Jack Nicholls' Season 8 preview

Ahead of Season 7, fiaformulae.com asked me to write a season preview piece, so I did. I’ve just read it back for the first time in a year, and my prediction for the title was Nissan e.dams. They finished 10th out of 12 in the Teams' standings. Consider that fair warning that the following hundreds of words may have slim bearing on reality when the eighth season of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship gets underway this weekend in Diriyah.

Qualifying shake-up

The most talked about change for this season is the new qualifying format. I won't go into exactly how it works, you can catch that here, but I do think it is going to give us the most entertaining season in Formula E history.

The previous format of group qualifying served its purpose; giving the grid a little bit of a mix up. The competitiveness of the field since Season 5, though, has meant that often the championship contenders tended to start in unrepresentative positions, a way down the field, and from there it’s a real battle to come through and score the odd point. This year, I believe we will see a return to the kind of title showdowns we saw in Seasons 1-4.

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That’s not to say that the new qualifying will be in any way straightforward. In fact, it may be more difficult to get Julius Baer Pole Position. Under the group formats, you just needed a good lap to get into Super Pole, then another to try and secure pole.

In the new format, if you want to be on pole you’re going to need to hook up four laps! One to get into the Duels stages, another to get through the quarter-finals, another to win your semi-final, and then of course one more to win the final. That in itself creates a level of unpredictability that will mix the order up, but crucially it will be a mix up, rather than turning the championship order upside down.

Lucas di Grassi ROKiT Venturi Racing Formula E

A Brazilian renaissance?

There are new driver line-ups too at a number of teams. in fact only five of the 11 teams have the same pairing as last season. Of the drivers who have switched teams, the one with the biggest chance of a serious title challenge is Lucas di Grassi (ROKiT Venturi Racing). The Brazilian enjoyed a renaissance in the second half of last season, after it seemed as though his rookie teammate Rene Rast was getting the better of him, but the former Audi driver put himself in title contention with two victories in Puebla and Berlin.

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For some reason, after Audi became a full factory outfit in Season 4 they never enjoyed quite the same level of success as they had during the previous three seasons. But Di Grassi now has arguably the best powertrain on the grid behind him, as the Venturi team to which he has moved utilises the same Mercedes-EQ chassis and powertrain that powered Nyck de Vries to the Drivers' title, and Mercedes-EQ themselves to the Teams' World Championship.

DS' fight-back

DS TECHEETAH was the biggest disappointment in Season 7. After winning the Drivers' World Championship for three years in-a-row, Antonio Felix da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne finished eight and 10th in the championship respectively.

DS TECHEETAH Formula E Vergne

In the early rounds of the season it looked as though DS' domination may continue, as they finished third and fourth on the road in Round 2, and then Vergne came, saw and conquered in Round 3 in Rome - making best use of the outfit's brand new powertrain. After that, da Costa’s superb win in Monaco was the only race of note, so the Sino-French team will be looking for a much stronger season and a return to the top.

Clearly, most of the other teams cannot be discounted, and after last year’s disastrous prediction I won’t be making one this season, but I am really looking forward to seeing the title protagonists fight it out at the front of the field, in yet another superb season of electric motor racing.

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