Written by Olly Radley, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
With the start of Formula E season 9 just on the horizon, I thought it would be a good idea to go through the lineups of each team, and grade them from A* to F. We’ll start with the lowest grades and work our way up.
Nissan Formula E Team: D
Nissan commence our rankings, netting the lowest grade on the list, a D. Following the departure of both Buemi and Gunther, Nissan found themselves with no drivers for 2023, and plenty of options. However, the lineup they’ve opted for is not what I was expecting. Nissan’s downfall over the past 3 years has been very noticeable to everyone. They finished 2nd in 2020, and were a lowly 9th last season. Now, with their star driver gone, and a brand new car, they had a chance to rebuild heading into the new era. Their choice for Season Nine was Norman Nato and Sacha Fenestraz.
Nato has a full season of Formula E experience under his belt, having driven alongside Edoardo Mortara at the erstwhile Venturi team, in the hectic 2021 season. While Nato’s season was nothing to write home about, he did get a win in the final race in Berlin. This was, however, one of only four points finishes that season, making Nato’s championship result of 18th seem unsurprising. Nato spent last year as reserve driver for Jaguar, and even got a chance to serve his duty, having filled in for the injured Sam Bird in the last race of the season in Seoul. Neither race was particularly inspiring from Nato.
Fenestraz made his Formula E debut in Seoul last season, too. Having sustained injuries following a crash in the first race, Antonio Giovinazzi couldn’t compete in the final race of the season, and Fenestraz hopped into his Dragon car to finish 16th. Fenestraz already has a relationship with Nato, having also served as a Jaguar reserve driver since 2020. The Frenchman won the Formula Renault championship in 2017, but opted for a move to Japan, similarly to Nick Cassidy, rather than pursuing a further path down European feeder series. In his first year he won the Japanese Formula 3 Championship, and spent the last 3 years competing in both Super GT and Super Formula, until his return to Europe and Formula E in 2023.
Both Fenestraz and Nato are solid, reliable drivers, but as you’ll see, the Formula E grid is incredibly competitive this year, and Nissan’s lineup simply doesn’t compare to the amounts of talent the other teams have got at their disposal. The one big thing with Nissan’s lineup is their pair’s lack of experience in big series. While they may be able to pick this up over the course of the season, they may also struggle and sink as a team, and drop right to the bottom of the standings. While Fenestraz could be considered one for the future, Nato is already 30 and I don’t see a future for him at the team.
Nio 333 Racing: C-
If you’d shown me this lineup in three years time, it probably could be considerably higher. That tells you all you need to know about Nio’s approach to 2023. It’s clear that they’ve understood their place in the championship and they’re aware that they, like Nissan, have a great chance to rebuild in the new Gen3 era. In order to do this, they’ve signed two of the three youngest drivers on the grid, Dan Ticktum and Sergio Sette Camara.
Ticktum is embarking on his second season with Nio. In his first year, he didn’t have much to play with: A bad car and a new qualifying format that makes it harder for the slower teams to qualify high up the grid like they could, in the old qualifying format. While it wasn’t a particularly brilliant debut year, and he was beaten by his teammate Oliver Turvey, Formula E is not an easy series to adjust to, and it’s especially difficult when you’re driving a car like the Nio.
Sette Camara on the other hand, has spent the past 2 and a half years driving for Dragon, in a similar position to where Nio are likely to be this season. He has shown his incredible ability on a qualifying lap, but is yet to show his race pace, and hasn’t yet backed up his pace with solid results and points to his name. Alongside another promising young driver, and with a team that has time and resources on its side, Sette Camara is easily capable of improving the Nio team alongside Ticktum.
Overall, Nio’s lineup, if the car can improve, could be the thing that sees them bring themselves off the rock bottom spot that they’ve spent the past few years in. While it’s a C- now, it could be much more in the not-so-distant future.
NEOM McLaren Formula E Team: C+
Having inherited the best team on the grid, I have to say I am quite disappointed by McLaren’s lineup. As a Formula 1 Team, and a successful one too, I expected McLaren to hire a pairing of F1-calibre. While Rast is no slack, and Hughes has a lot to prove, they just simply aren’t good enough for McLaren to challenge for the title, like their predecessors Mercedes did.
Rene Rast is a man of great experience in the racing world. A serial winner and three-time DTM champion since 2017, a Daytona win, and a season and a half of Formula E experience under his belt. His race pace was proven whilst racing for Audi in Formula E through 2020 and 2021, although his results never really backed up his pace. 13th in the championship wasn’t really reflective of his consistency throughout the year though. In his only full season, in 2021, he finished in the points in 10 out of the 15 races, more than any other driver that season. His issue was the fact he only got one podium (a P2) and no wins across the year. At McLaren this year, that will be less of an issue, and Rast will be able to showcase his consistency with the new and improved qualifying format. A solid signing from McLaren, and a signing that can help them get on their feet in their first year.
Jake Hughes has spent the past two years with Venturi and their suppliers Mercedes as a reserve driver, as well as driving with Formula 2 backmarkers Van Amersfoort in 2022. Obviously, he did not have the best opportunity to showcase his talent for one of the worst teams on the grid, but in fairness, he was able to pull off a big points haul for his team on some occasions. In qualifying, Hughes often achieved solid top 10 qualifications, setting him up for the chance to score points in the sprint races.
Overall, McLaren have built themselves a pairing that can score regular points finishes, and can get a podium every so often too. However, having inherited a Formula E giant and being able to retain most of their staff too, I think McLaren could’ve gone out and got a better pairing. They net a C+, although, hopefully they can prove me wrong and maybe even finish in the Top three of the Teams’ championship.
Avalanche Andretti Formula E Team: B-
This is where this list becomes very tight. Andretti have remained in a similar position for the past few years in the Teams’ Standings, although Jake Dennis (in both of the past 2 seasons) has exceeded expectations and outperformed his car, finishing 3rd and 6th in 2021 and 2022 respectively. In both of these seasons, the missing piece of the puzzle for Andretti has been their second driver. Last year, it was Oliver Askew, who followed up a brilliant debut in Diriyah with a fairly underwhelming year, and in 2021 it was Max Gunther. In 2023 Andretti clearly want to build the foundations for an attempt at the title, in this generation of cars.
Andretti’s acquisition of Andre Lotterer is the biggest signing hinting their desire to fight at the top. Andretti will be powered by Porsche from 2023, and Lotterer obviously has an existing relationship with Porsche, and experience with their power unit. Lotterer’s advice to Andretti on how to extract the most out of the Porsche unit will be crucial, whether or not they can move up towards the front of the grid. It is clear, however, that Lotterer is a very short fix for Andretti’s problems, and is not one for the future. Retaining Jake Dennis is very key for Andretti as well, considering he’s been their most valuable asset over the past two seasons.
Andretti’s lineup could help them improve over the next few years. However, in the short term, I don’t see it being the difference for Andretti.
Mahindra Racing: B
Mahindra have spent the past few seasons in their own region of the grid; a content middle ground between the front of the midfield and the backmarkers. Their luck might change, however, with what’s a very solid lineup in 2023.
The acquisition of Lucas di Grassi is of great interest for Mahindra. Di Grassi spent the first 7 seasons of Formula E with one team: Audi. Following their departure he headed to Venturi where, in fairness, he did well. 5th in the championship in his sole season for them, with teammate Mortara ahead in 3rd, and Venturi 2nd in the Teams’ Standings. However, inter-team conflict with his teammate seems to have pushed di Grassi away from Venturi. His next destination is, of course, Mahindra. He obviously brings a great level of experience and raw talent to the team. It’ll be interesting to see if he can retain his level of results into 2023. Alongside him is Oliver Rowland for a second year. Following an okay first season, Rowland will hopefully spearheading Mahindra’s push towards the front. A good lineup overall, one that fetches a B for me.
Maserati MSG Racing: B
Our last entry in this part, this could be one that might shock some, and it’s Maserati. The very short and simple of it is, I don’t think they will be able to beat Penske to the Teams’ crown with their lineup. Penske have a pair of proven champions, and no matter how good Mortara is, Gunther simply isn’t consistent or fast enough for Maserati to want to go for the title. While Gunther did dominate testing, I don’t think that truly reflects his pace, and I don’t think he’ll be able to back that pace up in the season ahead. Even if Mortara puts up a good fight and goes far in the title battle, I think it will be Gunther ultimately costing Maserati the Teams’ crown. This lineup fetches a B for Maserati.