The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is entering the final stretch with four drivers pulling away from the pack in the Drivers’ World Championship standings and only four races remaining across two double-header weekends.
The 2022 SABIC London E-Prix is the first of those two weekends, with Round 13 this Saturday and Round 14 on Sunday at the ExCeL London event venue in the heart of historic Docklands in the east of London.
Formula E made its first trip to ExCeL London last season, and in a first for an international race series raced on an indoor/outdoor circuit layout which offered up a completely unique challenge for drivers and teams to get their heads around. Both those races were won by British drivers with Jake Dennis and Mahindra Racing’s former driver Alex Lynn making home advantage count.
While only a handful of fans were permitted into the venue last year because of Covid restrictions, this weekend sees full capacity grandstands open to the public for the first time for a Formula E race at ExCeL London.
Fans in London are set for a dramatic home race weekend where any one of the top four drivers could take the lead or see their title chances take a big hit before Season 8 concludes in Seoul on 13 and 14 August.
Last time out in New York City, Mercedes-EQ’s Stoffel Vandoorne regained the advantage at the top of the Drivers’ World Championship after a mixed set of results across two hotly-contested rounds in the Big Apple.
The Belgian turned an 11-point deficit into an 11-point advantage over ROKiT Venturi Racing driver Edoardo Mortara. The Swiss’ struggles opened the door for the rest of the top four, also including Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) and DS TECHEETAH’s Jean-Éric Vergne, to close the gap – but not everybody was able to capitalise, with the Frenchman enduring a particularly tough weekend with no points.
The whole top four are still split by fewer points than are on offer in any single Formula E round, and with two races in London followed by a double-header in Seoul still to come, the season may be heading towards its climax but there’s still time for it all to change.
Vandoorne’s trip to the Big Apple could scarcely have been a better one. The Mercedes-EQ driver followed up a fourth-placed finish on Saturday with a podium and second place on Sunday while those around him in the title fight faltered.
There was a clear lead-four heading into the New York City E-Prix double-header, with Mortara topping the pile after securing a podium in Jakarta and a third win of the season in Marrakesh.
Mortara struggled to make real inroads in New York, however, after failing to make it through the Groups in qualifying on Saturday, with the ROKiT Venturi driver also slapped with a post-race penalty which saw him demoted from a fighting fifth position to ninth, while Vandoorne came home fourth.
On Sunday, a brake-by-wire issue scuppered the ROKiT Venturi driver’s qualifying session, leaving him marooned right at the back of the pack for the start of Round 12 and with it all to do again. The best he could manage was to fight to 10th and a single World Championship point with Vandoorne winding up second.
Eleventh in Round 11 for Evans was rescued by a combative drive to third on Sunday, but Vergne will be scrabbling for a far better return in London after gaining no points at the worst possible moment with the season reaching its climax.
This meant an 11-point advantage for Mortara became an 11-point deficit to Vandoorne come the chequered flag on Round 12. A 22-point swing at the stage of the season is huge, and with NYC providing the most recent evidence, we may well see another of that top four break clear before the final chequered flag falls in London on Sunday.
The Teams’ World Championship is equally hard-fought, with Mercedes-EQ pulling 10 points on second-placed ROKiT Venturi Racing post-New York. DS TECHEETAH managed to draw level on points in joint-second, with the team’s CEO Mark Preston in confident form after António Félix da Costa steered the team to a maximum in Round 12.
Title partnership incoming
On Wednesday (27 July), SABIC was announced as a new Principal Partner of Formula E which includes title sponsorship of the 2022 SABIC London E-Prix.
The 2022 SABIC London E-Prix marks the beginning of a progressive partnership. By joining the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, SABIC has a unique platform to transfer innovations developed within Formula E to the broader automotive and EV industries, supporting the transition to EVs and a more sustainable future.
Matt Scammell, Chief Commercial Officer, Formula E, commented: “We welcome this major multi-year partnership as further evidence of the growing appeal of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship to businesses, brands and corporations who are pushing the boundaries of innovation and sustainability on a global scale.”
Formula E returns to the UK capital for a second race weekend in as many years since the series left its initial Battersea Park home in 2016 – a host location in both Seasons 1 and 2. You’d have to go back to 1972 for an F2 meeting at the now-disused Crystal Palace circuit.
We’re heading back to East London’s historic docklands and the ExCeL exhibition centre and a circuit designed by British architect Simon Gibbons in collaboration with the FIA and Motorsport UK. It’s a unique challenge.
The 2.141km, 22-turn track is tight and twisty with a slicker, less grippy surface indoors and asphalt outside, with plenty of elevation changes. Regen is high with the new-for-Season 8 chicane complex between Turns 10 and 13 replacing last year’s double hairpin, and there is plenty of opportunity for overtaking. Qualifying will be important, as ever, but there’s certainly room for manoeuvre.
Fans will also get a chance to see the Gen3 car in the flesh for the first time in public, while trials rider Danny MacAskill, DJ & producer Jax Jones and music from Nina Nesbitt and Gracey will be providing the entertainment off-track in the Allianz E-Village fan zone alongside the Accelerate final in the gaming arena and more.
Back the Brits!
There will be a strong British presence both when the cars line-up on the grid at ExCeL London, and in the garages supporting them.
Six of the 22 drivers will be competing on home soil with Sam Bird, Jake Dennis – a winner here last year – Alexander Sims, Oliver Turvey, Oliver Rowland and Dan Ticktum all hoping to score well on home soil, with a full complement of fans in the grandstands for the first time after COVID restrictions affected the Season 7 event.
Bird won his home race in 2015 with the 35-year-old also the only one to have recorded victories in every Formula E season to-date, so far; although he is winless in Season 8. Nicolas Prost won races one and two at Battersea Park in 2016, with Dennis and Lynn victorious on Formula E’s first double-header in the docklands.
London’s sustainability drive
London has set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and the city’s Transport for London public transit authority by 2030, with the UK set to phase out sales of petrol and diesel vehicles entirely by 2035. In 2020, the country at large saw renewables make up the majority of its energy mix for the first time ever, at 43 per cent.
The city now has some 6,000 EV chargers, and is set to expand its London Ultra Low Emission Zone this year. ULEZ results in nitrogen dioxide cuts of up to 50 per cent by restricting polluting vehicles’ access. Its expansion out of central London into surrounding boroughs will benefit 3.8 million more people.
The UK government has stated that it will “Build Back Greener” with a focus on clean energy and green jobs post-pandemic.
Don’t miss a minute of Season 8. Keep track of the best ways to tune in where you are at fiaformulae.com/watch.