All-electric motorsport series Formula E has taken off over the last few years, with an expanded calendar, more famous drivers and greater media exposure, but this weekend will see it commence its biggest season yet.
A total of 11 teams will take part in Season Eight of Formula E, including two British outfits – Envision Racing, formerly Envision Virgin Racing, and Jaguar TCS Racing.
The season opener in Saudi Arabia features back-to-back E-Prix on Saturday and Sunday and is followed by a calendar which includes races in Mexico, Italy, Monaco, the United States, Britain and a season-ending double-header in South Korea.
A 16-race calendar is the longest in Formula E’s brief history but there are plans to expand it further, says co-founder Alberto Longo.
“I would say that we are already 95 per cent there in terms of my ideal calendar when we launched this championship eight or nine years ago,” he said.
“I think we have one of the most exciting calendars in the world of motorsport. Do I miss some countries? Yes, but we’re absolutely working on it.
“And hopefully, by Season Nine, and certainly for Season 10, we will be in all the countries that we wanted to be from the beginning, which is important.”
Entering Formula E this year – and racing as No33, that of newly crowned Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen – is Brit driver Dan Ticktum.
The 22-year-old is a former junior at Red Bull, where he took part in F1 pre-season testing, and Williams and will be racing for Chinese team NIO 333 FE alongside fellow Englishman and sometime McLaren F1 test driver Oliver Turvey.
“I like a new challenge,” Ticktum said. “I think it’s a championship that is definitely going to grow over the next five or 10 years.
“I am probably one of the youngest drivers on the grid and I think I can build a good career for myself in Formula E.”
There are some farewells to be said, however. This season will be the last with the current fleet of Gen2 cars. Next year’s will be faster, reaching 200mph.
Audi and BMW have left Formula E as teams but remain manufacturers in 2022, and Mercedes-Benz are due to leave at the end of this season. In their place, Italian supercar manufacturer Maserati is set to join.
“I might sound a little presumptuous but I wasn’t really worried when I started hearing that some manufacturers were deciding to leave the championship,” added Longo.
“I have been in motorsport long enough to know that manufacturers come and go. That’s the reality.
“There were a lot of questions about how Formula E was going because of this manufacturer [Mercedes] deciding to leave and therefore the Maserati announcement just shut all the questions in one go.
“Hopefully we will do some more in the next few weeks or months.”
With London, New York and Monaco on the calendar, Formula E boasts some of the world’s most iconic locations.
The series is not lacking in the driver aspect too, with Mercedes F1 reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne and last year’s Alfa Romeo F1 grid starter Antonio Giovinazzi among those involved.
Fans in the UK are getting more coverage, thanks to a new partnership with Channel 4 that will see more races broadcast on free-to-air television.
How it develops and grows in comparison to Formula 1 is yet to be determined but, on the eve of Season Eight, the sport is seemingly in as good a place as it ever has been.