Jean-Eric Vergne the man to beat and land of German giants among Formula E talking points

Matt Jones - Editor 21:18 20/11/2019
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The wait is nearly over as there is less than 48 hours to go before the curtain rises on the 2019/20 Formula E Championship season.

The sixth season of the ever-developing and increasingly popular series roars into action in Saudi Arabia on Friday at the Diriyah ePrix, which will wave off the largest-ever field of both teams and drivers.

Teams from the UK, US, Germany, China, India, France and Monaco meet at the Riyadh Street Circuit, where all eyes will be on reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne. The Frenchman is in fact the two-time reigning champion and will be going for a third successive trophy – although the likes of ex-Formula One stars like Felipe Massa, Stoffel Vandoorne, Brendon Hartley, Pascal Wehrlein, Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi will surely all have something to say about that.

Ahead of the opening weekend, we analyse the talking points.

JEAN ON VERGNE OF GREATNESS

Jean-Eric Vergne is aiming for a third-straight Formula E Championship.

Jean-Eric Vergne is aiming for a third-straight Formula E Championship.

The man to beat this season is Vergne, who will be hoping to use all his French flair to fashion an unprecedented third-straight title. The two-time defending champion has really blazed a Formula E trail since starting out as one of eight drivers used by Andretti Autosport in the inaugural 2014/15 season.

The man from the Paris suburb of Pontoise started superbly that year with three pole positions – although he turned none of them into victories. He floundered the following year at DS Virgin in which he only gained one pole, before a switch to Techeetah proved transformative.

He finally won his first race on the final weekend of the 2016/17 season in Montreal after four previous runner-up finishes, claiming fifth place overall. And that proved to be the spark. He won a third of the 12 races the following year, sizzling in South America with victories in Chile and Uruguay, as well as a sweet success on home turf in Paris, and the final race of the campaign in New York, which also came with the overall championship – finishing a mammoth 54 points ahead of second-placed Lucas di Grassi.

Three wins last year made him a back-to-back champion as he finished 15 points better than another former Formula One driver, Sebastien Buemi.

And the 29-year-old is not satisfied, claiming he wants to become the “Lewis Hamilton of Formula E”. His opponents better strap themselves in.

PORSCHE ADD A BIT OF POLISH

Neel Jani heads up the new Porsche project.

Neel Jani heads up the new Porsche project.

Porsche – one of the most pristine and premier names in motorsport, the automobile industry and generally among the most iconic brands in the world.

And now they’re in Formula E too as the German marque try to electrify the world of electric cars.

The sixth season of the championship is set to be the biggest yet, with 12 teams competing – the most ever. Among the already big names the sport has attracted, Porsche has added itself to the mix this year, which is sure to ramp up the excitement further.

In preparation for their bow in Formula E, the German giants have acted wisely by bringing together two veteran drivers in Switzerland’s Neel Jani and Germany’s Andre Lotterer.

The 37-year-old Lotterer is in his third season in the championship and brings with him valuable experience of already winning it – he was in the same Techeetah stable as champion Verge for the last two seasons, finishing eighth both times himself.

Jani, meanwhile, is back in Formula E after making an unremarkable bow in 2017/18 when he finished 25th with Dragon Racing.

But neither are rookies and have buckets of motorsport pedigree – both are previous FIA World Endurance Championship champions.

The duo have also tasted success at endurance racing’s pinnacle, the 24 Hours of Le Mans; Lotterer won in 2011, 12 and 14, while Jani was victorious in 2016. They are primed and ready to pounce – as are Porsche.

A LAND OF GERMAN GIANTS

Wehrlein (r) is one of a number of ex-F1 drivers in Formula E.

Wehrlein (r) is one of a number of ex-F1 drivers in Formula E.

Speaking of German giants, Porsche will not be the only behemoths from a country considered the hub of the motoring industry throwing their hat in the ring for this year’s championship.

For the first time in Formula E’s history, a complete grid of 24 cars will go head-to-head during the 14-race calendar, with Porsche taking their place on the grid alongside fellow German juggernauts Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW.

It is an unprecedented showdown as it will be the first time in any international series that the four brands go up against one another – solidifying the most competitive line-up in motorsport.

There is also a strong German flavour among the pilots too, with Porsche’s Lotterer being joined by compatriots Daniel Abt (Audi), Maximilian Gunther (BMW) and ex-F1 driver Wehrlein (Manor and Sauber) lining up for India’s Mahindra Racing team.

All four marques – as well as the drivers – will of course have championship glory on their mind, but they will be forgiven for having June 21, 2020, etched in their minds as leg 11 visits Germany at the Berlin ePrix.

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