One of the highlights of my year is hosting the Formula E Awards Gala at the end of the season. It’s such a privilege to celebrate the superb sport that we’ve been treated to throughout the year, and the crowning of the champion is always a special and often emotional moment.
This year, Antonio Felix da Costa joined me on stage at the beginning of the night to do his own particular set of awards in a comedy roast style. One of the categories, for example, was ‘Best Use of Hair Product’, for which da Costa awarded to Jake Dennis.
I have therefore been inspired to come up with my own set of awards for Season 8, and although there is no budget for an actual ceremony or even trophies, I’ve been allowed an article here on the website, so here we go!
In principle, I like to look somewhere other than the champion for my driver of the season. Picking the champion is a lazy choice, but I had no other option this year. Mitch Evans had some wonderful highs, and Jake Dennis outperformed his car, but every other driver’s title challenge was plagued by inconsistency.
There was none of that from Vandoorne. In 16 races, he finished outside the top five on just three occasions. He may have only taken one win, but 8 podiums in a season is a new Formula E record. Consistency has always been key in Formula E, and Vandoorne was majestic this season.
ROKiT Venturi Racing has had a remarkable turnaround in the last three seasons. In Season 6, they finished tenth in the standings, and although admittedly they had inferior machinery to a lot of their competitors, but even last season with Mercedes EQ powertrains they finished seventh in the standings, while their suppliers won both titles. This year, though, was a revelation. On a fraction of the budget of Mercedes, they pushed the German marque all the way, and finished second to them in the standings.
Since Susie Wolff took over as Team Principal and subsequently moved to the CEO role, Venturi has made astute signings and become one of the slickest outfits on the grid. Jerome d’Ambrosio has led from the front as the new Team Principal, and there’s no doubt that adding Lucas di Grassi’s pedigree and experience has helped massively. But there were some key behind-the-scenes changes too, as the team hired the highly respected Cyril Blais from Mahindra to engineer Di Grassi, and promoted Jeremy Colancon – formerly Sebastien Buemi’s race engineer during his dominance at Renault e.dams – to Chief Engineer. It will be fascinating to see the team’s progress in their Maserati guise next season.
In terms of on-track action, I think I enjoyed Jakarta the most. We had the best season of racing that we’ve ever had in Formula E, with a lot of clean on-track action, and it’s rarely been clear who is going to win the race. The pole sitter won in only 5 of the 16 races this season. In Jakarta, we watched Mitch Evans hunt down the DS TECHEETAHs, and then get ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne with a bold move in the closing minutes, with Mortara closing in at the end as well to finish in third place. It was a classic Formula E race at a great new venue, and I loved every second.
This award is for the driver who just kept plugging away all season despite adversity, and there is only one driver who can win that, Sergio Sette Camara.
The number of times the Brazilian qualified superbly, only to not have the team nor the car to bring him any points finishes, must have been crushing. But he kept going, kept popping up near the front of the grid, and finally got his one points finish in the second race in London. Ironically, his points finish came from 19th on the grid, not from one of his impressive qualifying laps, but Sergio was one of the unsung heroes of the season.
This may seem an odd one, considering we are talking about the Season 2 champion and a four-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner, but Buemi had a horrible year in Season 7.
The Swiss was obliterated by Oliver Rowland, and finished the season 21st in the standings with 20 points. Admittedly, ending Season 8 15th in the standings with 30 points doesn’t seem like a huge step forward, but it really was. The Nissan is one of the weakest powertrains on the grid, and last year’s qualifying format favoured cars that were lower down in the championship, flattering them and allowing them to score more points.
It was much harder to score points in a poor car this season. Dragon scored 47 points last season and finished second from bottom in the standings, NIO 333 finished second from the bottom this season with just 7 points. Mercedes-EQ won the title last year with 181 points, this year they racked up 319. So for Buemi to get more points this season, and to comfortably outscore his well-established teammate Max Guenther, was a strong recovery.
Formula E has had some wild rides in the last eight years, but this New York City moment was up there! The top three cars all sliding into the barrier when the deluge hit Brooklyn was a remarkable scene.
It was great to see everyone emerge unscathed from the scary and unforeseeable incident, and it felt just that Nick Cassidy won his first Formula E race despite being in the barriers, as there was nothing he or any of the other drivers could have done in those conditions.
Right at the end of the Berlin E-Prix, Robin Frijns attacked Antonio Felix da Costa, pulling to the inside at the last moment. What Frijns didn’t realise, though, was that da Costa was just about to lift for the corner.
There was the slightest bit of contact, but it was enough to send da Costa almost completely sideways. Somehow, the Portuguese gathered it up and saved the day, but it was a real heart-in-the-mouth moment.
I thought the London event was just fantastic. We’ve been to some amazing new venues this season, the crowd and interest level in Jakarta was unbelievable, the circuit was fantastic and pristine, and the race was great. Seoul was a spectacular location and a fun circuit, but the return of the fans in London made it a really special weekend.
The home support for Jake Dennis, the unique indoor/outdoor track with a much-improved layout, and the incredible pre-race show all added to what was one of the most buzzy weekends I’ve ever been involved with.
The other thing I loved was that so many fans told me that it was their first ever motor race, as it was the first one they could get to using public transport. Since day one, Formula E has been about bringing motorsport to the people, and that’s exactly what the London E-Prix did.
There are my awards! They were all pretty tough categories, which once again goes to show what a competitive season it’s been in Formula E, and I am fascinated to see how the Gen3 era evolves in Season 9.
Published on 23rd September 2022
4 min read