The first round of the 2017/18 Formula E season gets underway with a double-header in Hong Kong on 2-3 December. As well as the cars getting faster thanks to a boost in power, the fourth season of the all-electric series has its largest calendar ever, with 14 races. There are new races in Santiago, Sao Paolo, Rome, and – significantly – Zurich, marking the first time Switzerland will have held a circuit race since 1955.
There are a few team and driver changes too, including five rookies, so here are all the names taking part.
Renault e.Dams heads into the season looking for a fourth consecutive teams’ championship before Nissan takes over from Renault for season five.
It also keeps the same driver line-up, with arguably Formula E’s fastest driver Sebastien Buemi looking to avenge his defeat last season and regain his title. If he can do a whole season without missing races or getting angry at everyone and everything, he’ll be tough to beat. Nico Prost continues alongside him, though he’ll have to do more than just be impressively consistent if he wants to challenge at the front.
Audi has ramped up its Formula E involvement for this year and effectively taken over the ABT team it’s been associated with since the beginning.
But apart from the new name and a snazzy new livery things are staying much the same, with reigning champion Lucas Di Grassi looking to double up, and Daniel Abt hoping to win more than just the Fanboost vote.
Mahindra was incredibly strong last season, taking several podiums and a maiden Formula E victory on the way to third in the teams’ championship.
Felix Rosenqvist – third in the championship in his debut season last year – will also continue, and with the experience of a full season under his belt could be a real contender. Nick Heidfeld continues for a third season with Mahindra and will be looking to disprove the theory that it’s physically impossible for him to actually win a race.
The DS Virgin team has frequently shown serious pace, and if the cars are more reliable this season then Sam Bird could finally mount a title challenge in his fourth season with the team.
He’ll be joined by Alex Lynn. Lynn was the team’s reserve driver last season and stood in for Jose Maria Lopez in New York. He impressed by taking pole for his first race and now has a chance to back that performance up following his promotion to a full-time seat.
Techeetah was seriously impressive in its maiden Formula E campaign in 2016/17, but can it build on that this season?
Despite some impressive results at the back end of season three, veteran Stephane Sarrazin has been replaced by Porsche LMP1 refugee Andre Lotterer, whilst Jean-Eric Vergne continues with the team having won the final round of last season.
Despite powering Nelson Piquet Jr. to the inaugural Formula E championship, the NIO squad has frequently struggled to even trouble the scorers in subsequent years.
Piquet has finally had enough and left and has been replaced by Luca Filippi, a former GP2 ace who has since dabbled in IndyCar and sportscars. Oliver Turvey remains in the other car for a third straight season with the team.
The big difficulty for NIO, however, could be trying to tell its car apart from that of Andrettis, as the liveries are almost identical. Hopefully one of them changes…
The Andretti team hasn’t had a brilliant time of it in Formula E lately. It may have to wait another season for things to pick up too, as the team will become BMW’s works effort in 2018/19.
On that basis, BMW driver Antonio Felix da Costa sticks around for another season with the team, whilst the luckless Robin Frijns is out, replaced by another driver from BMWs books – Tom Blomqvist, runner-up to Esteban Ocon in the 2014 European F3 championship (although Kamui Kobayashi will drive in the first round in Hong Kong).
Andre Lotterer isn’t the only casualty from the axing of Porsche’s LMP1 programme who’s found a home in Formula E – Neel Jani has too, replacing Loic Duval at Dragon Racing. He’ll drive alongside two-time Formula E race winner and former Marussia F1 driver Jerome d’Ambrosio, who’s been with the team from the beginning.
Tom Dillmann has lost his place at Venturi, with 2010 Formula 3 champ and 2016 DTM runner-up Eduardo Mortara taking his place at the Monaco-based team. Maro Engel stays with the team for a second season, but Venturi has had a few reliability issues in pre-season testing, so for either driver getting a decent result could depend on whether the car can actually make it to the end of the race – never mind what its performance is like.
Everyone’s favourite ex-Renault driver, Nelson Piquet Jr., has jumped ship from NIO to the ever-improving Jaguar team, hoping that being tied up with a proper manufacturer effort will allow him to get somewhere near the front of the grid again.
He’s taken the place of Adam Carroll, which means that Mitch Evans stays on for a second season with the team.
Who do you think is going to shine in season four? Will it be another duel between di Grassi and Buemi? Will fast Formula E veterans like Bird and Vergne be able to mount a consistent challenge? Or will some of the Formula E rookies jump straight in at the top? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!