DIRIYAH PREVIEW: Everything you need to know ahead of the Season 8 opener

The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship goes green once again this Friday and Saturday, 28 & 29 January in Diriyah, with the opening rounds of Season 8 from Saudi Arabia’s historic heartland and fans returning to the grandstands.

Season 8 will see an ultra-competitive grid of 11 teams and 22 top-tier drivers from around the globe battle for top spot in the world’s only all-electric single-seater FIA World Championship titles.

Season 7 runner-up Edo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) rounded out the Valencia pre-season test on top to set the early 2021/22 pace, though the whole field was split by a little over a second.

WAYS TO WATCH: Where and how to watch every minute of Season 8

The battle for top spot is ever fiercer in Formula E, as the 10-point gap between first and fifth last season attests. Will Mercedes-EQ double down for a pair of world titles on the bounce? The German outfit sealed maiden Teams' and Drivers' World Championship honours at the last in Berlin - the latter at the hands of Dutchman Nyck de Vries - to round out 2020/21, but retaining those titles will be an altogether tougher feat. 

New season, new line-up

A new season brings with it fresh team and driver line-ups, though the top four finishers field unchanged squads.

Reigning champions Nyck de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne return with Mercedes-EQ to defend their Drivers' and Teams' World Championships. The Dutchman's Season 7 spoke for itself, while Vandoorne wound up a podium or so shy of top spot in the end, despite proving his outright pace with an unmatched three Julius Baer Pole Positions.

De Vries sealed a maiden Formula E victory in Diriyah last season, via a clean sweep as he topped every session no less. The Mercedes powertrain looks strong if testing is anything to go by. So, you'd expect to see the reigning champions at the fore once again, though anything can happen in Formula E.

Mercedes-EQ's Nyck de Vries takes maiden victory in Formula E's first night race the 2021 Diriyah E-Prix

Mitch Evans and Sam Bird are back with Jaguar TCS Racing. The former came within a start-line glitch of potential top honours in the final round of Season 7, while Bird will want to iron out the non-scores to go with the silverware if he's to push for a first Formula E title. Brit Bird did set off on the best foot possible with Jaguar in Diriyah last year, with victory in Round 2. He's still the only man to win in every Formula E Season to-date, including two victories in Saudi Arabia itself.

DS TECHEETAH confirmed that double champion Jean-Eric Vergne once again lines up with Season 6 title-winner Antonio Felix da Costa as the Sino-French outfit looks to recapture its je ne sais quoi. Though still firmly in the hunt, the team wasn't quite as miserly as it had been during its Teams' title double and Drivers' hat-trick purple patch. No doubt JEV and Da Costa will surely be challenging once again.

SEASON 8 is here! All the teams and drivers set to compete in 2021/22

Envision Racing will seek to build on a positive Season 7, with Robin Frijns impressing on the way to fifth in the standings last time out, and Nick Cassidy no longer just the head-turning rookie.

Avalanche Andretti's Jake Dennis is back after a storming maiden campaign. A final race technical glitch saw him in the wall and out of title contention. Still, one of the best rookie seasons since the series began means expectations will be high in 2021/22. He's joined by the only American driver on the grid, 2019 Indy Lights champ Oliver Askew.

1. Antonio Giovinazzi DRAGON PENSKE Formula E

ROKiT Venturi Racing heads into the new campaign off the back of their best yet. Edoardo Mortara fired to second in the Drivers' running, and he's joined by 2016/17 champion Lucas di Grassi at the Monegasque team this season. The Swiss driver enjoyed Diriyah last year, as he strode to the podium having produced perhaps the overtake of 2020/21 in the process.

TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team's all-German line-up remains. Pascal Wehrlein and Andre Lotterer go again in the search for Porsche's maiden race win in all-electric motorsport as Oliver Rowland joins countryman Alexander Sims at Mahindra Racing.

Maximilian Guenther makes the switch to Nissan e.dams, alongside 2015/16 champion Sebastien Buemi, while DRAGON / PENSKE AUTOSPORT snapped up Antonio Giovinazzi fresh from Formula 1, with the Italian joining Sergio Sette Camara.

At NIO 333, Oliver Turvey is joined by multiple Macau Grand Prix winner and current FIA Formula 2 Championship front-runner Dan Ticktum.

Revised regulations

From Season 8, Formula E races can now have additional race time of up to 10 minutes added when incidents cause Safety Car or Full Course Yellow neutralisations during the 45-minute plus one lap race.

Formula E’s Gen2 cars will be the quickest they've ever been this season, too. Drivers will be able to tap into 220kW of power in Season 8, an increase from 200kW in Season 7, during races. Power during ATTACK MODE will also increase to 250kW from 235kW.

Qualifying explained: Formula E's new-for-Season 8 format in 60 seconds

There's a new qualifying format featuring Groups and knockout Duels for teams and drivers to get their heads around in 2021/22, too, that should make for bigger rewards in the hunt for Julius Baer Pole Position for the form guys.

Dicing in the dark

Last time around, the Saudi Arabian season-opener hosted Formula E's first night races. In Season 8, the circuit will again be lit by 22 Formula E cars and their Halos, plus the latest low-power LED technology around the circuit.

READ MORE: Diriyah in depth

These reduce energy consumption by up to 50 per cent compared to non-LED units, and they will be powered by sustainably-sourced biofuel generators.

How did the drivers find racing at night in 2020/21?

I love racing in Saudi – the track is amazing,” says double champion Antonio Felix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH). “I was the first winner there in Season 5 and I’ve got great memories. We go well every time we go there.

“With it being a night race, your practice and qualifying happen during the day and then you race at night. Temperatures change, along with the track surface with the sand getting brushed away.

Diriyah S7

"Your perceptions also change with the shadows changing. It takes a little bit of adaptation and training to the eye but I love the different variables and it definitely creates a better show for the fans. It’s very cool to race there, and great to watch – especially at night.”

Get involved

Formula E blurs the lines between the real and virtual worlds of motorsport and there are even more opportunities to engage with the championship in Season 8, even if you can’t be at an E-Prix in person.

Formula E is the only motorsport in the world that lets fans play an active role in influencing the outcome. FANBOOST for Round 1 is now open until 15 minutes into the encounter, while voting for Round 2 opens at 19:30 GMT on Friday 28 January. To give your favourite driver an extra boost of power, visit FANBOOST and the Formula E app.

Play Formula E Predictor

Can you predict the unpredictable? The Formula E Predictor puts you in the hot seat to predict each round of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. 

It's free to play, and points are awarded for each correct prediction. Make your picks for five race outcomes - selecting from the 22 Formula E drivers that you think will win the E-Prix, clinch Julius Baer Pole Position, set the TAG Heuer Fastest Lap, be the first to use ATTACK MODE and be the driver to make up the most places in the race.

Follow live

Follow every lap from Diriyah as it happens in the Live Hub. Keep across Live Timing – including a real-time interactive track map and the ability to follow your favourite driver – plus detailed session reports, exclusive interviews, all the standings and results as well as reaction from the ground means fans won’t miss a moment.

The Formula E app allows fans to go behind the scenes and listen to Driver Radio for live reactions from the cockpit and the pit wall as the race plays out. To listen in, download now on iOS and Android.

Watch

Don't miss a minute of Season 8. Keep track of the best ways to tune in where you are at fiaformulae.com/watch.

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