 2016. Miami was held on that weekend last year but with that race being without a promoter, a new venue appears likely to take that spot on the calendar. Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez has been the rumored venue for the March date.

Formula E will return to Long Beach on the first weekend of April. Paris replaces Monaco and will take place on April 23rd. Berlin will be May 21st with Moscow a fortnight later on June 6th. The London season finale is scheduled for July 2nd and 3rd but location is still to be determined, as Battersea Park has not committed to host that round.

1. At least two races will feature a last lap pass for the victory.

2. No more than four drivers are disqualified from races this season due to technical infractions.

3. At least two drivers score their first career victory this season.

4. There will be at least two drivers who enter in the middle of the season and score a podium.

5. A non-European driver wins a pole position.

6. A driver will win a race from pole position and also score fastest lap.

7. A female driver will score points this season.

8. A driver wins consecutive races.

9. There will be at least one race entirely run in the rain.

10. The 2015-16 Formula E champion will not be one of the top three finishers from the 2014-15 Formula E championship.