Photo: NIO Formula E Team

Formula E: Filippi joins NIO; Andretti rebrands ahead of test

Leave a comment

The FIA Formula E Championship’s preseason testing takes place in Valencia, before season four launches later this winter in Hong Kong.

A few notes going into that are below.


Veteran open-wheel driver Luca Filippi, who raced in parts of four IndyCar seasons from 2013 to 2016 after also racing and winning regularly in GP2 prior to that, will enter a full-time seat with the NIO Formula E Team.

NIO Formula E Team Driver Portraits.

“Let me first thank everyone in NIO for the great opportunity given to me to race in the FIA Formula E Championship. It is a new electric world for me and a new racing system oriented to the future that is full of talent and clean technology, so I am extremely excited to become a part of it.

“During our first test run together in Spain I immediately had a great feeling with the car and all the people in the team. To join NIO for S4 is a dream come true and I am very much looking forward to working with Oliver and Gerry and starting this journey with everyone in the NIO Formula E team.”

The Italian replaces Nelson Piquet Jr. as Oliver Turvey’s teammate, Piquet going off to Panasonic Jaguar Racing for the new year. Turvey (No. 16) and Filippi (No. 68) also have new car numbers aboard the NextEV NIO 003 chassis. A slightly revised teal livery has some red on it as well and the social media hashtag, #BlueSkyComing, is the meaning of the company’s Chinese name, Weilai.

“Season 4 sees us welcome Luca Filippi on-board with the NIO Formula E Team and I firmly believe that these two drivers will form a formidable driver pairing for the coming season. Whilst Luca is new to the series he brings with him a wealth of motorsport experience which our young dynamic team will be looking to exploit,” said Gerry Hughes, NIO Formula E team principal.


Michael Andretti’s Formula E team has its fourth name in as many seasons. Just Andretti Formula E Team in season one, becoming Amlin Andretti Formula E in season two and then MS Amlin Andretti in season three, the team is now MS&AD Andretti in season four (Twitter handle is now @msadAndrettiFE as well). MS&AD, a Japanese insurance giant, is the parent company of Amlin.

“We hold the risks for people, businesses and communities around the world and mitigating the impact of extreme weather is very important to our clients and our business. Through Formula E we help present the world with a compelling case for switching to alternative fuel sources for our transport needs,” said Adrian Britten, MS Amlin’s Director of Brand.

Team owner Andretti added, “We are delighted that such an esteemed company as MS&AD is actively engaging in this exciting race series.  Our sponsors are a key partner in Andretti Autosport and we are look forward to bringing the exciting new race series to a wider audience, not least in Japan.”

On the driver front, the team has confirmed Antonio Felix da Costa back for a second full season while Tom Blomqvist and Alexander Sims, BMW works drivers, will test the team’s second car this week with view to a potential split race program between the two of them. This leaves Robin Frijns out of a seat despite two decent seasons.

“We are very fortunate to not only be testing two very capable drivers in Valencia but three top-level talents. Antonio has been in Formula E since the very start which makes him one of the most experienced drivers in the field and a huge asset to our team. Alexander had an important role as reserve and test driver in Season Three and is excited for a chance to show what he can do in Valencia. All three drivers are proven race winners in either Formula E or other race series and that is incredibly valuable. The whole team is looking forward to a productive week of testing for MS&AD Andretti,” said Roger Griffiths, co-team principal.


A little over a month ago, we used snark to take on one of racing’s major problems in a tongue-in-cheek manner: IndyCar’s blue and white livery epidemic.

FIA Formula E may be on the cutting edge of battery technology, but it doesn’t appear to be on the cutting edge of different liveries… and it may also be going down a dangerous path of similar liveries.

Note the NIO and Andretti liveries above, with teal and/or blue appearing prominently, and now look below at the Renault e.dams and Panasonic Jaguar Racing liveries.

So we’ve got at least four teams on the grid of 10 – eight cars – that will look close or similar in nature going into the season. At least in Renault’s case, it’s a much lighter shade of blue compared to the NIO, Andretti and Jaguar liveries, which have similar designs and color palettes.


With Andretti confirming the first of its two drivers and Venturi yet to confirm either of its two, these are the last two teams set to finalize their lineups ahead of season four. A few other confirmations – notably Mahindra’s re-upping of Felix Rosenqvist and Nick Heidfeld along with Audi confirming Daniel Abt as a new works driver – have come in in the last couple weeks.

Venturi tests Edoardo Mortara, Michael Benyahia, Maro Engel and James Rossiter this week. FIA Formula E’s full breakdown of the test lineup is linked here.

Here’s the grid so far:

  • Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler: 1-Lucas di Grassi, 66-Daniel Abt
  • DS Virgin Racing: 2-Sam Bird, 36-Alex Lynn
  • Panasonic Jaguar Racing: 3-Nelson Piquet Jr., 20-Mitch Evans
  • Dragon Racing: 6-Neel Jani, 7-Jerome d’Ambrosio
  • Renault e.dams: 8-Nico Prost, 9-Sebastien Buemi
  • NIO Formula E Team: 16-Oliver Turvey, 68-Luca Filippi
  • Techeetah: 18-Andre Lotterer, 25-Jean-Eric Vergne
  • Mahindra Racing: 19-Felix Rosenqvist, 23-Nick Heidfeld
  • MS&AD Andretti Formula E: 28-Antonio Felix da Costa, 27-TBA
  • Venturi Formula E Team: 4-TBA, 5-TBA

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
Leave a comment

John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski