FIA Formula E is back this weekend as the all-electric series heads to the streets of Monte Carlo. After trips to Asia, Africa and the Americas, the fifth round of the 2016-17 season marks the first race in the European leg of the campaign. Monaco, which featured on the sport’s inaugural schedule, returns to the calendar following a year’s absence.
Sebastien Buemi has led the way so far this season, having taken three wins out of a possible four. However, as we head towards the halfway stage of the season the title fight has well and truly opened up. A mere five points separate Buemi from the chasing Lucas Di Grassi, who claimed a remarkable win at last month’s Mexico ePrix.
There’s still a long way to go in the championship battle of course, with back-to-back events in Monaco and Paris followed by three double-headers to round off the season, in Berlin, New York and Montreal. Strong results in Monaco and Paris could therefore provide healthy momentum heading into the final rounds for the title challenges.
All eyes remain glued on the battle at the front. Di Grassi is looking to follow up his victory in Mexico with another confident display around Monaco’s famous streets as the Brazilian closes in on Buemi in the championship. Di Grassi says he is now within “striking distance” of the reigning champion, who in turn needs a return to form after a lowly 14th place finish last time out.
In one of the most dramatic Formula E races in the series’ three-year history, ABT and Di Grassi pulled off a strategy “masterpiece” to win despite starting from P15 on the grid in Mexico. Buemi, while fighting his way up the order from eighth, spun in the closing stages and dropped out of contention. The only solace for the Renault e.Dams was a single point earned for recording the fastest lap of the race.
Thirty points back from Buemi, Renault e.dams teammate Nico Prost will be aiming for his best finish of the season, having so far failed to score a podium. The likes of Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne, who has twice come tantalisingly close to his first Formula E win this campaign, and DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird, who claimed a season-best finish of second place in Marrakesh, are ready to pounce and reduce the gap in the title race.
Mahindra hopes Monaco can prove to be the start of a consistent run as the team targets the leading group in order to regain third place in the teams’ standings. Felix Rosenqvist believes the team’s performance in Mexico shows Mahindra’s pace is “better than ever” and is looking forward to making his single-seater bow in Monte Carlo. His teammate Nick Heidfeld is “fired up” for a strong result and hopes to add to his podium appearance from the season-opening round in Hong Kong.
NextEV showed off the car’s one-lap potential in Mexico City when Oliver Turvey started from pole position, though his hopes of claiming a breakthrough win were hampered by technical gremlins. Season one champion Nelson Piquet is confident a strong result in Monaco can “kick-start” the team’s resurgence following a torrid second campaign in 2015-16.
There could also be Formula E debuts for two British drivers this weekend. Virgin regular Jose Maria Lopez is a doubt for the race, having been forced to sit out last weekend’s WEC 6 hours of Spa, following a high-speed crash at the Silverstone opener which left him with two damaged vertebrae. Virgin reserve Alex Lynn is ready to step in if required.
Meanwhile, BMW factory driver Alexander Sims will be on standby for Andretti’s Robin Frijns, who injured ligaments in his right knee while training last month. Andretti team principal Roger Griffiths told Autosport the squad hopes to run Frijns as planned but said Sims will be on hand to take over if the Dutchman struggles with his injury.
Monaco staged its first ePrix at the seventh round of Formula E’s inaugural season back in 2014-15 as Buemi became the first driver in the series to convert pole into a victory, as well as becoming the first multiple race winner. The Swiss driver held off Di Grassi to claim a well-earned victory, while Piquet completed the podium in third.
Bruno Senna was launched over the back of Daniel Abt during a chaotic opening lap, as Bird avoided the drama and profited to finish fourth despite starting from 12th. Jerome D’Ambrosio crossed the line fifth ahead of Prost, Stephane Sarrazin, and the recovering Charles Pic, as Antonio Felix da Costa and Heidfeld rounded out the top ten.
A lap with… Sam Bird
“Monaco is one of, if not the smoothest circuits that we go to on the calendar in Formula E. Some of the circuits we go to are very rough and bumpy but with Monaco being a used F1 circuit it is extremely smooth for us in Formula E.
“Overtaking will be very, very challenging. The main places to overtake are turn one and the unusual turn two hairpin. That then comes back onto the F1 circuit before the fast swimming pool complex and where the chicane would be out of the tunnel in F1. It’s quite a short circuit, it’s extremely tight in qualifying and it will be very difficult to overtake.
“You start the lap going out of Rascasse and into the final corner. You need to get a good exit onto the start-finish straight to start your qualifying lap. Across the start-finish line and then you straight-line your braking underneath the advertising boardings that go over the track. Straight-line your braking right up to the left-hand side of the barrier and then it’s a tight, right-hand hairpin immediately into a little, left kink, so you need to prepare for that left-kink to make sure it’s flat-out.
“Then it’s down a hill to what will be Turn 3, which is where the chicane would be in F1 but we approach it the wrong way from F1. It’s a double-apex right-hand hairpin and very, very tight. You are going to need most, if not all of the lock that you’ve got in these Formula E cars. Again, focus on late braking, getting the car back on the throttle in one time to ensure a good exit. Now you’ve got the section that everybody knows from GP2, World Series, and F1, the left-hander which you throw the car into with great minimum speed and then run the car all the way to the barrier on the exit.
“It’s flat-out in these cars through the Swimming Pool, left-right kink, over the kerbs, late braking for the new second chicane of the Swimming Pool, right-left, which is now a lot quicker than it used to be because the first apex is a gentle kerb. Into the left phase, take all the kerb you can on the inside of turning left. Then it’s Rascasse. Hit the first apex, then get the second one right by the barrier on the power again in one time. Get a good exit and then onto the last corner, which is just all about focusing on your exit.”
- Name: Circuit de Monaco
- Length: 1.097 miles
- 12 turns
- Race distance: 47 laps (51.546 miles)
- 2015 pole: Buemi, e.Dams, 53.478s
- Fastest lap: Vergne, Andretti, 55.157s on lap 32 (2015)
How to follow the race
TV: The Monaco ePrix will be broadcast on Channel 5 in the UK, with live coverage starting at 14.30 (GMT) on Saturday, May 13. Qualifying will be televised live on Spike, with coverage getting underway at 10:45 (GMT). Both practice sessions, qualifying, and the race will also be streamed on YouTube.
Mobile/Desktop: Live updates and highlight clips will be posted throughout the day on Formula E’s official Twitter (@FIAFormulaE) and Facebook pages.
What time are the sessions?
Here are all the timings for the sessions. All times are local.
- FP1: 0800-0845
- FP2: 1030-1100
- Qualifying: 1200-1300
- Monaco ePrix: 1600
How else can I follow the race?
Besides watching it on TV and online, there are a small group of dedicated media personnel which follows the season around.
When it comes to mainstream motor racing coverage, both Autosport and motorsport.com have journalists present at every race (usually Sam Smith and Scott Mitchell). Technical expert Marc Priestley (@f1elvis) and presenter Nicki Shields (Nickishields) are useful to follow on Twitter.
For specific Formula E coverage, Current E has sent a dedicated team to every single round of the series since the very first race. You can follow news updates here, at the site’s Twitter and Instagram accounts (@current_e).
Our photographic partner Spacesuit Media will also be there, so there’ll be lots more material appearing at their social media handles too. The people and Twitter accounts to follow are: Shiv Gohil (@shivraj_photos), Nat Twiss (@nattwiss) and Lou Johnson (@LouJohnsonPhoto); the company’s main account is @Spacesuit_Media.
Here are all of the Twitter handles for the teams:
Renault e.dams: @RENAULTedams
ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport: @abt_formula_e
DS Virgin Racing: @DSVirginRacing
Faraday Future Dragon Racing: @DragonRacing
Mahindra Racing: @MahindraRacing
MS Amlin Andretti: @MSAmlinAndretti
NextEV NIO: @NextEVFETeam
Jaguar Racing : @JaguarRacing
Staff writer: Lewis Larkam