New challenge awaits the Abb Fia Formula E World Championship field in Valencia as title battle intensifies | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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New challenge awaits the Abb Fia Formula E World Championship field in Valencia as title battle intensifies

21.04.21

Pre-season testing form in Spain suggests inaugural Valencia E-Prix double-header will be a closely-fought and unpredictable affair.

ABB FIA Formula E World Championship competitors will face a new challenge this weekend (24/25 April), as the all-electric single-seater series speeds into Spain for the inaugural Valencia E-Prix.

In recent years, the Circuit Ricardo Tormo has played host to the championship’s annual pre-season test, but the forthcoming double-header will mark the first ever Formula E race in Spain with a brand new track layout – and the battle for glory could scarcely be closer.

The opening four E-Prixs of the campaign in Saudi Arabia and Italy have yielded four different winners and no fewer than ten podium-finishers – underscoring Formula E’s famously unpredictable nature. 

It is Jaguar Racing’s Sam Bird who tops the order following victory in Diriyah and a second-place finish in Rome, although DNFs in the other two encounters mean the Briton holds just a slender four-point margin at the summit of the standings.

Bird’s nearest rival is actually his own team-mate, Mitch Evans, with the Jaguar Racing duo the only drivers to have reached the rostrum more than once so far this season. The New Zealander lapped fifth-quickest on the final day of testing back in December, barely a tenth-of-a-second shy of the benchmark, so he looks sure to be a threat once again.

Robin Frijns sits an impressive third for Envision Virgin Racing, a single point ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne (Mercedes-EQ), winner of the most recent race in Rome and arguably the form driver of the moment, having similarly led the Saturday contest in Italy prior to falling down the field following a collision.

The Belgian’s Mercedes-EQ stablemate Nyck de Vries and Pascal Wehrlein (TAG Heuer Porsche) are tied for fifth place, 11 points adrift of Bird. De Vries dominated the Diriyah curtain-raiser but has been unable to reproduce quite the same form since, and the Dutchman will carry a five-place grid penalty into the first Valencia E-Prix as punishment for a last lap accident in Rome. Wehrlein, by contrast, has been a model of consistency and is the only competitor to have finished inside the top ten in every race so far – a run the German will be keen to continue this weekend.

Edoardo Mortara’s campaign with ROKiT Venturi Racing has been one of peaks and troughs, with a spectacular runner-up finish in Saudi Arabia countered by a practice accident that prevented him from starting the following day. A retirement on the first day in Italy was then similarly offset by a fighting fourth place on day two.

Two-time Formula E champion Jean-Éric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH) has only scored once, but it was a big haul, with victory in Rome kick-starting his bid to reclaim his crown. Team-mate António Félix da Costa has yet to hit the heady heights of his title-winning 2019/20 season, but the Portuguese ace can never be discounted and was firmly on the pace in winter testing around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo.

Mahindra Racing’s Alexander Sims produced a stirring drive for second position last time out to fire himself into the top ten in the standings, while Oliver Rowland has displayed a healthy turn-of-speed and some assertive overtakes for Nissan e.dams. Namesake and countryman Oliver Turvey, meanwhile, has already got NIO 333 off the mark following a scoreless 2019/20 for the squad – but elsewhere, there are a number of major names still searching for their first strong result of the season. 

Maximilian Günther (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) has posted the fastest time of the Valencia test for the past two years, meaning the German will arguably enter the weekend as the favourite for honours. He will certainly be eyeing a champagne celebration as he aims to climb up the classification from the 15th position he currently occupies.

Fellow big-hitters in need of a successful event are former champions Sébastien Buemi (Nissan e.dams) and Lucas Di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler). The pair collided in Rome last time out, with the Brazilian having extra cause to feel frustrated after being forced out of the lead the previous day due to a late mechanical failure. Both are more than capable of shooting for silverware in Spain.

Three other drivers yet to be fully rewarded for the potential they have shown, finally, are Nick Cassidy (Envision Virgin Racing), Norman Nato (ROKiT Venturi Racing) and André Lotterer (TAG Heuer Porsche). Cassidy secured pole position for the second Rome E-Prix before spinning away his advantage, with Nato finishing third on-the-road prior to being disqualified for excessive energy consumption. Lotterer, meanwhile, fought for the lead in Italy and lapped quickest on the first day of testing in Valencia, so all three men have a point to prove this weekend.

Indeed, with the entire field being blanketed by under eight tenths-of-a-second at the close of the pre-season test and less than a quarter-of-a-second covering the top ten, the battle really is wide open. Race one will get underway at 15:00 CET on Saturday, 24 April, with race two following at 14:00 CET on Sunday, 25 April.