It feels like Formula E has entered a new era following the season-opening Diriyah E-Prix weekend.
The new qualifying format certainly paved the way for a more pure race compared to previous seasons and any fears of one team dominating were eroded in the second race.
Edoardo Mortara and Venturi lead the championship with the top five in the Drivers’ standings separated by just eight points.
New qualifying format deemed a big success
As we expected, Formula E’s new World Cup-style qualifying format worked wonderfully which led to more intensity even though it was the opening weekend of the season.
Some of the camera work and TV direction could have been a little better during the duels, but in general the format worked and Formula E have a great base to make minor tweaks to the intervals and length of the group stages if they feel that’s required.
The format was fair and some of the duels had a thrilling climax, including the final to decide the pole sitter for the second race when Nyck de Vries beat Mortara by 0.005 seconds.
Rivalries set to form
The new qualifying format means the best drivers and teams on the day will come out on top, so there should be an exciting championship narrative.
That’s something Formula E has missed in recent years, whereas seasons two and three saw friction between Lucas di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi who fought for the title.
Venturi and Mercedes looked very strong in Diriyah and the latter will be desperate to not lose out to their customer team.
Defending champion De Vries seemed to have a target on his back during the second race, as he was muscled out of the podium places by his rivals.
The racing was hard, but fair, and there’s no reason that shouldn’t continue in the remaining 14 events.
A competitive field remains
De Vries and Mercedes‘ dominant 1-2 in the season-opener looked very ominous for the rest of the field.
However, they couldn’t replicate their impressive form on Saturday which bodes well for a season where multiple drivers can fight for the title on merit.
At one point during the latter stages of the second race in Diriyah, there was a nine-car train from first to ninth, underlining that the margins are tight and optimising every area of the car and executive the right strategy will be crucial.
The second race was on course to be a Formula E classic before the race-ending Safety Car, with different strategies playing out and drivers going on the offensive.
More drivers will join the fight
Perhaps the most exciting prospect it more drivers will be able to contend for the race win after Jaguar and DS Techeetah underperformed.
Season six champion Antonio Felix da Costa failed to score a point all weekend after getting caught up in a number of incidents in both races.
DS Techeetah traditionally start the season slowly so Da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne should be more competitive in the coming rounds.
Jaguar had a very disappointing double-header, with Mitch Evans picking up a solitary point.
Evans and Sam Bird both made mistakes during qualifying for the second race, damaging their cars which meant they started towards the back of the grid.
“Both cars in the wall on their first run is frustrating because I think we had really good car speed,” said Jaguar team principal James Barclay.
“But, it’s a long championship, anything can happen in Formula E. We just have to keep strong because we are fast, sometimes we just don’t quite get the breaks.
Expectations are high for Jaguar and mistakes will be punished more than ever this season due to the new qualifying format, so Evans and Bird will be two drivers to watch out for at the next event in Mexico City on February 12.