Formula E 2021 season seven preview: Electric race series ready to light up Diriyah

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    Defending Formula E champion Antonio Felix da Costa, left, with Techeetah team-mate and double champion Jean-Eric Vergne

    Formula E begins life as an official FIA world championship this weekend when the all-electric race series returns for its seventh season with a double-header in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

    Gaining FIA status is validation for the pioneering global event staged around street circuits in iconic city locations.

    Paris, New York, London, Hong Kong and Rome have all hosted races since Formula E made its debut in 2014-15, with 18 different countries playing host to the 69 ePrix that have taken place so far.

    It is the third consecutive year the season opener is being held in the historic desert surroundings of the Riyadh Street Circuit — but this will be the first time under lights as the championship witnesses its inaugural night races.

    There are 12 teams and 24 drivers taking part this season with 10 dates already confirmed for the new campaign. Here’s a few things you need to know as we gear up for Friday’s opening race.

    What is Formula E?

    Founder and chairman Alejandro Agag set out to prove you can have exciting and competitive racing in city locations, featuring environmentally friendly cars and showcasing the very latest technology — piloted by some of the best talent outside of Formula 1.

    The all-electric event is the first single-seater racing series since F1 to have been granted official FIA world championship status.

    Who are the drivers to watch?

    Antonio Felix da Costa, 29 (pictured above left), is the reigning champion having eased to victory last term with two races to spare.

    He will not have to look much further than DS Techeetah team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne, 30 (above right), when weighing up the competition.

    JEV has F1 pedigree from time spent with Scuderia Toro Rosso and became the first Formula E driver to win back-to-back titles with successes in 2017-18 and 2018-19, while Techeetah have secured the constructors’ championship in each of the last three years.

    Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, 28, was a member of the McLaren F1 team before making the switch to Formula E in 2018.

    He won the season finale in Berlin last August to clinch the runners-up spot in the drivers’ competition and retains his Mercedes seat for 2021.

    What about previous Formula E champions?

    Lucas di Grassi, 36, has been an active promoter of environmental causes for many years and played a big part in the development of the original Formula E racecars.

    Champion in 2016-17, he has also earned four third-place finishes in the six campaigns so far.

    The Brazilian is not afraid to push his car to its limits and will be using all his tactical expertise to ensure that Audi’s last season as a works team will end on a high.

    Nissan e.dams have retained their competitive pairing of 2015-16 champion Sebastien Buemi, 32, and Brit Oliver Rowland, 28. They finished fourth and fifth respectively last time out.

    Leading the British charge

    Sam Bird, 33, has competed in every race since Formula E revved into action in 2014 and has nine wins on his CV, including last season’s opener in Diriyah.

    A highly-skilled street racer, Bird has ended his long-term association with one British team, Envision Virgin, to take up a seat at another, Jaguar.

    The famous marque is looking to improve on consecutive seventh-place finishes in the constructors’ championship.

    Formula E 2021 season seven predictions

    It i hard to look beyond the DS Techeetah camp for a winner of both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship.

    A couple of early retirements in the first three races of last season eventually proved costly for double champ Vergne.

    But a better start to this campaign would set up an intriguing fight with team-mate and defending champion Da Costa for the Formula E crown.

    For an emotional rush, it would be exciting to see Di Grassi triumph with Audi or Bird lead Jaguar to new highs.

    Formula E 2021 season seven calendar

    There are potentially six more venues to be added to the Formula E 2021 calendar. All dates above are provisional and further rounds are yet to be confirmed.

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