The 2019/20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship season will get underway with a double header this weekend (22 and 23 November). Following a successful debut in season five, Diriyah will again host the first race of a new season of electric street racing. Located on the north-western outskirts of the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, the E-Prix will take place in close proximity to the At-Turaif district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The 2.494 km long track features 21 turns and winds its way through the historic area. The site also has huge grandstands that will accommodate tens of thousands of fans on race days, while the concert arena will provide entertainment for fans in the evenings.
Familiar faces and new challengers
Formula E welcomes two new teams to the paddock in season six, with TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team coming in as a new entity, while the Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team graduated out of the HWA Racelab outfit and is now embarking on its first year as a full works team.
In addition to new teams come new drivers. Double FIA WEC World Champion, and former Formula One driver, Brendon Hartley makes his all-electric racing debut with Geox Dragon. The New Zealander is joined by fellow rookie Nico Müller, who steps up to a full-time drive in the American squad. After winning the FIA Formula 2 Championship Nyck de Vries moves up the single-seater ladder and takes a seat with the Mercedes team. Another rookie, James Calado, will get behind the wheel of the Panasonic Jaguar Racing car, while Neel Jani extends his cooperation with Porsche and joins its Formula E team. Returning to Formula E racing is Ma Qinghua, who already competed in several rounds in previous years and takes NIO 333’s single-seater out on the city streets this season.
With five of the teams retaining the same driver line-up as for the previous season – namely Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler (Daniel Abt and Lucas Di Grassi), Envision Virgin Racing (Sam Bird and Robin Frijns), Mahindra Racing (Jerome d’Ambrosio and Pascal Wehrlein), Nissan e.dams (Sebastien Buemi and Oliver Rowland) and Venturi (Felipe Massa and Edoardo Mortara) a lot of familiar faces will also be around.
Regulation changes for the upcoming season
Drivers will have an additional 10kW of power available when using Attack Mode, rising from 225kW to 235kW. Also, drivers won’t be able to activate the system under Full Course Yellow (FCY), or when the safety car is deployed – meaning the drivers will have to go off the racing line to activate Attack Mode under normal race conditions and run the risk of losing positions.
Furthermore, to enhance the effects of energy management, during safety car periods and under FCY, a fixed quantity of energy – equal to 1kWh per minute for the duration of the caution period – will be subtracted from the total energy remaining in each car.
This measure means that drivers will no longer be able to save energy by driving at lower speeds under FCY or behind the safety car, leading to more varied strategies and close racing to the finish line that fans have grown accustomed to seeing in Formula E. A further recent change will be that the timekeeping system pauses if the race is temporarily suspended – remaining at the discretion of the FIA Race Director – with the aim being to maximize the amount of race time.
More points will also be on offer in season six, with an additional point handed out to the fastest driver in the qualifying group stages. The driver who secures pole position still picks up three points – as well as one point being awarded to the driver who sets the fastest lap finishing in the top-10 of the final classification.
Girls on track
Following the successful Girls on Track – Dare To be Different campaign at the Mexico City and Berlin E-Prix’ earlier this year, FIA Girls on Track is heading to Saudi Arabia for a further event on 21 and 22 November. The campaign offers a unique opportunity to inspire and encourage girls between the ages of 8 and 18 years as well as to educate the general public on gender equality in motorsport.
The event will see girls participate in a number of innovative activities that include media tutorials, technical challenges, educational environmental challenges, a health workshop, simulator sessions, and a karting slalom course.