Formula E Round 1 & 2 Preview – Diriyah E-Prix
Season 7 of the premier electric racing series, Formula E, kicks off in Saudi Arabia this weekend with back-to-back night races.
Written By Lewis Rundle, Edited By Ryan Lack
Historic Night Event
For the first time in its history, Formula E will be running night races, combining all the usual risks of a street circuit with the additional perils of duelling in the dark.
Night racing is typically very power-intensive, but Formula E has managed to overcome this by using the latest low-power LED technologies available and powering the floodlights with low-carbon hydrogenated vegetable oil.
The Diriyah circuit is never navigated easily. With a length of 2.495km (1.364miles) and 21 corners, the track offers plenty of challenges for the drivers. Key to this year’s race is the resurfacing and reprofiling that has occurred since the last Diriyah E-Prix. Turns 9 and 10, as well as Turns 12, 13 and 14, have all been adjusted for this year’s race.
Track evolution is significant around Diriyah as layers of dust tend to accumulate around the circuit. Combine the reduced grip with the cooler temperatures of a night race, whilst also factoring in the high speed nature of the circuit, and you get an immensely challenging race with incredibly fine margins for error.
There is rarely a predictable Formula E race so I’d recommend keeping your eyes on all the drivers. However, certain drivers have performed well in the past at this circuit, and, whilst the 2021 pecking order is unknown, there are a number of teams which are expected to be at the sharp end this weekend.
Previous winners of the Diriyah E-Prix include Season 6 champion Antonio Felix da Costa, Sam Bird and Alexander Sims. Da Costa has stayed with Season 6 Team Champions DS Techeetah into Season 7, however both Bird and Sims start the campaign with new teams – Jaguar Racing and Mahindra respectively. Their success this weekend depends on how quickly they are able to integrate themselves into those different environments. Both are incredibly talented so don’t rule them out of the win this time around.
Mercedes have carried a lot of momentum into Season 7, having ended their first year in Formula E with a 1-2 on home soil in Berlin. A strong debut in Diriyah last season saw both Mercedes’ in Super Pole, with Vandoorne converting his starting position into a podium, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Mercedes challenged for the win this time around.
DS Techeetah have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in Formula E after dominating last season. With two champions, Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa, behind the wheel, it’s a safe bet that they will once again be fighting for the top step this season.
Don’t rule out Porsche’s newest signing of Pascal Wehrlein, who partners up with series veteran Andre Lotterer, or Season 6 runners up Nissan E.Dams, with the established lineup of Oliver Rowland and Sébastien Buemi.
It’ll also be interesting to see how the three rookies shape up in their first Formula E outings. Super GT and Super Formula champion Nick Cassidy will be racing for Envision Virgin this weekend, with Norman Nato making his debut appearance for ROKiT Venturi, and Jake Dennis starting at BMW i Andretti. All three are exciting prospects for the upcoming season.
Schedule and Where to Watch
This is not a complete list of countries and watching options. A full list can be found on the Formula E website.
UK: The qualifying broadcast starts at 12:45 GMT and the race broadcast starts at 16:30 GMT. The event is watchable via the BBC.
Italy: Qualifying and the race are on Sky Sports Uno at 13:45 CET and 17:30 CET respectively.
USA: The race is available on CBS Sports Network at 11:30 EST
All practice sessions are streamed to the Formula E YouTube channel, and highlights are posted shortly after the end of the race.