Preview: FIA Formula E, Season 4

While most major racing is now finished for 2017, the FIA Formula E Championship is just ramping up for the start of its fourth season, which opens this weekend with a doubleheader on the streets of Hong Kong, China.

Since its inaugural season in 2014 the series has grown significantly, with a variety of teams, drivers and venues joining the ranks of the world’s first all-electric single-seater series. While this is something of a transitional year with manufacturer programs from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Porsche all in the wings, there’s plenty new in store for Season 4. Here’s a quick overview.

Drivers

Series founder and CEO Alejandro Agag likes to claim that “Formula E is becoming a destination for some of the best drivers in the world.” And several new names lend further support to that contention this season.

Three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner and 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship drivers’ title winner Andre Lotterer joins Jean-Eric Vergne at Techeetah. Although best known for his sports car work, Lotterer had an accomplished run in single-seaters earlier in his career, including a stint as official test driver for the Jaguar F1 team, although he never got a chance to race for the team, and a one-off Champ Car start in 2002.

Dragon Racing’s new driver Neel Jani – Lotterer’s former teammate on Porsche’s WEC LMP1 team – is also switching to Formula E from the world of endurance racing, although he too has raced in the open-wheel ranks, including stints in Formula 1 and Champ Cars. With the addition of Zurich to the race calendar this season, Jani will be up against fellow Swiss driver Sebastian Buemi in battling for the affections of local fans.

Another transfer from the endurance ranks is Toyota LMP1 racer Kamui Kobayashi, who will make his series debut with the Andretti team. Kobayashi currently dovetails his WEC duties with a full-time drive in the Japanese Super Formula series.

Former IndyCar racer Luca Filippi is a full-time Formula E racer for Season 4, having joined the NIO team in place of FE veteran Nelson Piquet Jr., who has switched over to the Jaguar factory team. Filippi will partner Oliver Turvey, who topped the times on to of the three days of pre-season testing at Valencia last month,

Filippi will be joined by fellow Italian Edoardo Mortara, who returns to the open-wheel ranks after achieving stardom in GT cars. Mortara, who won the prestigious Macau GT World Cup earlier this month to bring his run of success there to an amazing 10 victories in F3 and GT cars, also counts a DTM title (in 2011) among his accomplishments. He will race with the Venturi team alongside fellow Mercedes DTM racer Maro Engel.

Venues

The 2017/18 Formula E season will include 14 races in 11 host cities, across five continents. New additions to the calendar include Zurich’s ePrix, which will mark the return of circuit racing to Switzerland for the first time in over 60 years – along with new street races in Rome (pictured), Santiago, Chile and Sao Paulo.

Powering up

For Season 4, Formula E cars will benefit from an additional 10kW of power in race mode, to 180kW. The boost reduces the reduction in power to the cars from qualifying mode, where they have 200kW at their disposal. It is part of the series’ roadmap for steadily expanding development aimed at showing how Formula E technology is advancing the development of electric road cars.

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