With two first-time winners already in the first three rounds of the season, Formula E’s reputation as the most competitive motorsport series on the planet has picked up where it left off from season five. Here are the major talking points ahead of the 2020 CBMM Niobium Mexico City E-Prix.
Youngster Guenther heads up German success
The arrival of Mercedes-Benz EQ and TAG Heuer Porsche to the Formula E grid this season, and joining rivals Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler and BMW i Andretti Motorsport, meant this was the first time the four German giants have gone up against each other in international single-seater motorsport. Audi Team Principal Allan McNish even described this season as “the Bundesliga of motorsport”.
The battle has already lived up to expectations, headlined by a young German driver who has so far flown under the radar. BMW’s Maximilian Guenther ended a 609-day drought since a German had won a Formula E race - Daniel Abt in Berlin in 2018 - with a stunning victory in Santiago thanks to a last lap overtake on Antonio Felix da Costa.
All four German manufacturers have claimed podiums in the opening three rounds, but BMW now top the team standings with Guenther’s win adding to Alexander Sims' victory in the previous round in Diriyah. Mercedes-Benz EQ has also impressed with Stoffel Vandoorne the current championship leader, while Audi won in Mexico City last season, setting up the next chapter in this enthralling clash of the German titans.
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Battling Brits still in the hunt
A British driver is still yet to win the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, but the flying start made by the UK contingent could see that all change in the year London returns to the calendar for the season finale. Brit duo Sims and Sam Bird claimed victories during the opening weekend in Diriyah, and the pair sit second and third in the drivers’ championship heading to Mexico City.
The pair failed to replicate their form from Saudi Arabia in Santiago, but with title favourites such as Jean-Eric Vergne and Sebastien Buemi faltering early on, both of them are in a strong position heading into round four. Bird, who finished tenth in Santiago, said he felt he could have claimed another podium place in Chile but for the bad luck of being hit twice.
Don’t discount Barnsley boy Oliver Rowland for Nissan e.dams, who has also made a good start to the season and sits sixth in the standings. Last season’s Rookie of the Year could be a dark horse if he manages to maintain the levels of consistency he showed last year in qualifying - three Julius Baer pole positions across the season - and convert it into points in the race.
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Ghosts of Mexico past haunt the grid
Mexico City was home to two of the biggest heartbreaks of last season for Formula E first timers at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
No one will forget Mahindra Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein looking nailed on for his first-ever Formula E win… only to be pipped literally on the line by Lucas di Grassi after the German ran out of usable energy just metres from chequered flag. The 25-year-old’s wait for an E-Prix victory continues.
Nissan e.dams were also looking well-placed in only their third Formula E race, with veteran driver Buemi in third and team-mate Rowland just behind, until a major error led to both drivers finishing last as the cars ran out of energy with less than one lap remaining. With season two champion Buemi down in 21st position in the drivers’ standings, he’ll need a far different result this time round to re-energise his title challenge.
With a longer circuit configuration compared to last season, expect the number crunchers in the garages to play a vital impact on their teams’ plans for energy consumption to avoid this fate again.
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Track changes pave way for high speeds and wheel-to-wheel racing
The 2020 CBMM Niobium Mexico City E-Prix will see the track at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez adapt to accommodate the increase from 22 to a full grid of 24 cars.
Turn three, previously feeding into a tight chicane, will now lead into a new sequence adding four or five new corners to the circuit and meaning cars will likely reach the fastest speeds ever recorded by the Gen2 at more than 150mph.
Higher speeds, more overtaking opportunities and the return of the famous Peraltada curve at the end of the lap to allow for more of the fast, flowing, sometimes frantic racing Formula E has become known for.
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News of the Formula E world
It was a topsy-turvy week of news earlier this month for Formula E, with two major stories landing around the all-electric series.
Last Tuesday saw the launch of the Gen2 EVO car, which will be introduced next season when the series gains world championship status from the FIA. The car is an evolution of the current Gen2 model, until the revolutionary ‘Gen3’ car is released in 2022. The new design with open wheels at the front is designed to punish the increased amount of contact between drivers and the slick new look has turned plenty of heads.
However, the Sanya E-Prix, is no longer scheduled to take place on March 21, due to the coronavirus outbreak. A statement released by Formula E confirmed they are looking into potential alternative dates should the situation improve.