Seven reasons to watch Formula E in 2022

28th January 2022
Damien Smith

Season eight of the all-electric Formula E single-seater championship kicks off this evening with the first race of a double-header in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Formula E’s second season as a fully-fledged FIA world championship will be its last with the current Gen2 racers, before the more powerful Gen3 era begins in season nine.

It remains one of the most competitive and unpredictable racing series in the world of motorsport and is packed full of quality, in terms of top teams and drivers. Here’s a guide to what we should expect from a campaign that is broadcast live in the UK by Channel 4, and remember you can find the complete 2022 Formula E calendar here.


Formula E rides the storm

The past year hasn’t been an easy one for Formula E. Not so long ago, it seemed every major car manufacturer was clamouring to join its ranks, but fashions change fast… Last term, Audi and BMW bowed out as factory entities, reigning champion Mercedes EQ will follow suit at the end of this season and McLaren appears to have favoured a move into the off-road Extreme E series over an entry into a form of racing that takes motorsport into the heart of major cities. Still, there was good news this winter when Maserati announced it will arrive in 2023 as a powertrain supplier to an as-yet unnamed team, and there are still plenty of heavyweights left on the grid for now: Porsche, Nissan, Jaguar, DS plus a host of well-run independents. Quality remains sky-high on the 22-car grid.


New venues, new rules

The calendar offers 16 rounds in 12 cities, with three new additions for 2022: Jakarta in June, Vancouver in July and a new double-header finale in Seoul scheduled for mid-August. The London ePrix at the Docklands ExCel returns for two rounds on 30th-31st July, while other highlights include Monaco – last year’s race was among the best in FE history and far more entertaining than the Formula 1 grand prix – New York and Berlin.

Regulation tweaks will add different dimensions. Power output for Gen2’s swansong has been increased by 20kW and there’s a new provision to add up to 10 minutes to the 45-minute race duration to offset periods of safety car neutralisation. But the most significant change is to the qualifying format which has undergone a complete makeover after widespread complaints last year that the old system punished success at previous rounds too heavily and made grid placings too much of a lottery. Unpredictability is a Formula E watchword, but it became too extreme last year and credibility was lost. Now a new system involving group sessions followed by what should be entertaining head-to-head duels promises to be both fair and entertaining. Remember when whoever was fastest in a given hour took pole position in motor racing? Far too simple these days…


Familiar new faces

Formula E remains a draw for ejected F1 aces as well as rising stars. The latest to make the switch from grand prix grids to Formula E is ex-Alfa Romeo racer Antonio Giovinazzi, who has pitched up at Dragon/Penske Autosport this year. The Italian earned respect but little more during his three seasons in F1, and will be up against it racing for an unfancied independent in what will initially be an alien world. The other ‘newbies’ are British firebrand Dan Ticktum, who appears to have burnt any hope of making it to F1 and now switches from Formula 2 to the NIO 333 team; and IndyCar racer Oliver Askew, who joins the Andretti team that formerly held BMW works status. Askew is Formula E’s sole American ace.


De Vries defends his title

At the sharp end, there’s a degree of stability in unchanged line-ups. Key among them is reigning world champion Nyck de Vries, who missed out on an F1 graduation with Williams and instead defends his crown with Mercedes EQ. Joined once again by ex-McLaren F1 racer Stoffel Vandoorne, the drivers and 2021 teams’ champion will be aiming for a repeat to ensure the Three-Pointed Star departs Formula E on a high. De Vries and Vandoorne have the added impetus too of racing for their futures, wherever they might be.


DS Techeetah seek redemption

Once dominant in Formula E, DS Techeetah and its former champion drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa aim to forget a less impressive 2021 season to contend for the titles once again. Vergne in particular lost some love for the series because of the high number of collisions involving drivers who really should know better, but has returned in the hope the new qualifying format will reduce the need for desperate measures on circuits that are often too tight for clean racing. He, like his rivals, hopes the results of 2022 will reflect a true meritocracy a little more than last year when somehow 18 drivers arrived at the finale in mathematical contention to be crowned champion. DS Techeetah survived financial hardships last year and has undergone a management restructure over the winter. Now it’s time to hit back.


Movers and shakers

Mitch Evans and Sam Bird – who last year maintained his record of winning in every Formula E season run so far – once again lead the line for Jaguar; another series veteran, Lucas di Grassi, has found a berth beside 2021 runner-up Edoardo Mortara at Susie Wolff’s Venturi team following the Abt Audi withdrawal; and ex-BMW race winner Maximilian Guenther looks set to give Sebastien Buemi something to think about at Nissan e.dams. The German has replaced Oliver Rowland, who has switched to the Banbury-based Mahindra team to join fellow Brit Alexander Sims. There’s plenty of potential in the Indian-owned squad too.

And then there is Porsche. It’s remarkable that one of the greatest names in racing has yet to break its duck in Formula E, after two seasons of toil. The team has stuck by ex-F1 racer Pascal Wehrlein and the accident-prone but vastly experienced André Lotterer to set that right this year. To be fair, Wehrlein did win in Mexico last year, only to be disqualified on a silly technicality that reflected badly on the series more than on Porsche – but it’s now beyond time to set the record straight.


Still too good to ignore

Eight seasons in, Formula E remains an acquired taste for many racing die-hards. It’s not just the unattractive whine from electric powertrains – the element of calamity on tracks too tight for purpose can make this a frustrating series to watch. But the drivers still love it, even if it does make them look ham-fisted at times. Fantastically professional teams, highly regarded engineers and a technical challenge that requires intense concentration makes Formula E a coveted prize for racers with burning ambition. This series still matters, whether we like it or not.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

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