The somewhat awkwardly named BMW i Andretti Motorsport team set the fastest times in Formula E pre-season testing at Valencia this week, some five seconds per lap quicker than the pre-season testing at the same circuit a year ago. The team’s lead driver Antonio Felix da Costa posted the best lap with a 1:16.977s time, absolutely trouncing Oliver Turvey’s 2017 test time of 1:21.822.
It’s safe to say that the new Gen 2 chassis – with a less restricted and more powerful EV power unit, and enough battery to run a full 45-minute race session – will provide a better Formula E experience for fan and driver alike.
While BMW held a clear advantage at the pre-season test, setting the fastest times in all sessions, manufacturers have been pouring into the series with racing expertise and a lot of cash. As a result, the top 14 cars are currently separated by less than one second on outright pace.
2017-18 season champion Jean Eric Vergne set the second-fastest time of the three-day test, proving that he hasn’t lost any of his competitive edge. Antonio Felix da Costa’s BMW teammate Alex Sims set the third fastest time of the event, about which da Costa commented, “Alex is good – he’s quick! …he’ll be a pain in the arse!”
The Gen 2 Formula E car is an attractive race car, and features the best-integrated halo safety device of any of the FIA’s open-wheel series.
The series still has some gimmicks that may turn away some of the more curmudgeonly motorsport fans. For example, Attack Mode is a new temporary higher power setting gained by passing through an off-racing-line section of the track, similar to those boost pads in Mario Kart.
But with sexier race cars, more power and no more mid-race car swapping, the 2018-19 FE season is shaping up to be one worth watching.