Formula E Season 9 Preview
Written by Olly Radley, Edited by Simran Kanthi
While F1's off-season rages on through the winter, Formula E is back. We are just a couple of days away from the dawn of Generation 3 and Season 9 of the FIA Formula E World Championship. Following the first showcase of the new cars in Valencia, the season opener in Mexico City won't fail to disappoint. Gen2 ended in style with a deserving first title for Mercedes' Stoffel Vandoorne. He, like many, is with a new team in 2023, and that's just one of the things we can look forward to seeing this Saturday in Mexico City.
As the cars and the lineups change significantly, Formula E has made big changes to how each weekend will run. Every weekend will contain two 30-minute practice sessions. In single-race weekends, like the opener in Mexico, the first will take place on the Friday afternoon and the second on Saturday morning before qualifying. On double-header weekends, a third session will take place on the Sunday morning, similar to its counterpart on Saturday morning. In Season 9, Formula E will also be introducing the same rookie FP1 rule that F1 introduced in 2022. This rule will now mean each team has to give two drivers with zero Formula E experience to drive in FP1. Qualifying also remains the same as it did last year with the 11-driver Group qualifying phase preceding the duels that decide the top 8.
When it comes to the main event, however, big changes are being made to the race format. The most obvious change is the switch from timed races to lapped races. The driving factor for this was to change the additional time rule implemented last year to prevent race time from being lost under safety cars or full course yellows. Instead of time being added on to make up for this, it will now be a direct addition of laps lost to simplify the process.
Finally, Formula E is beginning to change how strategy will work in the future. In some races this year, Formula E's new innovation "Attack Charge" will be trialled. The basic concept of Attack Charge is that during the race, each driver will serve two mandatory 30-second pit stops. During these stops, the drivers will "fast-charge" their cars' batteries and pump 4KwH of energy in just those 30 seconds. In races where Attack Charge is being trialled, Attack Mode will not be used. Finally, Fanboost has been removed from Formula E.
The new car
Formula E's new car, the Gen3, is a faster, lighter, and much more agile evolution of its predecessor, the Gen2. The car can reach top speeds of up to 320kph (198 mph), a 40kph upgrade on the Gen2 which could only reach 280 kph (173 mph). The new car is also 60 kg lighter than the Gen2.
While the car may be faster and much more high-tech, the thing that they have come under the storm for most is its looks. The car has lost its wheel rims that were previously a defining feature of the Gen2 and the car's main body has an unusual triangular shape. It very much feels like Formula E is moving away from the things that used to make it unique and seems to be closing the gap and removing the differences between itself and the rest of the single-seater categories that previously were its biggest selling points.
Diriyah, Rome, Berlin, and London all remain on the calendar as double-header events, and Jakarta joins the double-header roster after its action-packed debut in Formula E last year. Mexico City, the season opener, as well as Monaco both remain on the calendar as single-race events. Two of last year's double-header events have been removed and/or replaced on the calendar. Seoul, which made its debut last year, has already been axed from the calendar, and New York's doubleheader has been replaced by a single-race event on IndyCar's Portland International Raceway on a modified layout.
The best part is, Portland is one of the four new tracks in 2023! Hyderabad, India; Cape Town, South Africa; and Sao Paulo, Brazil all make their Formula E debuts in Season 9. All three will be single races and they'll be back-to-back from early February to late March. The full calendar is below.
R1 - Mexico City E-Prix, Mexico - Saturday 14th January
R2 - Diriyah E-Prix, Saudi Arabia - Saturday 27th January
R3 - Diriyah E-Prix, Saudi Arabia - Sunday 28th January
R4 - Hyderabad E-Prix, India - Saturday 11th February
R5 - Cape Town E-Prix, South Africa - Saturday 25th February
R6 - Sao Paulo E-Prix, Brazil - Saturday 25th March
R7 - Berlin E-Prix, Germany - Saturday 22nd April
R8 - Berlin E-Prix, Germany - Sunday 23rd April
R9 - Monaco E-Prix, Monaco - Saturday 6th May
R10 - Jakarta E-Prix, Indonesia - Saturday 3rd June
R11 - Jakarta E-Prix, Indonesia - Sunday 4th June
R12 - Portland E-Prix, USA - Saturday 24th June
R13 - Rome E-Prix, Italy - Saturday 15th July
R14 - Rome E-Prix, Italy - Sunday 16th July
R15 - London E-Prix, UK - Saturday 29th July
R16 - London E-Prix, UK - Sunday 30th July
Team and Driver Lineups
One of the biggest stories of the off-season was the insane silly season. Drivers have jumped ship up and down the grid resulting in a lineup almost unrecognisable from last season. Jaguar TCS Racing are the only team out of the 11 to retain their lineup as Sam Bird and Mitch Evans embark on their third year together with the team.
Favourites for season 9, DS Penske, have an immensely strong pairing for the season ahead. Two-time champion, Jean-Eric Vergne, who won both of his titles in DS-powered cars, has followed DS from Techeetah to their new team Penske. He's joined by the reigning champion, Stoffel Vandoorne. His team Mercedes announced long before his championship win that they were departing from the series, leaving Stoffel without a team. Being the driver he is, it didn't take him long to land a drive with DS' latest project, Penske. Fair to say that Penske, with three drivers' titles between them, are surely frontrunners in season 9.
The ABT team return in style with a similarly strong lineup. Formula E veteran Robin Frijns moves to the team where he accumulated three wins across two seasons in DTM. Nico Muller, who's overperformed in Formula E before, joins the team through the same affiliation. Muller drove for ABT in DTM from 2016-2020, with highs of finishing 2nd in 2019 and 2020.
McLaren, who took over the reigning champions Mercedes team, were the last to announce their new lineup. Jake Hughes joins McLaren to make his Formula E debut. The ex-F2 driver was previously a test and reserve driver for Mercedes in Formula E and now makes the jump to a full-time seat with McLaren. Alongside him is former Audi driver and three-time DTM champion Rene Rast.
The other rebranded team is Maserati MSG Racing. The Italian brand took over the small Monaco-based team of Venturi Racing and retained its long-time driver Edoardo Mortara. Mortara has revealed himself as a title contender over the past two years; with Maserati's resources, he'll be hoping to up his status to champion in the Gen3 era. Maserati's original plan was to recruit 2021 champion Nyck de Vries alongside Mortara to create a Maserati super-duo. This plan, of course, broke down when the Dutchman was signed by AlphaTauri to race in F1. Maximilian Gunther, who raced for three teams in four years, moved to Maserati to partner with Mortara. While the signing at first seemed rather underwhelming for a team with high aspirations, Gunther wowed everyone at testing, topping multiple sessions and being the overall fastest driver in the Valencia test.
Porsche also have created a strong duo to compete for better results in 2023. While Andre Lotterer has left the team, Pascal Wehrlein has stayed with Porsche for a third year. After taking his first Formula E win with Porsche last year in Mexico, Wehrlein now has fierce inter-team competition. Following the end of the DS Techeetah team, Antonio Felix da Costa jumped ship to Porsche, meaning the team now have a Formula E champion on their hands. Porsche's experience in Formula E has clearly been disappointing in comparison to their compatriots Mercedes. The teams entered at the same time and achieved completely different levels of success. Mercedes have achieved two double-championship seasons in just three years, while Porsche have just one race win to their record in the same time frame. With Felix da Costa onboard, their luck will surely change and they'll be able to make the jump to being frontrunners.
Envision have found a very suitable replacement for their departing driver Robin Frjins in the 2016 Formula E champion, Sebastien Buemi partnering with Nick Cassidy. Mahindra have also made advances with their lineup. Oliver Rowland stays for a second year, and he's joined (like Cassidy at Envision) by a former Formula E champion. It is the 2017 champion, Lucas di Grassi. After clashing with teammate Edoardo Mortara in his first year at Venturi, di Grassi has moved once again, this time further back into the field, and potentially a bit too far to show off his ability. Andretti have retained Jake Dennis for a third year and he's joined by the greatly experienced Andre Lotterer. Andretti will also be powered by Porsche from Season 9 onwards, and Lotterer's experience and relationship with Porsche will help bring Andretti further forward in Formula E.
Nio 333 Racing have a very promising young driver lineup for 2023. Dan Ticktum stays with the team for a second year and he's joined by former F2 competitor, Sergio Sette Camara. Sette Camara has good experience in Formula E but he's yet to get an opportunity in a good car. Two seasons with backmarkers Dragon and still having his lightning pace on a qualifying lap make him an ideal candidate for Nio, who have been rooted to the bottom of the standings for the past few years. Nissan will likely be in the same boat as Nio this season. The e.dams team were previously a powerhouse in Formula E, with more championships than any other team, but in the past few years that has changed drastically. In 2022, Nissan finished 9th in the teams' standings, only ahead of Nio and Dragon. To put that into perspective, they finished 2nd in the teams' standings in 2020. It looks like their lineup in 2023 will not help them turn that around. Norman Nato and Sacha Fenestraz are the Nissan duo for Season 9. They both have very limited experience in Formula E and neither has great amounts of success in big series.
Full Team and Driver Lineups
#4 Robin Frjins
#51 Nico Muller
#27 Jake Dennis
#36 Andre Lotterer
#1 Stoffel Vandoorne
#25 Jean-Eric Vergne
#16 Sebastien Buemi
#37 Nick Cassidy
#9 Mitch Evans
#10 Sam Bird
#8 Oliver Rowland
#11 Lucas di Grassi
#7 Maximilian Gunther
#48 Edoardo Mortara
#5 Jake Hughes
#58 Rene Rast
#3 Sergio Sette Camara
#33 Dan Ticktum
#17 Norman Nato
#23 Sacha Fenestraz
TAG Heuer Porsche
#13 Antonio Felix da Costa
#94 Pascal Wehrlein
For me, it is DS Penske's championship to lose. Vandoorne's consistency and ability to manage and dominate a championship should give him the edge over his teammate Vergne throughout the season. Personally, I don't see Vergne's challenge being against Vandoorne in front but instead against the chasing pack behind.
I think that the teams from 2nd to 4th could be very closely matched. I've predicted Evans to be best of the rest after Penske, although I've predicted Jaguar to finish down in 4th in the championship. Similarly, I've predicted Jake Dennis to finish 6th, but Andretti to finish 7th in the championship. That is what I think could be the thing that costs certain teams a higher finish in the teams' standings. That's where I think teams like Porsche could thrive. With two drivers of similar pace like Wehrlein and da Costa, they may be able to get the edge over their front-running rivals. This may give an advantage to teams further back in the pack like Envision Racing who have a brilliant lineup.
Last but not least, right at the back of the pack, I think it will be a contest between Nio and Nissan to stay off the bottom spot, reminiscent of Haas vs Williams in the 2020 F1 season. For me, due to their weak lineup and obvious downfall over the past three years, last in the teams' standings will be Nissan.
Finally, I thought I’d leave you with my predictions for the year ahead in full.
Stoffel Vandoorne, DS Penske
Jean-Eric Vergne, DS Penske
Mitch Evans, Jaguar
Edoardo Mortara, Maserati
Antonio Felix da Costa, Porsche
Jake Dennis, Andretti
Pascal Wehrlein, Porsche
Maximilian Gunther, Maserati
Robin Frjins, ABT CUPRA
Rene Rast, McLaren
Sam Bird, Jaguar
Jake Hughes, McLaren
Nico Muller, ABT CUPRA
Lucas di Grassi, Mahindra
Oliver Rowland, Mahindra
Nick Cassidy, Envision
Sebastien Buemi, Envision
Andre Lotterer, Andretti,
Dan Ticktum, Nio 333
Sergio Sette Camara, Nio 333
Norman Nato, Nissan
Sacha Fenestraz, Nissan
Maserati MSG Racing
Tag Heuer Porsche Formula E Team
Jaguar TCS Racing
Neom McLaren Formula E Team
Avalanche Andretti Formula E Team
Nio 333 Racing
Nissan Formula E Team
Let me know your predictions (and your thoughts on mine) in the comments below. That’s it from me, though, so goodbye for now!