The inaugural Formula E championship has run and won, and with most of the pre-season questions having been answered, it’s worth looking back on how the ten teams fared.
Some performed as expected, some surprised, and for some teams it was a truly torrid season – here they are in order of the final Team’s Championship standings.
It’s worth noting that across the 11 race season a staggering 35 different drivers were used to fill the 20 seats available on the grid, with only four of the ten teams keeping the same two drivers in both cars from start to finish. Of these 35 drivers, 17 had previous race experience in Formula One. At no point during the season did any driver managed to score the maximum 30 points available at any round for winning the race, claiming pole position, and setting the fastest lap.
Given eDAMS.Renault’s pre-season dominance where they topped all four test days (three by Buemi and Prost the other), their finishing as Teams’ Champions at the end of the season is not a huge surprise.
In reality, it could have been an even bigger margin: Nicolas Prost should have finished as least second in the season opener, however a major clash with Nick Heidfeld whilst battling for the lead and subsequent grid penalty for the second round took away are large swathe of additional points the team should have scored.
eDAMS claimed the most race wins across the season, Sébastien Buemi being the only driver to win three times (at Punta del Este, Monaco and the first London race) while Prost claimed victory in Miami.
The French driver was a model of consistency, being the only driver to score points in every event of the season meant he was also the only driver to drop a point-scoring worst round – even when failing to finish in the top ten at Beijing or Long Beach he still scored the bonus points for pole position or fastest lap.
Buemi came oh-so-close to also claiming the driver’s championship, ending only a single point behind Nelson Piquet Jr despite entering the London weekend in third place, 23 points back. Many will point to Buemi’s spin after the pit stops in the final race which lost the Swiss one position on track – and with it the crucial one point he needed to take the title on a count back.
In reality, however, there were several times over the season where a point or more was lost – a broken rear wing DNF in Beijing, or even more critically when the team incorrectly held Buemi for ten seconds more than the minimum pit stop time during the Moscow event.
Championships are truly won over an entire season, and a minor change in circumstances at any point in the season very well could have given Buemi the title. It’s a situation that eDAMS.Renault Team Principal Alain Prost truly understands, as he mentioned at the Formula E Gala Awards: “Just a small word to Sébastien … I know what it’s like to lose a championship to a Piquet family member at the last race!”
Given the team’s strength all year, and in particular Buemi’s performance, it would be a very brave person who would not expect this group to be right back at the front in season two.
2nd: Dragon Racing
In some ways the quiet achievers of the field, Jay Penske’s Dragon Racing finished the season incredibly strongly, with a double podium in the final race in London vaulting the team from fourth to second in the Teams’ Championship standings.
Starting the season with Jérôme d’Ambrosio and Oriol Servià behind the wheel, a re-structure after round four saw Servià (who had scored minor points in all events to that point) move out of the cockpit and into a team management role, with Audi WEC racer Loïc Duval joining the team.
This change worked well to set the ball rolling on continual improvement for the team, as it moved up from fifth in the Teams’ Championship standings at the time.
D’Ambrosio scored the team’s first (and only) win of the season in Berlin, with Duval also on the podium. Ultimately, the Drivers’ Championship ended with d’Ambrosio in fourth, while Duval finished ninth having competed in only seven of the eleven races. For his four events at the start of the year, Servià still finished nineteenth overall.
3rd: Audi Sport ABT
|Audi Sport ABT||11||0||1||1||7||2||3||227|
For much of the season Lucas di Grassi led the Drivers’ Championship standings, and looked almost set to claim the title after dominating the race and finishing first over the line in Berlin, however the Brazilian was excluded from the results of this event for illegal repairs and reinforcement to the front wing of his car.
The 25 points lost for this infringement would have put di Grassi first at the end of the year, and the punishment seemed to take the wind out of his sails. He was unable to muster the pace to match Piquet Jr and Buemi across the final events in Moscow and London, falling to third place in the standings, eleven points behind Piquet.
Daniel Abt’s season was inconsistent – at some events the German had genuine front-running pace, while at others he struggled to make the top ten. The German crossed the line third in the opening event in Beijing, however was penalised for exceeding the maximum battery usage, pushing him well down the order. Third place in Miami, along with pole in Long Beach and fastest lap in Punta del Este were the highlights of the rest of the season for Abt, who ended the season eleventh on the table.
Both di Grassi and Abt have been re-signed by the team for season two, which will see the team run an Audi powertrain to match its actual manufacturer support. Di Grassi is likely to again challenge for the driver’s title, and if Abt can improve his consistency there is every chance Audi Sport ABT can mount a greater challenge for the Teams’ Championship.
|3.||Lucas di Grassi||1*||2||3||DNF||9||3||2||DSQ||2*||4||6||133|
4th: NEXTEV Team China Racing
|NEXTEV Team China Racing||11||0||0||2||5||1||1||152|
It was very much a case of two different cars in the NEXTEV TCR team during Formula E season one.
On one side of the garage was Nelson Piquet Jr, who started the season with a contract for only the first few events, but achieved success from Round 3 and secured his place for the rest of the calendar before winning two races and becoming the inaugural FIA Formula E champion.
In the other car, various other commitments saw Ho-Pin Tung, Antonio García, Charles Pic and Oliver Turvey all drive, and it was this instability that likely prevented the team mounting a challenge to eDAMS for the Teams’ title. Starting the season as ‘China Racing’, a technical partnership was signed mid-campaign with NEXTEV and the team was rebranded as ‘NEXTEV TCR’ from Long Beach onwards. The team will use NEXTEV-developed powertrains in the next Formula E season.
Piquet’s season actually started very quietly, only scoring four points in Beijing and not finishing the Putrajaya race. From there, the Brazilian’s performance stepped up to another level and that set the platform for his championship win: second place in Punta del Este, third in Buenos Aires, fastest lap in Miami, and then his historic win in Long Beach exactly 35 years after his father won the Long Beach Formula 1 Grand Prix.
By this point, Piquet Jr was second in the championship, one point behind di Grassi. Third in Monaco, fastest lap in Berlin and a second win in Moscow then moved him 17 points clear at the top of the table before London. The double-header was not an easy weekend for him, where fifth in the first race was followed by qualifying a lowly 16th in the worst of the rain for the second race. A strong drive through the field, including a tasty move around Salvador Durán on one of the circuit’s sweepers moved the Brazilian to a seventh place finish – crucially only two places behind Buemi and one place behind di Grassi, sealing the title for Piquet by a solitary point.
Ho-Pin Tung started the season in car #88, with García named as the team’s reserve driver. The Chinese driver only ended up competing in three of the first four rounds of the season, failing to score a point in any. García drove for the team in two rounds (Punta del Este and Moscow), also not scoring for the team.
Charles Pic then drove four events for the team during the middle of the year, scoring four points in Monaco, while Turvey drove in the London double header, twin ninth place finishes also giving the Brit a total of four points.
Given that all but eight of the team’s 152 Teams’ Championship points were scored by Piquet, it really was a one man show for NEXTEV TCR, and actually quite impressive to finish at the fourth best team.
If it intends to seriously challenge for the Teams’ title in season two, they will need to secure a consistent second driver full-time to support Piquet and constantly bank points, similar to eDAMS.Renault’s performance this season with Buemi and Prost.
|1.||Nelson Piquet Jr||8||DNF||2||3||5||1||3||4||1||5||7||144|
|18.||Charles Pic||17||16||8||15||4 (16)|
5th: Virgin Racing
In fairness to Virgin Racing, the only reason they did not complete the full season with only Sam Bird and Jaime Alguersuari as its drivers was due to the Spaniard not being medically cleared for the London finale after suffering dehydration and fainting after the Moscow event.
Fabio Leimer slipped in to his seat for London and while he did not score any points, the Swiss driver did have an effect on the result of the championship: his crash into the barriers in the final race brought out a Safety Car, allowing Nelson Piquet Jr to make a final push through the field to claim the title.
Bird started the season strongly: Third in Beijing was followed by victory in Putrajaya, leaving the Brit and the team second in the Drivers’ and the Teams’ Championships after two rounds. After this start, Bird then seemed to disappear into his shell for much of the season with fourth in Monaco and fastest lap in Bueno Aires being the only real highlights during a run that included three DNFs and some low point-scoring finishes.
This changed on the final day of the season, where victory in the second London race, along with fastest lap, saw him ending the year on a high and securing him fifth in the standings.
A hallmark of both of Bird’s wins was is management of energy use and conservation in his cars, critical to strategy in the Formula E category. In both cases he was able to run additional laps in his first car, in turn allowing him to push harder than his competitors in his second car. In Malaysia this allowed Bird to cruise to the flag, and in London gave him the ability to close and pressure Stéphane Sarrazin for the lead – forcing the Venturi driver to exceed the maximum energy use allowance while trying to defend, resulting in him being penalised out of the lead – and giving Bird victory.
Alguersuari’s season was not dissimilar to that of Daniel Abt. At some rounds his car had speed, including a fourth place finish in Buenos Aires and setting the fastest lap in Malaysia, but at others a low points-scoring finish was the best he could muster. He only failed to finish one race (Monaco), before missing London due to health reasons brought on by dehydration in the Moscow race. If retained by the team for the full second season, Alguersuari will need to improve his race positions, while maintaining his consistency of finishing.
6th: Andretti Formula E
No team had a revolving door of drivers more than Andretti, and given the broad range of drivers tested by the team pre-season (including veteran Gil de Ferran), it was maybe not a big surprised that Charles Pic was announced as Franck Montagny’s teammate for the season opener just the day before the Beijing race.
From there things just became more complicated as form, clashing commitments, and even a failed drug test and subsequent two-year ban for Montagny forced constant line-up changes.
Ultimately eight drivers to be used, most from within the wider Andretti Autosport group: Pic was replaced by junior driver Matthew Brabham at Putrajaya, before it was announced that Montagny was mysteriously ‘unavailable’ for Punta del Este (where it would later be revealed that this was due the drug test failure at Putrajaya, consequently his Malaysian result was disqualified).
With the Formula 1 season completed by this point, Jean-Éric Vergne was brought in as a permanent replacement. For Miami, Speed replaced the disappointing Brabham, starting the only period of consistency the team would experience as the pair remained in place for four successive events.
Global Rallycross commitments ruled Speed out of the final four races, so Marco Andretti stepped in for Berlin before returning to IndyCar, Justin Wilson drove in Moscow before IndyCar also called him back, and Simona de Silvestro drove in the London double header.
It’s fair to suggest that this constant chopping and changing of driver line ups was detrimental to Andretti Formula E’s overall performance throughout the year.
It takes time for drivers to gel with a team, especially the communication between drivers and the engineering group. With the team constantly being forced to adapt to different drivers with different driving styles and different styles of feedback, it was always going to be hard to achieve top-level results at every event.
When they did have consistency (across the four events where Speed and Vergne remained together) the team moved up the order, but fell again slightly once the American returned to Rallycross. The Andretti team achieved four podiums during the year – one each for Montagny and Speed and two for Vergne, who also took three pole positions and a fastest lap – showing the team did have genuine potential.
Despite not competing in the opening two rounds, Vergne still finished seventh in the Drivers’ Championship standings with 70 points. Based on the pace and results the Frenchman managed to achieve during his time in season one, if he signs for a full second season with Andretti expect him to be a genuine championship contender.
|18.||Charles Pic||4||12 (16)|
|27.||Simona de Silvestro||11||12||0|
7th: Amlin Aguri
Amlin Aguri came out on top of a tight Teams’ Championship battle with Mahindra Racing and Venturi, but would perhaps feel frustrated with where they ultimately landed up.
António Félix da Costa proved himself to be more than capable in a Formula E car, scoring 51 of the team’s 66 points on his way to eighth in the Drivers’ Championship. This included a fine victory in Buenos Aires, with the balance of his points coming from finishes in the bottom half of the top ten. Da Costa did miss the first and last events of the season, with his DTM commitments taking priority. If given a full season, with the experience he has gained so far it is more than possible that he could be a consistent top-five contender in Formula E.
Takuma Sato substituted for the absent da Costa in Beijing, re-linking with Aguri Suzuki’s team after driving for their Super Aguri Formula 1 guise. While not seeing the chequered flag, Sato did score two points for fastest lap of the race. In London, another ex-Super Aguri driver in the form of Sakon Yamamoto was behind the wheel and showed his open-wheel racing rustiness. He had a torrid time, crashing out of both races (and a few of the practice and qualifying sessions) to be classified last on the championship table.
The team’s second car was initially driven by Katherine Legge for the first two rounds, finishing both races out of the points. She was replaced by Salvador Durán from Punta del Este onwards, with the Mexican scoring points on three occasions with steady, albeit not particularly quick, performances.
There are rumours that the Aguri team will have a different title and appearance for season two, with early testing occurring under the ‘Team Aguri’ banner – suggesting that the naming-rights sponsorship from Amlin Insurance may have been terminated.
|8.||António Félix da Costa||8||DNF||1||6||7||9||11||7||51|
8th: Mahindra Racing
Bruno Senna just managed to scrape into the Drivers’ Championship top ten with 40 points but it was a tough scrap for the Brazilian, which reflects the plight of the Mahindra team throughout the season.
Senna did not score points until Punta del Este, having endured a heavy crash while battling for a podium result in the final laps of the Malaysian event. Ultimately a podium would go begging all season; his best result being a fourth place finish in the final race of the year holding off a furious Sébastien Buemi.
Senna also scored fifth place results in Buenos Aires and Long Beach, but two DNFs and a string of three consecutive no-points finishes in Berlin, Moscow and the first London race prevented a push higher than tenth in the points’ table.
After finishing fifth in the inaugural Formula E race at Beijing and following that up with sixth place next time out at Putrajaya, Karun Chandhok failed to trouble the scorers for the rest of the series.
The Indian was a consistent finisher – his only DNF came in Buenos Aires – but he suffered with consistently poor qualifying pace that left him with far too much to do in the race. Such was the closely competitive nature of the Formula E midfield, he just could not find a way into the top ten at any further races during the season.
The 18 points scored in those first two results left Chandhok 17th in the championship. If he wishes to make an impact in the 2015/16 season, Chandhok will need to get on top of his qualifying woes in order to end this points drought as soon as possible.
|Venturi Formula E Team||11||0||1||0||1||0||3||53|
The inaugural Formula E season is was very much a case of ‘what could have been’ for Venturi.
By all rights, Nick Heidfeld should have won the opening race of the season in Beijing, when clearly faster and challenging Nicolas Prost for the lead approaching the final corner Prost blocked dangerously. The resulting contact tipped Heidfeld into the barrier and a nasty barrel-roll – what was the largest on-track incident of the season.
From there it took quite some time for things to improve for the German. He was excluded from Putrajaya, and scored his first point with tenth place in Punta del Este. Four more points followed in Buenos Aires, before two more no-score results from the Unites States events. Things started to improve with tenth place in Monaco, followed by fifth in Berlin and finally a Formula E podium with third place in Moscow. This was to be Heidfeld’s final points score of the year, with a thirteenth and DNF to round out the season in London. With a 31-point total, Heidfeld ended the season in 12th place, but with a little more luck could have been far higher – the points lost in Beijing alone would have placed him eighth overall.
Teammate Stéphane Sarrazin might have been back in open-wheel racing for the time in almost 15 years, but scored points more often than not, athough each time was a bottom of the top ten result.
This changed in the final race of the season in London, where he made the most of having the best track conditions in the rain-hit qualifying to take his and Venturi’s first pole. The Frenchman led the entire race, but exceeded the energy usage limit on the final lap while defending from a hard-charging Sam Bird. While Sarrazin crossed the line in first, he was instantly hit with a 49-second time penalty (equivalent to a drive-through penalty), dumping him to 15th and out of the points. In hindsight the smarter move may have been to let Bird through and conserve energy for a podium finish, but this was not to be; Sarrazin ended the season in fourteenth place with 22 points.
With a little more luck and capitalising more upon their glimmers of speed, Venturi very well could have been higher up the championship ladder. If they manage to do this in season two, expect more consistent visits to the front.
|Trulli Formula E Team||11||0||1||0||0||0||8||17|
It was a dismal season for the Trulli team, which spent the entire season playing catch-up after Trulli himself came in with a last-minute rescue deal
with only two obvious highlights. Jarno Trulli himself finished fourth in the third round at Punta del Este to score 12 of what would ultimately be only 17 points scored by his team all season. The second highlight was Trulli’s pole position in Berlin scoring him another three points, but even that soured quickly in the race. Trulli dropped to second off the start and a ‘Trulli Train’ (as seen so many times during the Italian’s F1 career) quickly formed as he held up a string of faster drivers behind. Issues causing excessive energy use in both of his cars saw Trulli initially forced to run at a reduced pace, before ultimately retiring with two laps to go.
In the team’s second car, Michela Cerruti started the season but proved to be out of her depth and failed to make an impact during her four race tenure, scoring no points and two DNFs.
She was replaced by Vitantonio Liuzzi from Miami, who ran more consistently but only scored points once, taking the team’s other two points with ninth place in Berlin. Unavailable for the final round due to Super GT commitments in Japan, Liuzzi was substituted by Alex Fontana in London who failed to finish the first race before a fourteenth place result in the second.
Given the team was at its best when Trulli and Liuzzi were paired together as drivers, it will be interesting to see if this combination is retained for season two. With that in mind, the results were still far from stellar, and a great deal of improvement will be needed if the team is to avoid a second year at the bottom of the ladder.
Images via FIA Formula E Championship