We're fresh off the back of the official pre-season test, where we saw all 22 drivers and 11 teams out on-track together in the new Gen3 for the first, and only, time before we head to Mexico City for the opening round of Formula E's new era on 14 January.
Through five days of testing, drivers racked up a combined total of 5,128 laps, which at more than 17,300km is almost the same distance as a trip from the test track to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City and back.
On the final day of the test at Circuit Ricardo Tormo, the top five fastest drivers all went half-a-second quicker than the best time previously recorded by the Gen2 car at a Valencia test. Maserati MSG Racing's Maximilian Guenther set a Formula E testing lap record of 1m25.127s in that seventh and last session of the week - the German notching his third testing benchmark in his time in Formula E. He clearly enjoys the end-of-year Valencia sun, and has seemingly started life at new team Maserati MSG Racing in the best way possible.
Season 9 has seen one of the biggest line-up shuffles we’ve ever had in Formula E, with only Jaguar TCS Racing keeping the same pairing from Season 8.
Two drivers who look right at home in new colours are reigning World Champion Stoffel Vandoorne – who made the off-season move to the newly-formed DS PENSKE team - and Maximilian Guenther who has joined Monaco-based Maserati MSG Racing.
Guenther was dominant throughout the week, topping the timings sheets in five of the seven sessions, and as the lap times tumbled on the final day, the German posted the fastest time of the test: an impressive 1:25.127 – well under the best we’d seen from Gen2 set around Valencia, and so early in Gen3’s lifecycle.
Stoffel Vandoorne finished his preparations strongly, registering a lap just a tenth behind Guenther in the final (and fastest) session of the week. The Belgian, who sealed the Season 8 title in Seoul back in August, showed consistent pace throughout the week in the DS E-TENSE FE23, with the signs there that he will be among the front-runners again as he sets about a title defence in 2022/23.
His teammate, double champion Jean-Eric Vergne, also showed promising signs, with an impressive time of 1m25.248s on Friday morning, underlining that the DS PENSKE pairing could prove to be a powerful partnership this season. The early indications are that the French-American squad have really hit the ground running.
Fellow Frenchman, Norman Nato, is another driver enjoying his fresh start, having returned to the grid with Nissan after a year away. On Thursday’s additional test session, the former ROKiT Venturi Racing and Jaguar TCS Racing man put in his strongest performance of the week to top the timesheets with a 1m25.776s effort.
Rookie Jake Hughes has taken little time to settle into life in Formula E, showing pace and control throughout the test. Representing the papaya of NEOM McLaren alongside the experienced, and ultra-racy Rene Rast, Hughes only dropped out of the top ten once, something bound to boost his confidence when he lines up for his debut race in Mexico City on 14 January.
Oliver Rowland kick-started his second season at Mahindra Racing with a strong showing too, leading the way for the majority of the final session of the week. The British driver starts the year with a new teammate in the experienced Lucas Di Grassi, as Mahindra embark upon a new era under the leadership of former FIA man, Frederic Bertrand, following the departure of ever-present Team Principal, Dilbagh Gil.
The next gen
The Gen3 arrived in Valencia with the teams, drivers and fans excited to see the world’s fastest, lightest and most efficient single seater electric race car in the flesh.
As conditions improved through the week and drivers and their engineers got a better feel for things, lap times fell rapidly with five drivers delivering times over half a second faster than the Gen2 ever recorded at a Valencia test.
Teams have a whole new challenge for Season 9 with Formula E heading into the Gen3 era. It's a massive leap in technology that's come together to create the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric single-seater ever - and the most sustainable too.
The headlines are a 200mph (320kph) top speed, a 60kg lighter, smaller chassis, an additional front powertrain plus a power output 100kW up on Gen2 at 350kw with double the regen capacity - meaning more than 40% of the energy used in-race is via regeneration under braking. The drivers say that will all add up to more overtaking and livelier cars around Formula E's calendar of street circuits.
It's clear that there’s plenty of scope for improvement; there’ll be a host of tweaks to come off the back of Valencia, heading into Mexico – and this is just the start. The drivers were clearly excited about Gen3’s potential.
"Max (Guenther) has already gone quicker than the fastest lap we did here last year so we’re already faster over a lap," said Mortara. "We can expect a bigger difference but that will come with us exploiting the car better – you will see bigger differences on targets in the race and on target laps because the car is effectively a lot more efficient.
"There’s a lot to discover. We were at the maximum with the Gen2 car last year with software that was exploiting the entire performance available after years of working with those cars and powertrains."
"It's been a fun process to get to know the new car," adds Season 6 champion Antonio Felix da Costa. "It’s a massive step forward in terms of power and it’s lighter and those two things you always look forward to as a driver – more power and less weight. There’s a front powertrain too now and it’s going to be a highly efficient car – 40% of the total energy used in a race will be from regen. It’s a big step in technology and it’s fun."
While it can be difficult to draw too many conclusions from testing, it’s possibly the two DS PENSKE-powered teams who will leave Valencia the happiest. With over 5,000 laps in the bank across the 22 cars – almost enough mileage to get us from Valencia to Mexico City, and back, Maserati MSG Racing and DS PENSKE were the two outfits that saw consistent speed and reliability, with Maximilian Gunther setting himself up as the man to beat when things get underway in the New Year, if his testing times are anything to go by.
The teams, drivers and engineers will now turn their attentions to integrating their data and making some last-minute tweaks ahead of the Gen3 curtain-raiser in Mexico City. With an all-new car, new race locations and so many unknowns, all the signs are pointing towards it having the potential to be the best season – and era – of Formula E yet.