This weekend sees Felix Rosenqvist commence his second season of racing in the FIA Formula E Championship, as the 2017-18 edition gets underway on the streets of central Hong Kong. Armed with his new challenger, the Mahindra Racing M4Electro, Rosenqvist now bids to pick up where he left off at the end of a headline-grabbing rookie campaign, going for glory in the world’s first all-electric single-seater series.
“I really can’t wait for this,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “I learned an incredible amount last season, and I hope that we will be able to achieve similar things or more this time around. Formula E continues to gain momentum and will be more competitive than ever this season, but I’ve got a positive feeling and will do my best to give us a good start in Hong Kong.”
Rosenqvist enters the new season – the fourth in Formula E’s energetic history – knowing that there are significant expectations. Having finished a convincing third in the championship in his rookie 2016-17 campaign, handing Mahindra Racing its first-ever series win in the process, the bar is set high.
So, too, however, are the ambitions. Mahindra Racing, again fielding Rosenqvist and Nick Heidfeld in its driver line-up, are aiming to run consistently at the sharp end of the field – much like they already did for a large proportion of 2016-17. As a matter of fact, Rosenqvist delivered the best qualifying average out of anybody on the grid last season, highlighted by three pole positions, and finished on the podium in four out of the last six races.
While pre-season preparations have proved fruitful at the Mahindra Racing camp, the competition will not have rested on their laurels, with Formula E continuing to entice some of the biggest names of the sport and attracting an influx of new top-level drivers.
Stepping across from Porsche’s now-defunct LMP1 programme are Neel Jani and André Lotterer – both FIA World Endurance champions, and both winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans – while DTM star Edoardo Mortara and ex-F1 man Kamui Kobayashi are also joining the electric waters this season.
Meanwhile, all three previous Formula E champions - Nelson Piquet Jr., Sébastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi – will once again form part of the ultra-competitive grid.
“It’s an incredibly strong field,” Rosenqvist continues. “It’s great to see the championship continuing to grow like this. It will be extremely tough, but I’m confident in our ability. We know that we could give the best a run for their money last season. Coming back to all these circuits for a second time should make things a bit easier for me, so of course I’ll be aiming to win races – but the strength of the entire field is greater than ever before, I would say.”
In order to combat the increased competition, Mahindra Racing have been hard at work during the off-season, enhancing its technical package.
The new car, the M4Electro, sports a refined powertrain featuring a new one-speed gearbox, aimed at further improving efficiency. Early indications have proved promising for the new concept, with Rosenqvist consistently lapping within fractions of the fastest times throughout October’s official pre-season test in Valencia.
The rules for 2017-18 are largely unchanged, with an increase in maximum race-mode power usage from 170 to 180 kW marking the only technical amendment. Furthermore, on the sporting side, a driver will now only be handed the extra point for fastest lap if he finishes inside the top ten.
“The rules are basically the same as last season, with some small exceptions,” Rosenqvist concludes. “For us, it has meant evolution rather than revolution when designing the new car. I think that the actual technical components will play a larger role than before; most teams will have learned the right strategies by now, so that will probably be less of a factor. All the simulations are done and we’re pleased with what we have, so now it’s down to us to maximise everything and try to execute the perfect races.”
This weekend’s Formula E curtain-raiser takes place in the very heart of central Hong Kong, on the same track which also hosted last year’s 2016-17 season-opener. In his first-ever Formula E race, Felix Rosenqvist set the fastest lap of the 2016 Hong Kong ePrix, establishing the current lap record of 1m02.947s between the skyscrapers in Central Harbourfront.
Unlike last year's edition, this weekend's Hong Kong ePrix will feature two races - making it the first-ever Formula E double-header on Asian soil.
Coverage of the 2017-18 FIA Formula E Championship is carried by Eurosport, with live broadcasts of all races throughout the season.