Season 7 of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship gets underway at the end of February 2021.
It is a big season for the all-electric racing series. It enjoys official FIA status for the first time and the competition is set to be as intense as ever.
Season 6 was heavily disrupted like many sports by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Many events couldn’t take place, including the planned summer return to London.
Ultimately, six back-to-back races on two different layouts around the old Tempelhof Airport in Berlin concluded the championship.
The series was won convincingly by DS Techeetah’s Antonio Felix da Costa.
Da Costa mixed a combination of sheer consistency and devastating race speed. He finished well-clear of the chasing pack.
The ex-Red Bull Racing academy graduate will know that it will be a tough ask to retain his title.
Just ask the likes of Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi.
It has been a busy off-season for the championship. Here are five topics to keep a lookout for.
DS Techeetah – The team to beat?
With no change in the driver line-up, the Chinese-owned DS Techeetah come into season 7 boasting the only Formula E line-up ever to boast two champions.
Reigning champion da Costa will once again be joined by Jean-Eric Vergne, the only double champion on the grid.
Early season mechanical gremlins ruined the Frenchman’s chance to make it three titles in a row.
Whilst he was happy to support da Costa’s title bid last season, he will be determined not to be in that position again.
Team principal Mark Preston has led a team which has sustained the most successful period for a team in Formula E.
Having won successive Constructors’ titles, it is difficult to see a genuine weakness in their armoury.
Pre-season testing suggests DS Techeetah will once again be among the frontrunners.
If there’s anything we’ve learned in Formula E’s history, it is to expect the unexpected.
However, few can argue that this well-drilled team must start as the team to beat.
A new challenge for Bird
British motorsport is looking in healthy state and there’s no exception in Formula E.
Whilst Oliver Rowland will feel he can become the main British hope with Nissan, there’s a new challenge for one of the most experienced pros on the grid.
34-year-old Sam Bird has made the transfer from Envision Virgin Racing to the Jaguar Racing squad.
Bird’s relationship with Virgin Racing was exceptionally fruitful. Whilst it didn’t quite breakthrough with the championship both parties wanted, Bird won nine times in 69 outings.
He also gave the championship some memorable performances along the way.
It felt though in season six that Bird needed a new goal and the move to Jaguar offers this. Jaguar have a rich history in motorsport, especially at Le Mans.
Joining the fast Kiwi Mitch Evans, this driver partnership looks like being closely-matched.
Evans briefly launched a title bid last year before his challenge faded in the Berlin finale last season.
Jaguar has shown good pace since joining the championship in season three.
However, they have not been able to sustain the consistency shown from DS Techeetah and the German squads.
If Evans can fine-tune his skills and Bird bring his natural speed and ability into the team, Jaguar have got all of the ingredients to deliver their best-ever Formula E campaign.
Can Audi and BMW leave on a high?
There was plenty of excitement on the eve of season six when Mercedes and Porsche joined the championship for the first time.
This meant there was a quartet of German-manufactured teams in the series. Audi and BMW were already fully committed and the battle was always going to be ferocious.
In the end, it was Mercedes who came out on top, finishing in third in the team standings.
However, season seven sees the last time we’ll have all four competing in the championship.
In quick succession in December 2020, it was announced that both Audi and BMW will be leaving Formula E once season seven concludes.
— BMW Motorsport (@BMWMotorsport) December 2, 2020
BMW have linked up with Andretti Autosport in recent years and will be determined to end their collaboration on a high.
Maximilian Guenther won his first-ever race in the series for the team last year in Santiago.
Unfortunately, a tendency to get caught up in incidents derailed a serious championship push.
Guenther will be partnered by a British rookie in Jake Dennis. The 25-year-old has competed previously in GT Racing and DTM.
2019-20 was Audi’s most challenging year. For the first time, they failed to win a single race.
They also sacked long-serving driver Daniel Abt. Abt used a professional gamer to take his place in an esports version of the series that took place during the first global lockdown.
They have a former champion though in di Grassi, who will be determined to finish his lively Formula E career on a high.
Plenty will be expected too of Rene Rast, He begins his first full season in the championship after replacing Abt for the Berlin rounds last term.
Audi and BMW’s impending departure is a blow to the championship but not a terminal setback.
Is Buemi still a serious threat?
Sebastien Buemi is another of the long-serving stars in Formula E.
When in top form, he is an extremely tough competitor to beat.
Buemi took the title in season two (2015) and had a great chance to retain the title in 2016 but for sportscar commitments and a meltdown in the Montreal series finale.
That allowed his chief rival in di Grassi to capture the championship.
Since then, the Swiss racer’s championship hopes have not materialised, largely down to poor reliability or uncharacteristic mistakes.
However, he finished season six with a strong set of results in Berlin.
He came fourth in the final standings, just three points shy of runner-up Stoffel Vandoorne’s total.
Buemi is a born winner. He’s shown that with his success in endurance racing and at Le Mans with Toyota.
Red Bull Racing have still often used him as a test and simulator driver in Formula One, despite it being a decade since his active F1 career came to an end.
With 13 wins and 29 podiums to his name, Buemi is still a serious threat.
He always should be considered as a potential title contender.
Much will depend on whether Nissan can string together a race-winning package.
Too often, they’ve made mistakes and started behind other teams in the development stakes.
Buemi will also have Rowland to deal with and he will be hungry to topple his Swiss teammate.
He’ll go into the new season on a high after claiming his maiden victory in the penultimate race of last season.
An ever-changing calendar
Formula E found it difficult to cope with COVID-19, given the championship’s prime objectives.
It’s prime aim of racing on street circuits have made the championship an attractive proposition.
Unfortunately, it has been a struggle given the restrictions and logistics.
Last season’s six-race haul in just nine days was different in Berlin.
However, it is not something Formula E founder Alejandro Agag will be too keen to repeat.
There have already been three alterations to the planned calendar when first announced last June.
At the time of press, the ePrix in Paris has been cancelled. Additionally, races in China and South Korea delayed due to travel restrictions.
There will still be concerns about North America’s struggles to battle Coronavirus with Mexico and the US rounds in-doubt.
Meanwhile, London’s plans to return to the championship are still firmly in the balance.
What is currently announced is the series will begin once again in Saudi Arabia with a double-header in Diriyah on 26th and 27th February.
Further events have also been announced in Santiago, Monte Carlo, Marrakesh, Valencia and Rome.
However, it is an ever-changing world and the impacts of the pandemic firmly remain a year on.
It will be interesting to see how Formula E handles the developments over the coming months.
Provisional 2021 ABB FIA Formula E Championship Calendar*
Diriyah ePrix Race 1: 26th February
Diriyah ePrix Race 2: 27th February
Rome ePrix: 10th April
Valencia ePrix: 24th April
Monaco ePrix: 8th May
Marrakesh ePrix: 22nd May
Santiago ePrix Race 1: 5th June
Santiago ePrix Race 2: 6th June
Formula E has provided plenty of thrills and spills since the championship’s inception in 2014.
A new season is almost upon us. The teams will be ready to get going again for what could the most competitive edition of the series to-date.
*Calendar is subject to change