2015/16 FIA Formula E teams’ champion Renault e.dams kicks off its title defence this weekend in the first round of the 2016/17 FIA Formula E Championship, the third season of the ever-innovative series. Equipped with the Renault Z.E.16 car that won five races and 270 points last year, Sébastien Buemi will also look to defend his drivers’ crown, but will face strong opposition from team-mate Nicolas Prost and of course the rest of the field, which proved closely-matched in the testing period at Donington Park over the summer.
This year, the season debuts in a new venue – one of the most exciting and spectacular ever seen on a motorsport calendar. Cars will be racing in Hong Kong on a 1.860km track located in the Central Harbourfront area, passing iconic Hong Kong landmarks such as the Central Star Ferry Pier and City Hall, with the Victoria Harbour on one side and the Central and Mid-Levels skyline on the other. As is Formula E tradition, the 10-turn circuit uses existing public roads and will be a tough, demanding track with narrow turns and two tight hairpins, which should provide overtaking opportunities.
The Asia Pacific region is a growing market for electric vehicle technology. Sales are increasing, particularly in the traffic-congested major cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore, where EV cars’ nimble nature and calm driving experience are a distinct plus point. In Korea, Renault Samsung Motors is a pioneer and an innovative leader in the local electric vehicle market, where the SM3 Z.E is produced at the Busan plant, while in Singapore, Renault has provided its top-selling electric vehicle, ZOE, for an autonomous driving taxi experiment. Keep your eyes peeled in Hong Kong however as the ZOE Hatchback was introduced last year and the Fluence/Samsung SM5 Z.E., the family saloon, is used a police car!
Jean-Paul Driot, Senior Team Manager
We can only be satisfied with our results in Season 2 as we won the two titles - the teams’ and drivers’. Overall it was a very good season, with several wins and pole positions. We also learnt a lot and now we have to put everything we learnt into practice to achieve what we want to do this year. Motivation is higher than ever, and it is highest when the competition is intense and the gaps between competitors very tight. We need to keep on top of everything and keep pushing. The objective is the same as ever: to win both championships, win races and to get the maximum amount of points possible.
Alain Prost, Senior Team Manager
Hong Kong is a magical city and the backdrop will be stunning. I think it will be a good commercial success and will be important for Renault and other manufacturers as it is close to key markets. For us as a team we need to be competitive from the very start as scoring a lot of points early on in the season is very important. It would be a pleasure to start the year well with a strong result in such a prestigious city.
Our aims are the same as the past two years. We won the teams’ title in the last two years and the drivers’ title last year so our goals necessarily have to be very high. This year, however, we appreciate it will be more difficult, but the motivation is just the same.
Vincent Gaillardot, Renault Sport Project Leader
This season, we are really talking about an optimisation of the existing concept we introduced for Season 2 rather than a revolution. We saw that the powertrain we developed was very good so the majority of our work has been focussed on getting the most out of the car. We have worked hard on optimising the powertrain efficiency and car control. Then, in parallel, we have worked to fully understand the specificities of the common parts of the car.
Throughout the tests in Donington we had no real problems and at the moment everything looks encouraging. We know we are in the mix, but the competition is very tight, and we can’t count any one out! But whatever the competition, our objective is always the same.
It’s always good to know in the back of your mind that you have won the championship, but the off season is so short that you move straightaway onto the next season and focus on the first race, which will be Hong Kong this year. I know that every point from fastest lap or pole position counts, so let’s go into Season 3 and fight again! We know it’s going to be tough and the competition is very high but I just want to go and win as many races as possible. I’m not thinking about the title, just about getting going and winning those races.
I’m looking forward to getting going again. We know it’s going to be a big fight again as from what we have seen in testing the competition looks quite fierce. We have been working very hard though so I think we are more than up to the challenge. Winning in London was great, but you have to always look to the future. The results at the end of the year meant we finished third in the drivers’ championship, but I had lots of problems in the beginning that I would like to avoid. This year I am keen to be in the mix right from the very start!