JACK NICHOLLS: Season 8 ramping up to be Formula E's best yet

I got a text from a friend on the Saturday evening after Jakarta, it simply said "I think this might be the best season ever", and he’s right. This friend has watched Formula E from the beginning, and worked as a journalist in the series for three seasons, so he knows what he is watching.

So why is it the best season ever? First, the races have been really exciting, intriguing and perhaps most notably, clean. In the first nine races this season, there have been nine Safety Car periods. As a comparison, in the first nine races of last season there were 17 Safety Car periods, almost double, while in Season 5 there were 24 Safety Car periods in the first nine races!

I think the new qualifying format is a large part of that. Drivers are broadly in the correct area of the field, so we are seeing many less ‘do or die’ manouveres, and in fact much less contact overall, which has led to races playing out their natural course. This has given us some tremendous jeopardy at the ends of races, not knowing who was going to win until the final corner.

The new qualifying has also given us true frontrunners, that are in the mix for the win at pretty much every race, and as a result the season is starting to have a nice structure to it. If I look back at the seven seasons already in the history books, never have we had such a consistent and tight championship fight between so many drivers.

Season 1 was mainly a Buemi vs Di Grassi fight, even if Piquet snuck in at the final minute to seal the title. Season 2 and 3 were solely Buemi vs Di Grassi, which I enjoyed tremendously. Season 4, Vergne broke away at the end to win comfortably, as he did similarly in Season 5 and then his teammate Da Costa replicated that pattern to win in Season 6.

Last season, there were so many drivers in contention that no real story developed over the season, and in fact, the season finale ended up being a war of attrition to wrap up the championship! Now we have a close and consistent battle between recognised front runners, and I love that.

Title protagonists

I wrote before Berlin that the top four had broken clear, but after a tough two weekends, Robin Frijns (Envision Racing) appears to have been cut adrift from that pack. Where Mitch Evans’ Berlin struggles were rectified with victory in Jakarta, Frijns had a miserable qualifying and failed to score any points, and while we still have seven races left, being 40 points from the championship lead feels a big ask.

His compatriot - reigning champion Nyck de Vries (Mercedes-EQ) - had a similar experience in Jakarta. After seemingly turning a corner in Berlin, it was back to a tricky qualifying then an in-race collision with Porsche's Andre Lotterer that gave him a puncture and forced a retirement. The hopes of retaining his title were given a slight rejuvenation after the Berlin win, but it now seems almost impossible.

Rather remarkably, the top four in the championship finished Round 9 in reverse championship order, closing up the points gap between first and fourth. There were 28 points between Vandoorne at the top and Evans in fourth before Jakarta, now there are just 12 separating Vandoorne, Vergne, Mortara and Evans.

Terima kasih, Jakarta!

And finally, just a word about how great the Jakarta event was. Naturally, I have been to every Formula E venue, and the Jakarta E-Prix was absolutely up there with one of the best.

I don’t think there has ever been a city more welcoming of Formula E, and having never visited Indonesia before it was a really fascinating and vibrant country, with a real sense of character. It had the chaos of Bangkok but yet somehow mixed with the relaxed vibe of Singapore, and I really thought it was a great addition to the calendar.

Next up Marrakesh, another wonderful city, and the continuation of what I am now declaring to be the best ever season of Formula E.