Season five of the FIA Formula E electric single-seater racing championship kicks off this weekend.
The race on the streets of Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, marks an important milestone for the series, as it launches its second-generation machinery and moves to 45-minute races with no pitstops to swap cars.
Also making its debut is an innovative new ‘Attack Mode’ that gives the drivers a boost in power to either defend their position or try to make up places.
Drivers will be able to use the mode a certain number of times per race, which will vary depending on the individual track.
To activate it, they’ll have to drive over a section of the circuit off the normal racing line, temporarily losing time but also boosting their car’s power output from 200 to 225kW. The location of the activation zone will be shown to TV and web viewers using virtual-reality on-screen graphics.
Attack Mode is intended to introduce further unpredictability and tactical approaches to Formula E. The existing ‘FanBoost’ social-media-based system remains, with drivers receiving the most votes on Twitter in the lead-up to the race also able to access additional power.
There are new faces on the grid, too, including several names that’ll be familiar to fans from recent Formula One seasons.
Stoffel Vandoorne has joined the Mercedes-affiliated HWA Racelab outfit alongside long-time F1 tester and DTM champion Gary Paffett, while ex-Ferrari man Felipe Massa joins Edoardo Mortara at Venturi and former Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein will race for Mahindra (although contractual issues mean he’s being replaced by Felix Rosenqvist in Saudi Arabia, and will instead make his debut at the second round in Morocco).
However, they’ll have to face a group of drivers who have become established benchmarks over the first four seasons of Formula E, such as Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, inaugural champion Nelson Piquet (Jaguar Racing), season-two title winner Sebastien Buemi (Nissan) and season-three champ Lucas di Grassi (Audi).
Reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne will also be defending his crown, once again joined at the DS Techeetah squad by multiple Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer.
Brits Oliver Turvey and Alexander Sims will be looking to make a mark at the NIO and BMW i Andretti teams respectively, while Oliver Rowland was a late addition to the Nissan roster after the squad’s original signing Alexander Albon was snapped up by the Toro Rosso F1 team.
Other quick drivers like Robin Frijns, Mitch Evans, Jose Maria Lopez and Tom Dillmann and Max Gunther ensure the Formula E field has strength in depth.
Fans in the UK can follow all the action live or on demand online for free via the BBC’s iPlayer web streaming service.
2018-2019 Formula E teams
Indian squad has picked Jerome D’Ambrosio and ex-F1 driver Pascal Wehrlein.
Formula 1 race winner Felipe Massa makes Formula E debut alongside Edoardo Mortara.
Oliver Rowland partners the season-two champion Sebastien Buemi.
Reigning champ Jean-Eric Vergne is paired with Le Mans legend Andre Lotterer.
BMW i Andretti Motorsport
Antonio Felix da Costa joins the BMW GT ace Alexander Sims at works team.
Envision Virgin Racing
Briton Sam Bird finished third last season, and he’s joined by Dutchman Robin Frijns.
Panasonic Jaguar Racing
Jaguar is fielding an unchanged line-up of New Zealander Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet.
Mercedes stalwart Gary Paffett is joined at this all-but-works team by Stoffel Vandoorne.
Geox Dragon Racing
German newcomer Max Gunther teams up with Argentina’s Jose Maria Lopez at Dragon.
Formula E veteran Oliver Turvey gets a new team-mate in Frenchman Tom Dillmann.
Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler
Audi squad is sticking with Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt this year.
Who do you think will win the 2018-2019 Formula E championship? Let us know your thoughts below…