There’s no doubting that BMW i Andretti Motorsport’s victory in the opening round of this year’s 2018-19 ABB Formula E Championship was a seriously impressive feat.
This was the same team that finished bottom of last year’s standings, with only five top ten finishes and a paltry twenty-four points to their name, yet just a few months on from the end of last season they secured pole and the race victory in the Ad Diriyah ePrix.
The turnaround was sparked by BMW’s decision to commit to Formula E. No longer just a technical partner, they took over the reins of the team from Andretti and invested more time and money into the new Gen2 cars introduced this year.
The results were immediate as the team topped each day of the official pre-season test, leading many to install them as favourites for the title.
And they delivered on that promise in Ad Diriyah, with Antonio Felix da Costa grabbing pole, and despite some dodgy parking on the grid, he managed to convert it into his first win in nearly four years.
BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt hailed the win as the most impressive feat in what was already successful year for the German marque, and he was right to.
This venture marked BMW’s return to single-seater racing and for it to yield results so quickly was incredibly impressive – beating other major manufacturers such as Audi, Nissan, Jaguar and DS Motorsports, despite having less experience in the series than their rivals.
However whether BMW can convert this early promise into a title charge remains to be seen, but this weekend’s race in Marrakesh should provide a good indication.
Too often in the past Formula E teams have seen their competitiveness vary from race to race as the characteristics of the track surface and layout change, but teams such as Renault e.dams in the first three seasons and Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler towards the end of last season have shown that it is possible to have a car suited to all conditions.
Marrakesh should prove whether BMW have a package capable of mimicking these past champions, but it won’t be easy for them.
DS Techeetah showed that their race pace might already be stronger than the German team’s, and had it not been for the penalties both cars received then Jean-Eric Vergne looked set to take the win from da Costa.
We should also expect to see Audi get stronger as the season goes on. Their disappointing pace in the first race was at odds with the incredible consistency they showed at the end of last season, and with the resources and knowledge they have it surely won’t be long before they get their house in order.
Similar could be said of Nissan e.dams, and with Panasonic Jaguar Racing and Mahindra Racing having their sights set on race wins and podiums, it’s going to get tough at the top.
But if BMW can put in a strong showing this weekend it would show that they’re serious contenders this season, and rather than looking at wins, they can start fostering title ambitions.