After a slight delay, the 2020-21 Formula E season begins this week in Saudia Arabia.
The coronavirus pandemic caused the last season to be shortened, so organisers will be hoping for more action this time around.
If you are new to Formula E, or need to refresh about the latest changes, read on to get fully charged.
OK, what exactly is Formula E?
Put simply, it is the only FIA-sanctioned single-seater electric motorsport championship in the world. Imagine Formula One-style race cars, but powered by batteries, and you are on the right lines.
The championship began as a way to promote the significant development of electric vehicle technology, and to prove that battery power does not have to be boring. However, the championship has managed to become about more than just the sheer novelty of electric racing.
Formula E is now into its seventh season, and has grown substantially in popularity. This season sees a total of twelve teams competing, with multiple major car manufacturers involved.
What has changed for the 2020-2021 Formula E season?
The biggest change for the 2020-2021 season is that Formula E is now recognised as an official FIA World Championship.
This puts Formula E at the same level as competitions like Formula One, the World Endurance Championship, and the World Rally Championship.
Along with an extra degree of prestige, it also means a new official title of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.
What cars do they use in Formula E?
All teams use the same identical Spark SRT05e chassis, with batteries supplied by McLaren Advanced Technology. Hitting 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds, with a potential 174 mph top speed, means these are serious racing cars.
Teams are able to supply and develop their own electric powertrains, but the rules are kept tight to ensure the racing is close on track. Maximum power output for each car totals 250 kW (335 hp), reduced to 200 kW (270 hp) in race mode.
The cars do feature aerodynamic wings and spoilers, but are nowhere near as intricate as those seen in Formula One. Again, this helps cars race in close proximity to each other, encouraging as much overtaking as possible.
Formula E had planned to introduce a modified car for the 2020-21 season. However, Coronavirus saw the GEN2 Evo idea shelved, with an all-new car planned for the 2022-23 season instead.
Which car manufacturers are involved in Formula E?
With electric cars becoming more prevalent on the road, manufacturers have seized on Formula E as an opportunity to demonstrate to the world what they can do.
This season sees seven familiar manufacturers involved. Premium German companies are well represented, with Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW all involved.
Nissan, DS Automobiles, and Jaguar will be represented on the grid for 2020-21, too.
Where does Formula E take place?
Formula E is dedicated to bringing action straight to the fans, which means racing takes place on street circuits in major cities throughout the world.
The circuits used are shorter in length than those used in Formula One, but feature tight layouts designed to encourage overtaking. Taking place with dramatic backdrops only boosts the appeal.
The 2020-21 season has races planned to take place in London, Rome, New York, and Berlin amongst others.
Is Formula E exciting to watch?
Equal machinery, plus talented drivers and compact circuits, means the competition is as fierce as you would imagine.
Bumping and barging on track is a common occurrence, aided by the strong design of the cars. In fact, one of the reasons Formula E wanted to introduce the GEN2 Evo car was to try and stop drivers from making contact on track!
Drivers have the use of ‘Attack Mode’, which sounds like something inspired by Mario Kart. By moving off the racing line to run through a special designated area of the track, drivers receive a temporary 10 kW (13 HP) power boost for their car.
Fans can also use social media to vote for their preferred driver in the run up to each E-Prix. The most popular five drivers then receive an extra ‘Fanboost’ of power to deploy during the second half of the race.
Will I know any of the Formula E drivers?
Initially stocked with a wealth of ex-F1 racers, the Formula E grid has become a desirable motorsport career choice for a wide array of drivers.
Formula One experience is still represented for 2020-21, though. Stoffel Vandoorne, Pascal Wehrlein, Sebastien Buemi, and Jean-Eric Vergne all previously raced in Formula One before making the switch to EV racing.
Formula E isn’t all about retired F1 drivers though. André Lotterer, who drives for Porsche, won the World Endurance Championship in 2012. Dutch driver Nyck de Vries was the 2019 Formula 2 champion, and is part of the Mercedes-Benz team.
Who is the current Formula E champion?
Portugese driver António Félix da Costa took a dominant Drivers’ Championship victory in the 2019-20 Formula E season.
Driving for the DS Techeetah team, Félix da Costa notched up three wins from 11 rounds, and scored two additional podiums. It meant he almost doubled the points scored by Stoffel Vandoorne, who claimed second in the championship.
The DS Techeetah team also scooped the 2019-20 Teams’ Championship for 2019-20, making it back-to-back success for the Chinese outfit. Nissan finished second, with Mercedes-Benz in third.
What is the future of Formula E?
BMW and Audi made shock announcements before the 2020-21 Formula E season had even started. Both German manufacturers have stated that they will leave the sport at the end of the season, but committed to race in 2020-21 as planned.
The introduction of a new third-generation ‘Gen3’ Formula E car for the 2022-23 season is the biggest development on the sport’s horizon.
Under the Gen3 rules, Formula E would impose exit penalties on manufacturers who leave the series early. It means manufacturers may need to think longer about signing up for the new series.
However, the ever-increasing importance of electric vehicles is likely to keep Formula E as an important marketing tool.
How can I watch Formula E?
Multiple options exist to watch the 2020-21 Formula E season.
In the United Kingdom the BBC will provide live coverage of each E-Prix. This will be done through the BBC Sport website, via the Red Button interactive service, and iPlayer.
Eurosport will air live qualifying and race action, too.
United States viewers can watch all races live through CBS Sports, with a selection to be featured on the CBS Television network. CBS Sports Digital will offer streaming for qualifying.
Formula E also offers live streaming through dedicated YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Twitch channels.
2020-2021 FIA Formula E Calendar
At present, only two rounds for the 2020-21 Formula E season have been confirmed. The remaining rounds are currently classed as ‘provisional’, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Santiago was intended to hold the first two rounds behind closed doors. However, the races have been postponed to a date later in the season. The opening two rounds in Saudia Arabia races are planned to allow spectators.