The wait is almost over. Formula E is back with an exciting new qualifying format, three new cities on the schedule, and Envision Racing will look to challenge for the championship once again…
It seems like a lifetime has passed. But just over five months ago, Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns went into the final two races of the 2020–21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship with a shot at winning the title.
Despite a valiant effort following a season of calculated maturity, Frijns could not overhaul the points deficit at the Berlin E-Prix finale, ending up just 10 points adrift of eventual champion Nyck de Vries.
“Last season was a bit of a strange one,” reflected Frijns, “because the top 10 or 12 drivers could have won the championship, until the very last race still, so it was super close and super competitive. We were very consistent, and basically the only team always in qualifying group one, which kind of hurt me at the end.”
More on how qualifying damaged Frijns’ title aspirations later. That is ancient history now, and all eyes are on Saudi Arabia for the start of the eighth season of Formula E, and a double-header on the streets of Diriyah.
For the second season, Envision Racing’s Frijns will be joined by New Zealand racer Nick Cassidy, with former GP3 racer and W Series race-winner Alice Powell in place as the team’s Simulator and Development Driver.
In 2021, Frijns bagged a second place on the mix of slow speed turns and flat-out straights at the season opener in Diriyah. In 2022, the Dutch racer will be looking to go one better…
Pre-season promise for Envision Racing
Following a fruitful period of pre-season testing, Frijns is optimistic for a good showing in the desert, and with this season’s Gen2 cars near-identical to last year’s, the double E-Prix winner is confident for the whole 16-race season.
“The pre-season tests in Valencia went pretty well,” confirmed Frijns. “We finished day one quickest, so that was always nice. We basically tested everything we wanted to test and we looked competitive. Definitely, other teams also made a step, so it will not be easy, but you know, it is testing, so you never know what everybody’s doing. We will see where we are at the first round.”
Welcome changes to qualifying format
The most notable alteration to the Formula E race weekend format is regarding qualifying. To recap, last season, drivers at the top of the championship standings qualified first; often amid non-optimal track conditions, and almost always at a disadvantage.
As a season-long frontrunner, Frijns was regularly in this group, meaning that come race day, he was forced to battle his way through the pack, and did well to turn in some incredibly patient and forceful drives to finish every race and keep within title contention until the final day.
For season eight of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, qualifying will essentially follow a head-to-head knockout, split into groups as drivers progress to quarter finals, semi finals and a final. Cars can employ maximum power in the latter phases, drawing on the full 250 kilowatts (kW), and Frijns is relishing the restructured qualifying and the ability to push his Audi e-tron FE07 to the max.
“The new qualifying format will be very interesting,” predicted Frijns. “Also, using 220kW in the first part and 250kW in the battles will mean a good mixture. We tested (the new format) in Valencia and it was quite entertaining to do. The head-to-heads will be good for the viewer as well.
“I think the better cars and better teams will be more upfront, unlike last year, when group one was always at a disadvantage and you needed to fight forward throughout the race. This disadvantage has pretty much gone. I think we will have a great battle throughout the season.”
Quick Nick Cassidy keen to crack on in 2022
In his rookie Formula E campaign, Envision Racing’s Nick Cassidy turned multiple heads with two pole positions and two second place finishes at the Puebla E-Prix, and the second New York City race.
Cassidy preceded his NYC podium with a fighting fourth in the first of the weekend’s stateside races. Starting from pole, the Kiwi held the lead for 31 laps and resisted intense pressure from eventual race winner Maximilian Günther. Second place in race two saw Cassidy end a three-race-run made up of two podiums and a fourth place.
“My standout was probably the two poles – never easy to do,”affirmed Cassidy. “I think, a pole position in this championship against the fastest drivers in the world, is a great achievement, so pretty proud of that one. New York is a fun track – I had a good weekend there and just loved the city.”
The 27-year-old will have to wait until July to go one better in NYC, and confirmed that his focus on this year’s, globetrotting 16-race series is pretty much all that has occupied his mind since the chequered flag fell last August in Berlin.
New pastures for Formula E and Envision Racing
Aside from the radical new qualifying format, additional shake ups to the Formula E structure include the race schedule, with three new mouth-watering venues added.
For the first time, the Envision Racing squad will head to the Indonesian capital Jakarta in June, and after a short break, will rock up at the scenic Canadian west coast city of Vancouver to tackle the challenging roads that line the city’s harbourfront.
South Korean capital Seoul will not only host its maiden Formula E event – the city’s spectacular Olympic Park will provide the backdrop for the championship decider. It promises to be a fitting venue, and according to Frijns, it is going to go down to the wire. “I think the season will be as close as last year,” underlined Frjns, “meaning that the top 10 will be still fighting for the championship until the very last round.”
Both Frijns, Cassidy and the whole Envision Racing team will be hoping to bring home the gold when the championship reaches Seoul.