All you need to know ahead of the new Formula E season

David Cooper 15/12/2018
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Season five of the Formula E electric single-seater racing championship kicks off this weekend in Saudi Arabia.

Here is everything you need to know about the sport.

What’s the difference between Formula E and F1?

Formula E and Formula 1 are both from the same family, but they are completely different for several reasons.

Formula E drivers all race in the same car, with the same battery packs and tyres, therefore racing is closer and competitive than Formula One.

The competitiveness and the tightness of circuits in places like New York, Paris, Rome, Zurich and Hong Kong means the racing is fun and each race tends to generate a different pole sitter and podium.

In the 2017-18 season, for example, there were five different winners in the 13 races.

What’s more appealing for fans is the race is over in one day unlike a F1 race which generally takes place over three days between free practice one on the Friday and the race itself on Sunday.

There are also several interactive aspects of Formula One where you can vote for your favourite driver and they can get a five-second power boost.

Where and when does it take place?

The first race of the season takes place in Riyadh on Saturday. The series features 13 races in 12 cities – including exciting street races in the likes of Hong Kong, Paris and New York – with the season finishing in Brooklyn in July.

How does race day work?

Formula E is unique in that the practice, qualifying and the race all take place on the same day.

Race day generally starts around 10:30 in the morning with free practice, which lasts no more than 45 minutes.

This is followed by second practice for 30 minutes and then qualifying.

Drivers are divided into groups at random and qualifying lasts for an hour maximum.

Each driver has six minutes to set a time. From this, the top five drivers go into the ‘super-pole’ – a final qualifying session – which determines how the drivers will line up for the race.

Qualifying is finished by 2pm and the race takes place in the afternoon.

Venturi driver Felipe Massa.

Venturi driver Felipe Massa.

How are points allocated?

Formula E follows the same points system as other race series – it’s governed and run by the motor racing’s official body, the FIA.

The winner of the race gets 25 points, second gets 18 points and third receives 15.

The top ten finishers all receive points, with tenth place getting just one point.

What do the cars sound like?

The high-pitched noise of a Formula E car is like that of a plane taking off.

While the cars are still loud, they are quieter than Formula 1 cars which helps to allow the races to take place in more heavily populated areas.

Which teams and manufacturers are involved?

Formula E features 10 teams, including representation from car manufacturers Audi, DS, Jaguar, Mahindra, Venturi, Penske, NIO, BMW, Nissan and Andretti.

The battery which is used by every Formula E car was designed by Williams.

Who are the leading drivers?

The reigning champion is 28-year-old Jean-Eric Vergne, who was the youngest ever French driver to compete in Formula One when he joined Toro Rosso in 2012.

Stoffel Vandoorne joins up with HWA Racelab after two years in Formula One with McLaren.

The Belgian struggled alongside Fernando Alonso last season and was thus replaced by youngster Lando Norris. Still armed with plenty of potential, the 24-year-old could be a force in his maiden Formula E campaign.

Another driver expected to shine is Felipe Massa. The Venturi driver managed an impressive 269 starts, 41 podiums and 11 wins during his 15 years in Formula One. Although he is 37, the Brazilian should help improve Venturi’s seventh place finish from last season.

Britain is well represented with five drivers on the grid. Sam Bird (Virgin Racing), Oliver Turvey (NIO), Oliver Rowland (Nissan), Gary Paffett (HWA Racelab) and Alexander Sims (BMW) will all line-up against each other this season.

Bird, in particular, looks a real gem, finishing third last season and picking up wins in Hong Kong and Rome.

How can I watch?

You can watch Formula E races online at the Formula E YouTube. Highlights will also be available on the Formula E Twitter.

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