12 Nov 19

BMW: Under pressure to deliver on potential

BMW i Andretti Motorsport endured a chastening 2018/19 campaign in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship after a lightning-fast start to a season that promised so much. The introduction of Mercedes and Porsche this time around puts added pressure on the squad to perform favourably compared to rival German OEMs, while it remains to be seen how they will cope with the departure of Andretti mainstay Antonio Felix da Costa.

BMW entered Formula E with a bang as a fully-fledged manufacturer last season, topping the timesheets in testing and flying out of the blocks with a win for Antonio Felix da Costa in Ad-Diriyah. This was also a maiden victory for Andretti Motorsport and their partnership with the German giants immediately looked like a title-winning combination – before disaster struck in Marrakesh. Having worked their way into a comfortable one-two at the head of the field, team-mates Da Costa and Alexander Sims collided in the closing stages, squandering the team’s chances of a second consecutive victory.

da costa on the winners podium at the Saudia Ad Diriyah 2018 E-Prix

Da Costa took the blame for the incident but BMW’s season never fully recovered and there were no more wins, despite four further podiums between the two drivers. The iFE.18 showed decent pace but the squad was often hampered by the reverse-order qualifying format, leaving their drivers to battle through a congested midfield in the search for points. Fifth in the Teams’ Championship is a decent return for a debut season, but BMW must now convert that potential into victories if they’re to really challenge the likes of Audi, Nissan and Techeetah.

The loss of Da Costa to Techeetah is a big blow for the squad, with the affable Portuguese ace having spent the past three seasons with Andretti. Exciting young talent Maxi Gunther has been signed up as his replacement following an eye-catching debut campaign with Geox Dragon. The German only competed in 10 of the 13 races last season but still made it into Super Pole twice and secured two fifth-place finishes in limited machinery, giving an indication of his speed. However, Gunther is just 22 and faces an uphill battle to compete with the Formula E elite who in some cases have over a decade more experience in their racing careers.

Sims returns for a second season with the BMW i Andretti outfit after ending his maiden Formula E campaign with an impressive second place in New York, having qualified on Pole. The Brit was one of the final drivers to be announced ahead of the new season, so this performance could well have been vital in securing his seat after just two points finishes in his previous nine outings. The onus will now be on the 31-year-old to steer BMW into title contention as de facto team leader.