SEASON 9 PREVIEW: New cars, new teams, new locations, new era!

Season 9 and a new era of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is just days away, with the most powerful, lightest and fastest electric race cars in world motorsport set to 'Go Green' at Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on 14 January.

mexico-city-foro-sol-birdseye

Some 40,000 spectators are expected to fill the grandstands at the famed Foro Sol for what will be the first race of Formula E’s latest generation, with revolutionary cars and a grid of 22 world class drivers, representing the biggest racing and automotive names, set to compete for FIA World Championship honours.

World class grid

A seismic off-season shift has seen just a single team retaining the driver line-up that rounded out the Gen2 era as teams look to hit the ground running.

DS Automobiles has partnered with PENSKE AUTOSPORT for 2022/23 and they've signed two of the biggest names on the grid to steer them to glory; reigning champion Stoffel Vandoorne and Formula E's only double champion Jean-Eric Vergne. They flew at testing to the second and third fastest times, respectively, and looked mighty in the process - the package to beat this season? Certainly, Vandoorne should have the tools to mount a title defence and try to match Vergnes unique honor.

Two massive names in McLaren and Maserati are set to enter the fold in 2022/23 alongside the cream of the world’s EV manufacturers and race teams on the Formula E grid.

The former is among the greatest names in motorsport, with 20 Formula 1 World Championship titles, 180 Grand Prix wins and three Indianapolis 500 victories to its name, as well as a Le Mans 24 Hours win at the first attempt. Rene Rast, multiple DTM champion and fiery Formula E fighter will turn out in papaya alongside Jake Hughes, with the British brand expectant but not complacent in its search for maiden silverware in electric racing's top tier. Hughes impressed in testing on the way to clocking the fourth-quickest time of the week, and Rast is as racy as ever.

Maserati marks its return to single seater competition for the first time in more than 60 years and is set to become the first Italian marque to compete in Formula E. Both outfits have cited Formula E as key to their EV development programmes, as an intense sporting laboratory to drive learnings from racetrack, ultimately to their road-going offerings. The Trident launched last week, with its iconic colours adorning Maserati MSG Racing's new Tipo Folgore set to be driven by Edoardo Mortara and Maximilian Guenther.

It couldn't have been a better start for the team in Valencia, with Guenther topping five of the seven timed sessions and setting the benchmark pace in Spain at a third official Formula E test.

READ MORE: Every driver and team racing in 2022/23

Both teams will race for the top prize alongside giants of the sport like legendary British marque Jaguar - with Jaguar TCS Racing the only team on the grid to field an unchanged driver line-up, American racing icons Andretti, Nissan, multiple Formula E champions DS, Indian automaker Mahindra, sporting legends Porsche, Chinese EV pioneers NIO, among the most decorated of race teams in German squad ABT Sportsline - who welcome Spanish automaker CUPRA on-board from Season 9 with Robin Frijns and Nico Mueller behind the wheel.

In a shaken-up Season 9 grid, Andre Lotterer joins Jake Dennis at the now Porsche-powered Avalanche Andretti. Meanwhile, Season 6 champion Antonio Felix Da Costa has been secured by TAG Heuer Porsche in place of Lotterer at the German team, partnering Pascal Wehrlein.

Nick Cassidy stays at Envision Racing, where he’s joined by long standing Nissan e.dams driver and Season 2 champion Sebastien Buemi, who left his prior employers after eight entire seasons, the longest stint of any driver in Formula E history. Envision will be powered by Jaguar in Season 9.

NIO 333 retains Dan Ticktum, who will be partnered with Sergio Sette Camara, who put in some impressive performances last year for DRAGON/PENSKE AUTOSPORT.

There's another fully-refreshed lineup at Nissan, with race winner Norman Nato teaming up with French-Argentine Sacha Fenestraz, who stood in for Antonio Giovinazzi in Seoul in the last race of Season 8 and Mahindra Racing will field two experienced winners in Oliver Rowland and Season 3 champion Lucas di Grassi.

A huge tech leap

Formula E's 11 teams and 22 drivers have had private testing and three days together in Valencia to rack up the mileage and acquaint themselves with their all-new Gen3 machinery. 

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 have been a host of tweaks off the back of Valencia, heading into this Mexico opener – and this is just the start. The drivers were clearly excited about Gen3’s potential.

READ MORE: Gen3 facts and figures

"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."

A return to Mexico City

This weekend Formula E makes a seventh visit to a circuit that’s been on the calendar since Season 2, save for a trip to Puebla in Season 7 – Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

The 19-turn, 2.630km circuit is a perfect mix of long, fast straights and a technical infield section that passes right through the legendary Foro Sol stadium – housing tens of thousands of fans. 

There's a new chicane this year on the back straight, while the ATTACK MODE activation zone is now on the outside of Turn 15 at the exit of the stadium section - more of a challenge this time around.

READ MORE: Mexico City's best moments

Lucas di Grassi (ROKiT Venturi Racing) has long been one to watch in Mexico. He won in Puebla last year, but the Brazilian made it two trips to the top step in Mexico City itself in 2019/20, after his first win in front of the Foro Sol in 2016/17.

That Season 5 win went down in Formula E history. Then-rookie Pascal Wehrlein fought hard out-front and veteran di Grassi wouldn’t give him a moments peace. Heading into the final lap, almost 40,000 fans took in Formula E’s most dramatic race finish, with Wehrlein holding fast to the last, before running out of usable energy after the final turn – allowing di Grassi to slip by right as they crossed the line.

Last time out, a weight was lifted at German giants TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team following its first ABB FIA Formula E World Championship victory in Mexico City.

Pascal Wehrlein led home a dominant Porsche one-two at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez from teammate Andre Lotterer, with the team inflicting an extra lap on the field with just a couple of seconds remaining on the clock. Porsche's perfectly calculated strategy yielded double silverware and both Wehrlein and the outfit's breakthrough in electric motorsport. 

... and all-new tracks

A new era brings new additions to the Formula E calendar for next season.

Alongside old favourites like Mexico City, Rome and Monaco, we'll race in four brand new locations in 2023, starting with Hyderabad in India on the 11 February. Two weeks later, on the 25th, we’ll head to South Africa’s oldest city, Cape Town, before hitting the vibrant streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on the 25 March.

Then, on 24 June, Formula E will return to the USA; specifically the beautiful state of Orgeon, for the Portland E-Prix.

Sporting evolution

Alongside the revolutionary machinery on-track, Formula E’s sporting regulations have undergone evolutionary updates to ring in the new era. A lap total will replace time in setting a race distance, with additional laps added for Safety Car and Full Course Yellow interruptions to racing.

Later in Season 9, ATTACK CHARGE, using pioneering battery and charging technology, will allow the newer, smaller, lighter Gen3 cars to receive an in-race energy boost – delivered at a lightning-quick 600kW. This mandatory 30-second stop will unlock two ATTACK MODE periods with the cars running at 350kW vs the stock 300kW.

Upcoming racing talent will also get their opportunity to shine in the world’s leading electric racing championship with teams fielding rookie drivers in two Free Practice 1 sessions over the season; with FP1 itself now set to take place a day prior to raceday throughout the season.

Watch

Free Practice 1 for the 2023 Hankook Mexico City E-Prix gets underway at 16:30 local time on Friday 13 January.

Free Practice 2 follows at 07:30 on Saturday with Quali from 09:40. The 2023 Hankook Mexico City E-Prix, Round 1 of Season 9, gets underway from 14:00 local/20:00 UTC.

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