By numbers: September 2016 preseason test


Formula E’s preseason testing programme is now complete. There’s no more track time permitted, either in public or behind closed doors, until the drivers, teams and new powertrains arrive at the opening round of the new all-electric campaign, on 9 October  in Hong Kong.

Last week, all 10 teams and 20 drivers competing in season three hit the track at Donington Park for three days of running. Each day featured two sessions, just at the first collective test in August, although this time the pubic weren’t allowed in to watch. The lap times got faster and faster and the lap count rose as teams ramped things up over the test, culminating in a rapid final day of running – every driver set his fastest time on day three, but that wasn’t the full story…

Just as we did at the end of the first test, we’ve crunched the numbers in a bid to try and make some sense of the pecking order ahead of the new season. There are some caveats: we don’t know for sure that all teams were running to their regulated weight (ie whether some ballast may have been binned for hero lap times), not how software improvements over the next few weeks will translate onto track in Hong Kong, nor how efficiently each powertrain has been operating (very important in a Formula E race). With those points in mind, here are the stats and our thoughts. 



Mileage is an important stat when it comes to looking at preseason testing to get a feel for just how reliable the new tech is and how comfortable the drivers are in the cars. Fewer laps usually means more time spent in the garage for software or mechanical tweaks; more laps probably indicates all is well.

This is a rule of thumb, of course, and is also affected by charging strategies and run programmes (qualifying simulations versus race pace, for example) – naturally, take things with a pinch of salt.

All of the teams entered the second test with three days at Donington complete two weeks earlier, as well as up to 15 days’ worth of private testing. So by this point, mileage should have been relatively easy to come by.

In terms of laps, here’s what was racked up over the three days last week:

POS Driver Team Laps Miles


Nico Prost Renault e.dams




Jose Maria Lopez DS Virgin




Sebastien Buemi Renault e.dams




Sam Bird DS Virgin




Nick Heidfeld Mahindra




Oliver Turvey NextEV




Mitch Evans Jaguar




Lucas di Grassi ABT




Antonio Felix da Costa Andretti




Jean-Eric Vergne Techeetah




Daniel Abt ABT




Felix Rosenqvist Mahindra




Nelson Piquet Jr. NextEV




Adam Carroll Jaguar




Robin Frijns Andretti




Ma Qinghua Techeetah




Loic Duval Dragon




Maro Engel Venturi




Jerome d’Ambrosio Dragon




Stephane Sarrazin Venturi



Spacesuit-Media-Nat-Twiss-Formula-E-Donington-Park-September-2016-Jose Maria Lopez DS Virgin

Setting the tone for much of this numerical analysis, things are looking good for Renault e.dams and DSVR on the mileage front. Both were able to put in the laps, locking out the top four positions with their cars in the process.

Conversely, the Venturi and Dragon drivers struggled. Dragon is no longer using a Venturi powertrain (the team did in season two) so that doesn’t explain the issues there. In fact, the Dragon powertrain is almost identical we believe to the Mahindra unit, which makes for a confusing picture when the lap counts for those two teams are compared. We think that Venturi may changed their transmission or gearbox design partway through development, which might explain the issues there.

Most drivers managed to complete a fairly similar number of laps to that of their teammate, the biggest exception to that rule being numero uno Nico Prost, who banked 182 laps to champion Buemi’s 156.

Here’s how the lap and mile counts look when taken as a team picture:

POS Team Laps Miles
1 Renault e.dams 338 844.324
2 DS Virgin 305 761.89
3 ABT 274 684.452
4 Mahindra 269 671.962
5 NextEV 266 664.468
6 Jaguar 263 656.974
7 Andretti 257 641.986
8 Techeetah 255 636.99
9 Dragon 214 534.572
10 Venturi 188 469.624

And again, when we break it down team-by-team, it is clear where the advantage lies. Renault e.dams’ strength is clear, whereas Techeetah managed significantly fewer laps using the same powertrain. The numbers also show just how far behind Dragon and Venturi are. Such limited running will likely impact preparations and data gathering for the start of the season, particularly given the deficit in factory resources these outfits have compared to those higher up the table.

Jaguar’s haul is worth scrutiny: for a new team, it was a solid showing to finish with 263 laps racked up and no notable problems in the second week. But as the only full factory outfit on the grid (the other manufacturer teams are partnerships), and with the expertise of battery designer Williams behind it, we expected tallies to be nearer to Renault than they are.

Noises from within the team are cautious, too, when looking at the race season. The team expects to take a proper step forward by Buenos Aires and then again a few races after that: to us, that indicates that they’re not expecting fireworks over the first couple of races.  

Fastest laps

Besides mileage, the other big marker in preseason testing is, naturally, lap time. Defending champion Sebastien Buemi finished testing where he finished last season, with unmatched searing pace. How did the rest of the pack shape up?

Besides the times and gap, we’ve also noted which session the fastest lap was set in, something that may help when it comes to trying to define a pecking order. The number after D stands for which day; the number after S stands for which session on that day.

POS Driver Team Time Gap Session
1 Sebastien Buemi Renault e.dams 1:28.910 D3S1
2 Jean-Eric Vergne Techeetah 1:29.109 +0.199 D3S2
3 Nico Prost Renault e.dams 1:29.205 +0.295 D2S1
4 Sam Bird DS Virgin 1:29.282 +0.372 D3S2
5 Loic Duval Dragon 1:29.395 +0.485 D3S2
6 Daniel Abt ABT 1:29.422 +0.512 D3S1
7 Jerome d’Ambrosio Dragon 1:29.429 +0.519 D3S2
8 Jose Maria Lopez DS Virgin 1:29.488 +0.578 D3S2
9 Lucas di Grassi ABT 1:29.511 +0.601 D3S2
10 Ma Qinghua Techeetah 1:29.649 +0.739 D3S2
11 Felix Rosenqvist Mahindra 1:29.713 +0.803 D3S1
12 Oliver Turvey NextEV 1:29.717 +0.807 D3S2
13 Nick Heidfeld Mahindra 1:29.884 +0.974 D3S2
14 Robin Frijns Andretti 1:29.981 +1.071 D3S2
15 Mitch Evans Jaguar 1:30.061 +1.151 D3S2
16 Antonio Felix da Costa Andretti 1:30.085 +1.175 D3S2
17 Stephane Sarrazin Venturi 1:30.121 +1.211 D3S2
18 Nelson Piquet Jr. NextEV 1:30.250 +1.340 D3S2
19 Adam Carroll Jaguar 1:30.279 +1.369 D3S2
20 Maro Engel Venturi 1:30.355 +1.445 D3S2

Spacesuit-Media-Shivraj-Gohil-Formula-E-Donington-Park-September-2016-Techeetah Jean-Eric Vergne

All teams within 1.5s of each other and the top 13 within one second of each other. That could make for very close racing.

The names at the top of the timesheets are familiar. Both Buemi and Vergne vied for top honours in the opening test, making their rise to P1 and P2 respectively in the second run at Donington hardly surprising. What it does do is confirm our suspicions that they appear to be the men to beat in the early days of the new season.

Five different teams feature in the top 10, all with two cars apiece. After impressing at the first test, Mahindra couldn’t (or wouldn’t) match the pace the front this time around. There is a curious disconnect between Dragon’s mileage and pace. Despite faring poorly on lap totals, both Loic Duval and Jerome d’Ambrosio placed nicely inside the top 10. Venturi, however, failed to pull a similar trick; its pace  leaves quite a bit to be desired.

As you can see, the majority of the fastest laps were set in the afternoon session on day three. Renault e.dams teammates Buemi and Prost were quickest in the morning. Could it be that there was more pace to be found in the afternoon that they didn’t maximise, which would mean their advantage is far bigger than it appears to be here? One way to find out is by adding up the ideal lap times – that is taking the fastest sectors set by each driver throughout the second test and putting them together.

POS Driver Team Time Gap
1 Sebastien Buemi Renault e.dams 1:28.796
2 Jean-Eric Vergne Techeetah 1:28.809 +0.013
3 Sam Bird DS Virgin 1:29.051 +0.255
4 Nico Prost Renault e.dams 1:29.174 +0.378
5 Daniel Abt ABT 1:29.226 +0.430
6 Jerome d’Ambrosio Dragon 1:29.234 +0.438
7 Loic Duval Dragon 1:29.344 +0.548
8 Lucas di Grassi ABT 1:29.367 +0.571
9 Jose Maria Lopez DS Virgin 1:29.406 +0.610
10 Felix Rosenqvist Mahindra 1:29.459 +0.663
11 Ma Qinghua Techeetah 1:29.542 +0.746
12 Nick Heidfeld Mahindra 1:29.664 +0.868
13 Oliver Turvey NextEV 1:29.702 +0.906
14 Robin Frijns Andretti 1:29.706 +0.910
15 Antonio Felix da Costa Andretti 1:30.031 +1.235
16 Stephane Sarrazin Venturi 1:30.049 +1.253
17 Mitch Evans Jaguar 1:30.061 +1.265
18 Nelson Piquet Jr. NextEV 1:30.131 +1.335
19 Adam Carroll Jaguar 1:30.258 +1.462
20 Maro Engel Venturi 1:30.306 +1.510


There is no dislodging Buemi from the top of the field, even on the ideal timings, but what we do see is Vergne take a big step closer to the Swiss driver. Once again though, the same names appear in the top 10, suggesting consistency between the final timesheets and the ideal ones. What it does offer is a better insight into the gaps between teams and a rough idea of the pecking order (something we’ll get to later).

It is however possible to get an even better picture of how the standings look at this early stage if we boil the lap times down to just the first and third sectors at Donington Park, which are the most representative of the street circuits teams will face throughout the season. The fast-flowing second sector features corners unlike any on the calendar. Admittedly, Turn 1 is a little different, perhaps most like part of the Buenos Aires circuit, but sector three is perfect: a chicane, a straight, a hairpin, a straight, another hairpin, and the finish line. So what do the times look like if we stick sector one and sector three together?

POS Driver Team Time Gap
1 Sebastien Buemi Renault e.dams 54.085
2 Sam Bird DS Virgin 54.155 +0.070
3 Jean-Eric Vergne Techeetah 54.192 +0.107
4 Nico Prost Renault e.dams 54.238 +0.153
5 Jose Maria Lopez DS Virgin 54.297 +0.212
6 Daniel Abt ABT 54.299 +0.214
7 Loic Duval Dragon 54.433 +0.348
8 Lucas di Grassi ABT 54.449 +0.364
9 Jerome d’Ambrosio Dragon 54.495 +0.410
10 Oliver Turvey NextEV 54.541 +0.456
11 Robin Frijns Andretti 54.582 +0.497
12 Ma Qinghua Techeetah 54.616 +0.531
13 Felix Rosenqvist Mahindra 54.674 +0.589
14 Nick Heidfeld Mahindra 54.689 +0.604
15 Nelson Piquet Jr. NextEV 54.778 +0.693
16 Antonio Felix da Costa Andretti 54.852 +0.767
17 Maro Engel Venturi 54.887 +0.802
18 Adam Carroll Jaguar 54.914 +0.829
19 Mitch Evans Jaguar 54.936 +0.851
20 Stephane Sarrazin Venturi 55.030 +0.945


Surprise, surprise: it’s Buemi P1 yet again. This time around though, he’s got Sam Bird for company, with Vergne lurking just behind for Techeetah. Yet again, teammates are bunched relatively close together (the Techeetah and NextEV drivers the exceptions), offering a good idea of where the team is in the pecking order.

So if we were to try and piece together a running order, where would everyone slot in? This is where we’ve got to throw caution to the wind and stress that this is largely based lap times, taking a rough average of the two drivers, and not on other factors such as reliability and how hard the teams were pushing. Taking Jaguar as an example: the team made clear last week that it was not interested in lap times at Donington, but instead mileage. As such, placing it so low down in the pecking order may not be representative.

Here’s how we think things might shape up for Hong Kong, counting both team mates and the development race in the meantime:

1. Renault e.dams
4. ABT
5. Dragon
6. Mahindra
7. NextEV
8. Andretti
9. Jaguar
10. Venturi

For the majority of the teams on this list, there is a big but

  • Renault has looked imperious thus far but so did the team last year, before running into a few technical issues part way through the season. Still, it would take a brave person to bet against the back-to-back teams’ title winners. Will Buemi make fewer mistakes now that he has a title to his name?
  • Techeetah’s pace was hugely impressive with Vergne behind the wheel, a little less so with Ma Qinghua (but still solid, in his defence), with the Renault powertrain being put to very good use indeed. It will be interesting to see just how the team pulls together come Hong Kong and whether it can put its impressive testing pace into practice. It will also be interesting to see how the team can compare to the brains trust at Renault, with their engineering, modelling and simulation resources. 
  • DS Virgin and ABT, just as they did in season two, look like very slick operations, while Dragon’s pace has been good. With a more driveable car, Bird could be regular podium contender. With more confidence and experience, so too could be Abt.
  • Mahindra’s strong start in test one did not carry over as much as the team may have liked into the second test, but the team remains in the mix in the midfield, while NextEV and Andretti seemed very evenly matched at present.
  • As mentioned above, Jaguar’s placing is the hardest to work out. On the pace we’ve seen, P9 seems about right, especially given that neither driver has raced in Formula E before, while Venturi looks to be in quite a pickle, offering neither mileage nor outright pace to shout and with a rookie at the wheel again.

So that’s our wrap on testing. Make sure to stick with Current E over the coming weeks for all of the latest news and interviews in the run to Hong Kong. It’s going to be a brilliant season and we could see more variety in race winners since the sport started. 

Luke Smith

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