Formula E may have had a more stable winter than the fraught off-season it experienced in the build-up to the start of the Gen3 era 12 months ago but, on the eve of the 2024 season opener in Mexico, does anyone really know what the competitive picture will look like this weekend?
Sure, there's carryover given there are no major changes to the Gen3 rulebook but with such a host of driver swaps for 2024, the limited pre-season track time imposed on all teams by a fire at the Valencia pre-season test, and Formula E's knack for unpredictability there's bound to be some surprises at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Enough unknowns there, then, to surely scare off those trying to predict this year's events. Yet here we are: we've asked our panel of writers - which includes Formula E Correspondent Sam Smith, Special Contributor Alice Holloway and Formula E lead commentator Tom Brooks - how they see things playing out in 2024.
Who will be champion?
Sam Smith: There is an assumption it will be one of Mitch Evans, Nick Cassidy, Pascal Wehrlein, Antonio Felix da Costa or Jake Dennis.
I believe that assumption to be correct. But in typical Formula E style, I’m going to go for the driver who, in 2023 at least, was the most unlikely of those five: da Costa.
He was never in the game in 2023 and the reason for that was nothing other than the fact he was still finding his place at Porsche. He’s done that now and with Porsche making the very unpopular (with da Costa) decision that he should focus solely on Formula E rather than sportscar racing as well, I think ultimately that may pay off handsomely.
It will be incredibly close but I think the 2019-20 champion can become a double title winner in 2024.
Alice Holloway: The favourite coming into the season must be Jaguar. However, how it handles the Evans/Cassidy relationship - which could get fractious early doors if either is construed as being favoured - could have them tripping over themselves.
It would be great to see Evans finally get the job done, but I think it could be another ‘almost year’ with two highly competitive and strong drivers battling for the team’s backing.
Therefore, I’m going with back-to-back championships for Dennis. I think he will sneak in to pick up the pieces as the Jaguars squabble.
Tom Brooks: It's hard to look past the likes of Dennis, Cassidy, Evans, Wehrlein, etc, just given their form last year.
Dennis in particular had a really consistent season and it would be great to see him do the double. I know that Andretti is sort of looking more towards the team's championship this year as well.
I completely echo Sam’s sentiments about Antonio Felix da Costa; I reckon he is going to be up there too.
The Jaguar team has a really formidable line-up between Cassidy and Evans. But just given how disappointed I saw Cassidy was at the end of London I think he could do it.
Josh Suttill: At last I think 2024 will be the year Jaguar and Evans take the title. You only have to remove one intra-team wipeout from 2023 and Evans is champion.
Sam Bird's struggles alongside Evans were evidence of how hard Cassidy will find it at Jaguar and while I reckon he'll fare far better, Evans will have the edge and spearhead Jaguar's title charge.
Matt Beer: Evans - He just has to at some point, surely? The combination of Evans and Jaguar has been too mighty, too often, for too long for them to keep missing out on titles together.
Jack Cozens: I've tried to combine a bit of statistical insight with gut instinct for my pick.
Once the Jaguar package hit its stride last year there was little stopping it - including its first win of 2023 in Sao Paulo in March it won eight of the final 11 races. Given there's technical stability from last season to this, I can't look past a driver from its factory stable for the title.
Cassidy was my pick for driver of the season in 2023 and he will undoubtedly be the biggest test of Evans's tenure at Jaguar so far. But I'm going with Evans for his familiarity with these surroundings and on the expectation that Cassidy's arrival will actually elevate him above nearly-man status.
How many drivers will win races?
Tom Brooks: I reckon we'll see a similar sort of number this year to last (seven).
I’d love to see some other names up there. We saw Jake Hughes getting a couple of poles in his rookie season and of course, with Bird on the other side of the McLaren garage, I reckon we'll see both of those drivers at the sharp end.
Max Guenther took a victory for Maserati MSG last year too so I wonder whether he might be able to repeat the same sort of feat.
And now on the other side of the Andretti garage, you've got Norman Nato as well, a driver who finished 10th in the standings last year and got a podium in Rome. I think that he could be a bit of a dark horse.
Josh Suttill: Six. Dennis, Cassidy and Evans are fairly dead-set to win races in 2024. Beyond that trio, I'll go for Robin Frijns, da Costa and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Alice Holloway: Jaguar- and Porsche-powered cars plus a few rogue victories as someone has a great qualifying, just gets into the groove with the car for one race, or weather conditions play into their favour. There will be seven different winners this season. And the first four races will be won by different people.
Jack Cozens: I'm going high and saying eight. Both drivers at Jaguar, Porsche, and Andretti, plus Vergne and one of Sebastien Buemi or Frijns. That selection is contingent on Nato finding his feet early and not once yet another team has decided to look past him for the following year, but there were some stellar drives last year that make me think he'll be capable of picking up the pieces for Andretti if Dennis has an off day in a way Andre Lotterer wasn't last year.
Sam Smith: The five I mentioned as the likely title contenders and two other rogue winners. That could be any two from Nato, Frijns, Buemi or one of the DS Penske drivers.
I’ll go for Buemi finally ending his almost five-year win drought and perhaps also a shock one for Nissan or McLaren, although which driver is super hard to judge. But I think Oliver Rowland will hit the ground running and he’ll win one of the Misano or Shanghai races.
I’m probably doing Envision a massive disservice but I think it will be so much harder for them in 2024 to get wins.
Who or what will be the surprise of the season?
Alice Holloway: Abt will be stronger than everyone expects this season, putting in some top-five performances on merit and stealing two pole positions (not weather-assisted).
With Nico Mueller, the team was really starting to get the feel for Gen3 towards the end of last season and, if you track its trajectory, it was always on an up. Having the winter break to reassess the data collected from last year, and retaining Mueller for another full season, means it's going to be a team to keep an eye on to grab a few surprise results as it builds on its progress with the Mahindra package.
Sam Smith: Not so much a surprise but a reawakening of Rowland. In the right car, he is a formidable competitor and we have not seen his true capability really since the 2019-20 season.
Getting that right package under him probably won’t come until 2025 but I think he will do enough in 2024 to then build on it and become a credible title threat next year.
Add in too how much all four of the Mahindras will improve generally. I don’t buy into Alice’s optimism of poles and podiums, but I think a few top-six results are possible for both Abt and Mahindra on occasion.
Matt Beer: Maybe this won’t actually be a surprise given how often its cars were starting near the front of grids in 2023, but I vote Nissan. Regardless of whether the package has improved over the off-season (and it really had work to do on race pace), Sacha Fenestraz and Rowland are a great driver line-up for making things happen. Though it would be good if the car lets them sustain it over a race distance.
Tom Brooks: Frijns is going back to Envision and he's the person that I'd be looking out for. It's not necessarily a surprise because we know the pace and performance that he can put in but he will be my one to watch.
Then there's Jehan Daruvala at Maserati, a team that won a race last year courtesy of Guenther. I do wonder whether once he's got his head around the car, the tyres, all of the different variables, Daruvala might be able to just throw up a few surprises. He's got a very impressive junior single-seater record, so I'll be keen to see what he's able to do.
Jack Cozens: There are reasons to expect Formula E's 'minnow' outfits (no derogatory connotation intended) Abt and ERT, through Dan Ticktum, will have their moments in the sun this year. But for something a bit bigger-scale I think Nissan can spring the odd frontrunning surprise this season.
The green shoots of recovery were there last year for a fallen giant of Formula E; it was one of the few teams that ended the season on a genuine upward trajectory thanks to the combination of Fenestraz's raw speed and Nato's metronomic racking of points in the second half of the season.
Returnee Rowland seems to fit that middle ground between Nissan's 2023 pairing nicely - with less of the erratic tendencies of a still-green Fenestraz and enough of those flashes of speed to potentially drag the car into higher places than Nato did. From his interviews with Sam, Rowland seems genuinely well-prepared for this return and I'm eager to see how Fenestraz can benefit from that too.
Josh Suttill: I reckon McLaren is the perfect place for Bird to rebuild himself after a bruising time at Jaguar. Hughes had a great rookie season but Bird is third on the all-time FE win list for good reason and McLaren can coalesce around him.
Will fast-charging be a triumph or a farce?
🚨 FAST CHARGING FIRST-LOOK 🚨#FormulaE teams are testing the new attack charge boosters at Valencia ahead of their 2024 debut.— The Race (@wearetherace) October 24, 2023
Eight of the units are being shared among the 11 teams this week.
Here's McLaren's Jake Hughes receiving an energy boost ⤵️
🗣️ @sniffermedia pic.twitter.com/PsKHPEOP5M
Matt Beer: Formula E is prone to both making what should be triumphs into farces (the hugely underwhelming looks of the Gen3 car and its fraught test period) and farces into triumphs (how good the 2023 season was despite that fraught test period) so I wouldn’t like to predict how this innovation will turn out. The delays so far bode badly. But so did the chaos of the Gen3 build-up and last year was great.
So I’m hoping this will be a triumph. It’s a proper innovation that sets Formula E apart from the rest of motorsport again, and I don’t share the fear that pitstops will split races up too much. This is Formula E, they’ll just add a different element of entertaining chaos and everyone will end up fighting over the same bit of track again by the end of it.
Sam Smith: Neither a triumph nor a farce. It will be an occasional quirky addition to races at Misano, Berlin, Shanghai and Portland.
It will break up the Peloton/Kirin feel, which will be a good thing once in a while. I think the biggest challenge will be making it look good on TV. If that can be done then it will be a welcome addition to some double-headers.
Tom Brooks: It's going to be interesting to see how it works out and I am looking forward to the different variables that it's going to add.
In terms of keeping up to speed with it, it's going to be a challenge. It is going to be a case of keeping up to speed with everything and frantically writing notes down and the irony is as a commentator during a race you prepare this folder full of notes and you never bloody look at them because especially in Formula E it's so frantic and fast-paced that you don't have time.
I'm going to have to find a solution that works quite nicely. Maybe I'll get Sam in my ear to sort of feed me different bits of information to deal with the other five voices of production that I've got talking to me at the same time!
Josh Suttill: As long as it works it will go down as a triumph for electric cars. It's exactly what Formula E should be doing: pushing innovative electric technology on the world stage and answering some of the biggest concerns over electric cars like how long they take to charge. The huge social response to my colleague Sam's video of fast charging in pre-season testing is evidence of the kind of excitement Formula E should be aiming to generate far more often.
Alice Holloway: When it first comes in, there will be a lot of negativity around it. Someone will find themselves on the wrong end of a bad strategy deal, losing points in a race they were doing well in.
However, as the teams get more familiar with it, I think it’ll really start to bring a game-changing tactic to the racing, and by the end of the season maybe we’ll all be talking about how influential it’s been in this new brand of racing, hopefully in a positive light.
Jack Cozens: From a technical standpoint, it's been worked on for long enough now that it really ought to be a triumph. As far as the spectacle is concerned, it wouldn't be right to call it a farce but I can't see it being a game-changer.
How will Nyck de Vries fare on his return?
Josh Suttill: With the machinery at his disposal, not very well in terms of results. This is all about making strides in 2025 and using 2024 as a rebuilding year for both driver and team. I'd still expect him to nick the odd podium though in a hectic race.
A world-class talent still despite his Formula 1 failure and that will show as long as you look closely enough this year.
Sam Smith: I think he will struggle initially, just because he has so few laps in Gen3 cars compared to the rest of the field. Having said that, he's mega at Diriyah, so there could be some fireworks there.
But from Monaco onwards we should see him getting points and showing that for the Gen3 Evo era, we can expect him to be challenging at the front again if Mahindra builds a decent powertrain.
Alice Holloway: De Vries' FE return will be similar to Mahindra’s start to last season: impressive to start with, but it’ll fall a little into obscurity as he averages low points finishes.
It would be very surprising to see De Vries back in the competitive mix considering the difficulties Mahindra had last season after Mexico City, and I think it’ll be more of a relearning season, gearing himself up to challenge properly in the new iteration of Gen3 Evo car coming in 2025.
Jack Cozens: Both of Mahindra's drivers have a bit of a point to prove this year so it's perhaps not the worst environment for De Vries or Edoardo Mortara to be stepping into.
I was never a particularly big proponent of De Vries getting his F1 shot but his short-lived stint and the nature of his dismissal from AlphaTauri was uncomfortable enough that there's a desire to see him bounce back. De Vries has that in his make-up but he might need to show that resolve on more occasions with the Mahindra package in 2024. But I think he's got what it takes to restore credit to his reputation.
Tom Brooks: I think De Vries will struggle initially on his return to Formula E. The Gen3 car is very different to its predecessor and we’ve seen some of the best drivers in the world take time to adapt to its nuances; the lack of useful testing time won’t have helped Mahindra or De Vries' pre-season either.
That being said, he isn’t a world champion for nothing and he’s noted for his work ethic and determination, so I think once he’s got his head around the car and tyres the second half of the season could be a different story.
Matt Beer: De Vries’ FE title came in a season too skewed by the format for anyone to be a particularly convincing champion and his F1 stint turned out pretty much as I would’ve expected given his trajectory up to that point. Maybe he’ll spectacularly prove me wrong by being a hero for Mahindra. But he really will need to be a hero to achieve much in this situation.
Ex-F1 racer and past FE champion joining past race-winning FE team should on paper be a promising combination but I can see this relationship being a short and unsuccessful one.
Whose future looks shaky?
Alice Holloway: Bird will need to put the trials of 2022 and 2023 behind him and come back to the form we all once knew him for and prove that his recent form was a blip. A reset over winter should have done him good and hopefully, he’s back to his best.
Sergio Sette Camara has had some inspiring performances in the past, but consistency has been hard to come by.
He’s not been in a great car, but team-mate Ticktum has managed to showcase his speed and talent in difficult machinery over a race distance. With rookies knocking at the door and Formula E pushing for more rookie tests and more accessibility to the series for up-and-coming drivers, Sette Camara will need to shine if he is to continue in FE.
Matt Beer: Quite a few contenders on this list! But I’m going for De Vries. Not because I expect him to flop and be dropped, though. I can just see his Mahindra stint being unrewarding enough that he’ll quickly decide he doesn’t need a dual programme when he could just put all his focus on winning World Endurance Championship races with Toyota.
Josh Suttill: Surely the most precarious seat on any Formula E grid is the one belonging to Nato. Twice now he's made a slow start to a campaign, come on song towards the end of it but usually too late to save his seat. While I think he's good enough to be on the grid I found him a strange choice to partner the reigning world champion.
I suspect he'll once again be a stop-gap, falling well short of Dennis for much of the year and finding himself out of a drive come the summer - after which he'll then probably win the season finale.
Sam Smith: I’m sorry to say it but I think Maserati MSG will have a very tough season indeed.
I hope I’m wrong but the disruption in the off-season, a bit of a brain-drain in engineering and questions on the commercial framework of the team will make it a struggle.
Having said that it does have Guenther, who has proved that on certain days he can crush all before him. Daruvala is on a hell of a steep learning path so it’s unfair to judge him until the end of the season. Having said that, I’m not sure what reasonable chances he has with the shape the team is in at present anyway.
Tom Brooks: Ticktum scored double the points of Sette Camara last season, so I think Sette Camara is going to really need to pull his finger out a little bit this year and try to get some strong results. He had a few good flashes in 2023, but other than that never really seemed to get going.
I think he could be under a bit of pressure and I wonder what ERT’s performance level is going to be. It got good points on the board last year, and it will be hoping for more forward progress. I suppose it depends on what the relative level of the other teams is.
What will a successful 2024 look like for Formula E?
Tom Brooks: I love Tokyo; I have been there quite a few times working for Gran Turismo, as the company is based in Tokyo.
It's the most densely populated city in the world, so the fact that Formula E is able to put a street race there is quite incredible and I'm really looking forward to that event.
Alice Holloway: A closely fought championship going down to the wire, multiple race winners, plus unpredictability in qualifying and the races.
Off the track, a secure calendar that holds onto all planned races, a step away from the more fantastical marketing messages and a focus on promoting Formula E for the pure reason that it’s a great competitive championship.
The balance of permanent versus street circuits on this year’s calendar poses a lot of its own questions and, even though it makes sense from a financial and logistics standpoint, it is fundamentally changing the ethos of Formula E.
Success for the series will be to see if it needs to return to its original messaging from years gone by - of bringing races to city centre consumers - or if this new direction and the evolution of the championship can be relevant and engage future audiences.
Matt Beer: It might not have much to do with what happens on track. Formula E has always produced fantastic racing and storylines. That’s not been enough. It needs more eyeballs on it, to ensure its current set of manufacturers (and ideally at least one more) are nailed on for Gen4, and that its calendar offers more good news than bad across the year.
Sam Smith: Getting the mess of Hyderabad out of the way and forgotten quickly by filling up the seven-week gap between Diriyah and Sao Paulo with positive news and somehow keeping the early season buzz alive will be important.
Tokyo is Formula E’s biggest race for years. It has to make that a success and ensure it’s a long-term fixture. That’s essential.
Then it will all be about Gen3 Evo and how those cars can be quicker. They will be and from that point on the marketing wizards can really start to back up the boasts about these cars with some substance.
Josh Suttill: Last year's answer of 'more eyeballs' still applies here but really it's whether the huge interest in our first look at fast-charging translates into season-long interest. Gen3 failed to bring in swathes of new fans and there aren't any star debutants this year, so it's all about whether the new technology and style of racing is enough to draw people in at the selected rounds it appears. I fear it won't be.
Jack Cozens: Maybe it's to do with the festive celebrations it falls soon after, but the start of the Formula E season seems to have crept up with little in the way of telegraphing to the wider world.
That lack of fanfare can't be used as an excuse for setting a lower bar when it comes to measuring whether the 2024 season is a successful one for Formula E, though. Plenty of yardsticks that I agree with (that aren't guarantees either) are mentioned above, but I'd chuck one more in and that's to get to the end of this year with a 2025 calendar that by and large looks the same as this year's and doesn't require multiple amends.
Some events just don't work; that's fine. But the merry-go-round of one-and-done events in recent years hasn't been a good look, especially for a series that desperately needs to build momentum and currency.