RIYADH: Season 9 and a new era of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship begins this Saturday with the competitive debut of the GEN3 car at the 2023 Hankook Mexico City E-Prix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit.
It is the fastest and most efficient race car to take part in the all-electric series yet.
A capacity crowd of 40,000 spectators is expected to fill the grandstands, with a carnival atmosphere in the famed Foro Sol stadium section welcoming the 22 drivers from 11 teams.
The second and third rounds of Season 9 will take place at the Diriyah E-Prix in Riyadh on Jan 27-28.
Here’s all you need to know about the launch of the new season.
The off-season saw plenty of changes as only one team has retained the same driver line-up that finished last season.
DS Automobiles has partnered with PENSKE AUTOSPORT, signing two of the sport’s biggest names — reigning champion Stoffel Vandoorne and Formula E’s only double champion Jean-Eric Vergne — to launch their Season 9 campaign.
The pair were highly competitive in testing, recording the second and third fastest times respectively. Vandoorne will be looking to mount a strong title defense to match Vergne’s unique double-title honor.
Two iconic names in world motorsport — McLaren and Maserati — line up on the Formula E grid for the first time this season.
The former is among the greatest names in motorsport, with 20 Formula 1 World Championship titles, 180 Grand Prix wins and three Indianapolis 500 victories to its name, as well as a Le Mans 24 Hours win at the first attempt.
Rene Rast, multiple DTM champion and former Formula E racer, will compete in the distinctive papaya of the new NEOM McLaren Formula E Team alongside Jake Hughes, who impressed in testing on the way to recording the fourth-quickest time of the week.
In partnership with MSG Racing, Maserati marks its return to single-seater competition for the first time in more than 60 years and is set to become the first Italian marque to compete in Formula E. Both Maserati and McLaren have cited Formula E as key to their EV development programs, with the championship’s intense sporting laboratory driving learnings from the racetrack to road models.
Maserati’s rich motorsport heritage is evident throughout their return to racing. Launched on the streets of their Italian hometown of Modena in the iconic blue color, the Maserati Tipo Folgore pays homage to the Trident’s first racing car, the Tipo 26.
Maserati MSG Racing will see the return of Edoardo Mortara, who will look to build on his most successful Formula E campaign yet of four wins among six podium finishes last season, alongside new teammate Maximilian Guenther. It was a strong start for the team in Valencia, where Guenther topped five of the seven timed sessions and set the benchmark pace in Spain at a third official Formula E test.
Jaguar TCS Racing is the only team on the grid to field an unchanged driver line-up. Mitch Evans was in the hunt for his first Formula E world champion title until the final weekend of last season, ultimately finishing second. Across the garage, teammate Sam Bird was frustrated by an injury that meant he was unable to take part in the final two races of the season — numbers 99 and 100 in Formula E history — leaving Lucas di Grassi to become the only driver to achieve the ever-present feat.
Andre Lotterer joins Jake Dennis at the now Porsche-powered Avalanche Andretti Formula E team, while Season 6 champion Antonio Felix Da Costa will partner Pascal Wehrlein at TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team.
Nick Cassidy stays at Envision Racing, where he is joined by long-standing Nissan driver and Season 2 champion Sebastien Buemi.
Buemi’s departure means the Nissan Formula E Team also has a fully refreshed line-up with Norman Nato and Sacha Fenestraz, who stood in for Antonio Giovinazzi in Seoul in the last race of Season 8.
Mahindra Racing welcomes ‘Mr 100’ and Season 3 champion Lucas di Grassi to partner Oliver Rowland.
NIO 333 Racing retains Dan Ticktum. He partners with Sergio Sette Camara, who put in some impressive performances last year for DRAGON/PENSKE AUTOSPORT, while Robins Frijns and Nico Mueller will race for the new ABT CUPRA Formula E Team.
Sporting changes for Season 9
Alongside the revolutionary technology on-track, Formula E’s sporting regulations have undergone updates aligned to the GEN3 era. A lap total will replace time in setting a race distance, with additional laps added for Safety Car and Full Course Yellow interruptions to racing.
Hankook Tire becomes the exclusive Technical Partner and Tyre Supplier of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship from Season 9. Two years of research and development has gone into producing the Hankook iON Race tire, which in Formula E is used in all conditions, wet and dry. Nearly 30 percent of the new tire is made of sustainable materials while Hankook completely recycles every set of tires after use.
Return to Mexico City
On Saturday, Formula E makes a seventh visit to a circuit that has been a feature on the calendar since Season 2, except for a trip to Puebla in Season 7 — Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
The 19-turn, 2.630 km circuit is a perfect mix of long, fast straights and a technical infield section that passes right through the legendary Foro Sol stadium section where tens of thousands of fans sit.
A new chicane has been added on the back straight this season, while the Attack Mode activation zone is now on the outside of Turn 15 at the exit of the stadium section, presenting more of a challenge this time around.
Last season, TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team dominated in Mexico City to claim their first ABB FIA Formula E World Championship race win.
Pascal Wehrlein led home teammate Andre Lotterer for a Porsche one-two. The team inflicted an extra lap on the field with just a couple of seconds remaining on the clock.