This weekend in Mexico (14 January), the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will embark upon a bright new era as the eagerly-awaited Gen3 single-seater races into battle – with 22 high-calibre protagonists all keen to carve out their place in history.
Season Nine of the all-electric series will begin – for the first time – at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, the first permanent circuit to feature in the championship when it joined the schedule back in 2016.
The highest track on the calendar – at 2,250m above sea level – is also one of the fastest, with its 2.63km, 19-turn layout combining long corners, flat-out straights and a technical infield section through the famous Foro Sol stadium, posing a stern challenge for drivers and engineers alike.
The ground-breaking Gen3 – the lightest, most powerful and most efficient Formula E car to-date – has already offered a small glimpse of its potential, lapping almost two-thirds-of-a-second quicker than the best time achieved by its Gen2 predecessor during pre-season testing in Valencia last month.
That new benchmark was set by Maximilian Günther for Maserati MSG Racing – formerly ROKiT Venturi Racing – as the legendary Italian manufacturer marks its comeback to top-tier international single-seater competition after an absence of more than six decades. The German has yet to finish higher than ninth from two prior starts in Mexico, but his form around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo will surely give him a timely confidence boost heading into the forthcoming campaign.
Günther is partnered at Maserati MSG Racing by Edoardo Mortara, a multiple race-winner and consistent title threat over the past two seasons – and a driver who placed third in Mexico in 2019.
New DS PENSKE recruit Stoffel Vandoorne and stablemate Jean-Éric Vergne proved to be evenly-matched in second and third on the timesheets in Spain, and although the defending champion has never troubled the scorers in Mexico City, the Frenchman is twice a podium-finisher in the Latin American metropolis.
NEOM McLaren Formula E Team rookie Jake Hughes impressed in testing as he lapped consistently on the same pace as the series’ front-runners, but both he and team-mate René Rast will be discovering the Mexican circuit for the first time – the German returning to the fray following a year away.
Hughes’ countryman Oliver Rowland is joined at MAHINDRA RACING by 2016/17 champion Lucas Di Grassi, who boasts a strong previous record around the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. The Brazilian has triumphed there twice – en route to the title in 2017 and then again two years later – and counts a brace of fastest laps to his credit to boot, while Mahindra secured back-to-back pole positions in 2018 and 2019.
The most recent winner in Mexico is TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein, as the German manufacturer broke its Formula E duck in fine style last year with a dominant one-two finish courtesy of a tactical masterclass. Something of a specialist at the track, Wehrlein also soared to pole position in qualifying in 2019 and 2022. His new team-mate – Season Six champion António Félix da Costa – scooped the runner-up spoils in the race in two consecutive years.
Jaguar TCS Racing’s Mitch Evans – second in last season’s standings – prevailed in the Mexico City E-Prix in 2020 and is likely to be a leading contender once more, while stablemate Sam Bird was a podium-finisher in 2017.
Sébastien Buemi might not have had the most straightforward of pre-season preparations as he settles into his new surroundings alongside Nick Cassidy at Envision Racing, but the Swiss star – a Formula E stalwart and champion in 2015/16 – wound up second in Mexico in 2016 and third in both 2018 and 2020, so is no stranger to success at the circuit.
The experienced André Lotterer – now competing for Avalanche Andretti with Jake Dennis – sped to pole position at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez three years ago and followed Wehrlein home in second last season. That result marked the German’s eighth rostrum appearance in the series. Thus far, none of those have been on the very top step – a statistic he is determined to change.
The ultra-consistent Robin Frijns lines up for ABT CUPRA FORMULA E TEAM next to series returnee Nico Müller, while Nissan Formula E Team fields cars for Frenchmen Norman Nato and Sacha Fenestraz, the latter having dipped his toe into the water by contesting the Season Eight finale in South Korea. Dan Ticktum and Sérgio Sette Câmara complete the grid at NIO 333 Racing.
The Mexico City E-Prix – the first of 16 rounds on the 2022/23 Formula E schedule – will get underway at 14:00 local time (21:00 CET) on Saturday, 14 January. With less than a second covering the top 18 drivers during pre-season testing and a piece of history at stake, the battle to become the inaugural winner of the exciting Gen3 era looks set to be fierce indeed...
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2023
- Introduction of the smaller, lighter and faster Gen3 cars
- Races will run to a set number of laps rather than time, in a bid to make them simpler to follow while allowing teams more control over their own strategies.
- The Safety Car or Full Course Yellow neutralisations will be compensated by added laps rather than added time.
Photo credit: ABB FIA Formula E World Championship Valencia Test 2023 (DPPI/Xavi Bonilla)