Formula E

Formula E 2017-18 season review: The best and worst drivers, part I

7 Mins read
Credit: Formula E

The 2017-18 season was the end of an era for Formula E. It was the last season with the first generation cars, the last time we will see mid-race car swaps and the next few years will see a host of major car manufacturers increase their participation in the sport.

Despite a lot of the focus already being on next year, season four still delivered some brilliant racing. Once again there were a host of teams at the top who could challenge for wins, and twelve different drivers stood on the podium throughout the year. Despite the advancement in technology it is still undoubtedly a driver’s series, so TCF thought we would review how each of them got on in 2017-18.

20. Nico Prost, Renault e.dams

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 19th, 8 points

Qualifying H2H: Lost 1-11 (Buemi)

When e.dams announced that Nico Prost would not be staying with the team as they switched to Nissan support for next season it came as no surprise. The Frenchman has been on a downward spiral performance wise and this year he was further off the pace of team-mate Sebastien Buemi than he ever had been. Buemi scored a whopping 117 points more than Prost and trounced him in qualifying, grabbing three pole positions while the Frenchman could only manage one Super Pole appearance. It was a sad end for Prost after he had shown glimpses of speed in previous seasons, and you would imagine he will struggle to find a drive elsewhere in the series.

19. Luca Filippi, NIO

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 21st, one point

Qualifying H2H: Lost 1-8 (Turvey)

Given his total lack of experience in Formula E, Luca Filippi was an odd choice for the NIO team. After losing Nelson Piquet Jr to Jaguar they needed someone to come in and fill the points gap that Piquet left, and the Italian failed to deliver. He scored his only point in his first race, and after that didn’t come close to threatening the top ten again. He blamed his early form on bad luck, but considering the results his team-mate Turvey was able to achieve it’s more likely that it was more than just luck that was holding Filippi back.

18. Alex Lynn, DS Virgin Racing

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 16th, seventeen points

Qualifying H2H: Lost 4-8 (Lynn)

After his explosive introduction to Formula E last year when he grabbed pole on his debut, hopes were high for Alex Lynn. While he scored points consistently in the first half of the season he was way behind team-mate Sam Bird, whose pace and consistency led to him achieving two wins and six podium finishes compared to Lynn’s best place finish of sixth in Punta del Este. He failed to score again after that race as the gulf between him and his fellow Brit grew, and while he had an unfair share of technical faults, it was only on rare occasions that he ever looked like having the pace to challenge at the front of the grid.

17. Tom Blomqvist, MS&AD Andretti

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 20th, four points

Qualifying H2H: Lost 2-4 (da Costa)

Tom Blomqvist’s season got off to a bad start before he had even turned a wheel. After beating Alexander Sims to get the second seat at Andretti, Blomqvist was subsequently replaced at short notice by Kamui Kobayashi for the opening two rounds at the behest of title sponsor MS&AD Insurance. It was an immediate blow for the Brit, and while he performed well when he finally made his debut in Marrakesh, it was to be the sole highlight. Several disappointing drives saw him finish well outside of the points, although with team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa also struggling it indicated that the problem might be the car, rather than the drivers. Regardless, Andretti kicked him out with four races to go and replaced him with Stephane Sarrazin – it would have been interesting to see how Blomqvist could have done if he was given more time.

16. Antonio Felix da Costa, MS&AD Andretti

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 15th, twenty points

Qualifying H2H: Won 8-4 (Kobayashi, Blomqvist, Sarrazin)

It was a better season from da Costa this year after his disastrous 2016-17 performance, and he just about justified BMW’s faith in him. The Portuguese driver’s race results were nothing to write home about with just four top tens and a high finish of sixth. His qualifying however showed glimpses of his undoubted talent as he outperformed his many team-mates over the course of the year and dragged the uncompetitive Andretti into the Super Pole shootout on two occasions. More will be expected of him next year with BMW’s influence growing, and he’ll be hoping for a better car in return.

15. Jose Maria Lopez, Dragon Racing

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 17th, fourteen points

Qualifying H2H: Drew 5-5 (d’Ambrosio)

After his public fallout at the end of last season with previous team DS Virgin Racing, it was good to see Lopez given a second chance as a replacement for Neel Jani after he had undoubtedly shown potential last year. He started with a bang by getting Dragon into the Super Pole shootout for the first time this year and his sixth place finish promised greater things to come. His progress stalled from there however, with the Argentinian managing only two more points finishes as he struggled with unreliability. The fact that team-mate Jerome d’Ambrosio was able to get a podium in Zurich shows that there was more there, and Lopez will undoubtedly be frustrated that he was unable to extract the most out of the car.

14. Edorado Mortara, Venturi

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 13th, twenty-nine points

Qualifying H2H: Lost 2-7 (Engel)

Mortara burst onto the Formula E stage in style as he fought from the back of the grid into seventh in his first race, and then came unbelievably close to winning his second race. Were it not for his ‘stupid mistake’ in Hong Kong where a spin ended up costing him what would have been a win, Mortara could have tasted instant success. As it happened he had to settle for second, which while still impressive, would prove to be his only podium this season. From there he was comfortably out-scored and out-qualified by team-mate Engel, and although he missed out three races late on due to his DTM commitments the battle had already been lost. Having seemingly found pace early on in the season he’ll be wondering what went wrong.

13. Jerome d’Ambrosio, Dragon Racing

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 14th, twenty-seven points

Qualifying H2H: Won 7-5 (Jani, Lopez)

The glory days at Dragon seem to be long gone for Jerome d’Ambrosio. The first two seasons when he was challenging for wins and titles seem like distant memories, as instead he had to battle just to score point for most of the season. Things did start to look up towards the end of the year as he finished third in Zurich and managed to get his Dragon into the Super Pole shootout for three races in a row, however poor race pace and unreliability was still an issue and the Belgian will be hoping Dragon can turn things around for next season.

12. Maro Engel, Venturi

Credit: DTM Media

Championship position: 12th, thirty-one points

Qualifying H2H: Won 8-4 (Mortara, Dillmann)

It was another solid if unspectacular season for Maro Engel in 2017-18. After impressing in his debut year he was once again given a car that at first seemed off the pace as he struggled for points. Both Engel and Venturi improved as the season progressed though, and four strong points finishes in a row followed with a best finish of fourth. Although he didn’t manage to match the podium his team-mate Mortara achieved in Hong Kong, he comfortably out-qualified him over the course of the season, and with the German now concentrating his efforts on Formula E after leaving DTM and GT3, you can expect him to be even stronger next year.

11. Nelson Piquet Jr, Panasonic Jaguar Racing

Credit: Formula E

Championship position: 9th, fifty-one points

Qualifying H2H: Lost 5-7 (Evans)

This was another year where Nelson Piquet Jr failed to show the form he did when he won the championship in the opening season. Once again he was outperformed by his team-mate, and while Mitch Evans came close to challenging for wins, Piquet dropped back as the season progressed. It started off well as the Brazilian scored three fourth place finishes in the opening five races, and he should have had a podium were it not for an overly ambitious move on Sebastien Buemi in Santiago. From there things went downhill quickly though with five retirements in six races and only one more top ten finish. This included a disastrous race in Paris when he crashed both of his cars in practice so was unable to qualify, and then was forced to retire for a second time thanks to his belts not being done up properly.  Jaguar will expect more consistency from him next year.

Honourable mentions

As in previous seasons there was a lot of chopping and changing with the driver line-ups throughout the season. Kamui Kobayashi came in for Tom Blomqvist at the request of Andretti’s sponsors and achieved limited results. He was comfortably beaten by team-mate da Costa and had a best finish of fifteenth.

Neel Jani’s arrival in Formula E caused a lot of excitement, but after two dreadful races for Dragon he decided it wasn’t for him and packed his bags

Ma Qing Hua filled in for Filippi and then Turvey at NIO – once again he was well off the pace.

Stephane Sarrazin was called in to replace Blomqvist at Andretti for the last four races, and although he got off to a bad start he showed that he was getting to grips with the car more in New York – however he failed to score a point.

And Tom Dillmann proved himself to be a more than adequate replacement for Mortara at Venturi. He was immediately on the pace of team-mate Engel and even managed a fourth place finish in New York.

Check back tomorrow for drivers one to ten in our countdown…

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Formula E writer for TCF since 2015-16 and fascinated by all things electric.
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