Formula E: The season two grid so far

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Preparations for the second FIA Formula E season may already be well underway, but the teams will all come together at Donington Park in England on Monday for the first time since the London ePrix back in June.

The two-day test marks the first official pre-season running ahead of the 2015-2016 campaign, and will see the teams pit their new cars up against each other out on track for the first time.

Ahead of the test, the final pieces of the driver market puzzle have recently been falling into place, so here is a quick run-down of what we know for season two.

Renault e.Dams

The defending champion team is yet to confirm its line-up for season two, and little has been said of Sebastien Buemi and Nicolas Prost. Buemi came close to winning the title in London, only for a spin during the second race to ultimately cause him to lose out to Nelson Piquet Jr. Prost was impressive at times, but too inconsistent to mount a title challenge. Nothing is confirmed, but most are expecting both drivers to be retained by e.dams for season two.

ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport

ABT was the first team to confirm its line-up for season two, retaining championship contender Lucas di Grassi and German driver Daniel Abt after a solid first campaign.

Amlin Andretti Formula E Team

Amlin Andretti had been expected to continue with its line-up from London in season two, partnering Jean-Eric Vergne with Simona de Silvestro. However, now that Vergne has moved to DS Virgin Racing, one seat remains unclear. De Silvestro is yet to officially be confirmed by the team, but team boss Michael Andretti has been quoted as saying that she will be kept on. The second seat is likely to be shared by a number of Andretti-affiliated drivers, just as we saw in season one.

NEXTEV TCR Formula E Team

NEXTEV was quick to snap up season one champion Piquet for a second campaign, but the other seat still remains unclaimed. Oliver Turvey enjoyed an impressive debut outing in Formula E with the team in London, and may be an option once again.

Dragon Racing

After a hugely impressive first season in the series, Jerome d’Ambrosio has been retained by Dragon Racing, and the Belgian will be keen to build on his fourth-place finish in the standings. His teammate is still to be announced, but a report from claims that Loic Duval will continue with the American team in season two.

DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team

Virgin Racing has joined forces with Citroen-offshoot DS Automobiles for season two, and has made a big statement of intent by securing the servies of Ferrari F1 development driver Jean-Eric Vergne. The Frenchman will race alongside Sam Bird, who stays on with Virgin after an impressive first season in Formula E. Jaime Alguersuari will not return to Formula E for season two due to ongoing medical concerns that forced him out of the London ePrix.

Mahindra Racing Formula E Team

Mahindra is yet to confirm either of its drivers for season two, but change is definitely on the horizon. Karun Chandhok confirmed earlier this week that he would not be returning to Formula E for season two after a difficult first campaign, freeing up one seat. Bruno Senna has not been confirmed, but has taken part in much of the team’s private testing, as shown in a video released by Mahindra earlier this week. Expect the Brazilian to be retained.

Team Aguri

Team Aguri has endured a difficult off-season so far after parting company with title sponsor Amlin (now with Andretti). However, the Japanese team will be hoping to build on its tally of one victory from season one, even if its drivers remain TBC. Pedro de la Rosa tested for the team at Donington Park last month alongside season one driver Salvador Duran, whilst Formula Renault 3.5 driver Tom Dillmann will test in the next few days.

Trulli Formula E Team

Trulli confirmed to MotorSportsTalk earlier this month that no official announcement had been made regarding its driver line-up for season two, but reports claim that Vitantonio Liuzzi will be retained to race alongside Jarno Trulli. After a tough first year in Formula E, the Italian outfit will be hoping for better this time around.

Venturi Formula E Team

Venturi pulled off arguably the biggest driver coup in Formula E’s short history by securing ex-CART and F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve for season two. He will race alongside Stephane Sarrazin, who stays on following the first campaign.

Hamilton, Bottas clock fastest times as F1 testing starts

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty IPhoto by Mark Thompson/Getty Imagesmages
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MONTMELO, Spain — Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas sent an ominous signal to their challengers after clocking the two fastest lap times on the first day of Formula One’s preseason testing.

Hamilton set the top time of Wednesday’s opening session’s of 1 minute, 16.976 seconds, after he took over from Bottas behind the wheel of the new Silver Arrow for the 2020 season. Bottas’ best effort was 0.337 seconds slower.

The Mercedes duo also completed the most laps of any team with 173.

Sergio Perez of Racing Point was the third fastest, followed by Max Verstappen in his Red Bull.

Hamilton enters the season as the clear favorite as he seeks to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles and surpass the German’s mark of 91 career wins. Hamilton has six titles and 84 wins.

“It’s been a good day and a really good start for all of us, considering we had a long break,” Hamilton said. “So to come back and clock in over 170 laps just shows how hard everyone has been working over the winter.”

In last year’s preseason testing, the Mercedes cars were slower than the rival Ferraris. But they beat them come the first race of the year and never lost their advantage.

Hamilton and Bottas had nine one-two race finishes last season as they dominated the field to finish first and second in the overall points standings.

Wednesday’s eight hours of running went smoothly for all teams, with no accidents or breakdowns and good weather ideal for high speeds.

The only setback was for Sebatian Vettel, who couldn’t run as scheduled because of an illness.

Charles Leclerc took Vettel’s place and settled for the 11th best time of the 15 drivers who drove.

Leclerc, who finished fourth ahead of Vettel last season, said that his team had changed strategy.

“Last year in testing we were great but the first race was a little less great, and I think we have learned a few things on this,” he said. “This year we have started trying to focus more on ourselves and on trying to learn the car as much as possible during these first few days and then focus on performance later on.”

Verstappen finished third last season and is expected to again be biggest challenger to Mercedes’ dominance along with the two Ferraris.

Verstappen focused on accumulating 168 laps as Red Bull’s sole driver on the track. Alexander Albon will get his turn with the Red Bull on Thursday.

Williams’ George Russell was the first car to take the track, ensuring his team got off to a better start than during last year’s preseason when its car wasn’t ready to run until the third day of testing.

This year’s rules have not varied much ahead of the massive overhaul of regulations set to take effect in 2021 with the goal of shaking up the pecking order and closing the gap between the three traditional title challengers – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – and all the rest.

This season’s tweaks feature fewer tests days to compensate for the record-breaking 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam GP and the return of the Dutch GP. Preseason testing has been reduced from a total of eight days to six, and the mid-season test has been eliminated.

Cars will now sport shark fins on the engine cover with the number of the driver to help fans identify them better. Drivers have been given more control of the go sequence at the starting line, and those large screens that crews would wheel out to shield cars from the view of snoopy rivals during tests have been banned.

Alfa Romeo and Haas unveiled their cars early on Wednesday in the pitlane to complete the presentation of the new vehicles for this season.

Testing continues on Thursday and Friday at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, home to the Spanish GP, and again from Feb. 26-28.

The season-opening Australian GP is on March 15.