Formula E Season 6 Preview: Vergne eyes three-peat as Mercedes & Porsche debut

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Less than four months after Jean-Eric Vergne sealed his second consecutive driver's championship title in New York City, the all-electric ABB FIA Formula E Championship returns from its summer break this weekend.

As both the Formula 1 and MotoGP seasons draw to a close, the all-electric Formula E is getting ready to kick off their sixth championship year with the season-opening Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia.

Along with new drivers and an updated race calendar, this season is set to become Formula E's most competitive year yet with the Mercedes-Benz EQ and TAG Heuer Porsche teams making their highly anticipated debut to complete a full 24-car grid.

Motorsport's Most Competitive Grid: The Drivers

In arguably the biggest off-season driver move, former DS Techeetah star Andre Lotterer has joined forces with his former WEC employers Porsche. The German will be racing alongside Neel Jani, who will be making his comeback to Formula E two years after his rather lackluster two-race stint with Dragon Racing.

Antonio Felix da Costa filled the vacant Techeetah seat, briefly followed by Maximilian Guenther taking up the unexpected job offer at BMW. Dragon has, in turn, replaced the German with Swiss DTM ace Nico Mueller. The 27-year old will be teamed up with former Toro Rosso F1 driver Brendon Hartley.

Audi (Lucas di Grassi, Daniel Abt), Virgin (Sam Bird, Robin Frijns), Mahindra (Jerome D'Ambrosio, Pascal Wehrlein), Nissan (Sebastien Buemi, Oliver Rowland) and Venturi (Felipe Massa, Edoardo Mortara) have elected to run an unchanged line-up in the new season, the latter team now using Mercedes powertrains.

Panasonic Jaguar Racing have replaced Briton Alex Lynn with Ferrari works driver James Calado. Ma Qing Hua will be celebrating his comeback at the rebranded NIO 333 FE Team, securing a drive alongside Oliver Turvey.

Mercedes, who take the slot of HWA Racelab team, have extended their contract with ex-McLaren F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne. The Belgian will have to deal with a fiercely competitive teammate though in reigning Formula 2 champion Nyck de Vries for the new season.

Porsche & Mercedes: The New Boys

Mercedes has been under surveillance from competitors ever since the first lap they did in pre-season testing in Valencia. The German squad have had over a year of preparation via its affiliate team HWA Racelab, and, as a result, are most definitely not unprepared going into the 2019/20 season.

The team is supported by technical director Franco Chiocchetti, who was elementary in Lucas di Grassi's 2016/17 championship campaign as the Brazilian's race engineer.

Porsche also heads into the season after plenty of off-track preparation, but, the Zuffenhausen-based squad doesn't have all that much experience with only 15 additional test days prior to the official pre-season program.

Lotterer and Jani will still be considered dark horses with an outside chance of a top 10 result and as the races add up, the only path for the team is upward.

More Attack Mode power, closer racing: The Rule Changes

One year after its introduction, Formula E's Attack Mode will see the power increased from 225 to 235 kW. The power boost will again be available multiple times throughout a race and increase overtaking opportunities in the 45-minute plus one lap races. Qualifying power will stay at 250 kW.

Another significant rule change is the new energy deduction behind the Safety Car or under Full Course Yellow. Every minute spent in these race-neutralising conditions will result in 1 kWh being deducted from the total amount of usable energy. This will help to avoid flat-out races and will put greater emphasis on energy-efficient driving.

Seoul, Jakarta & London: The Calendar

The Formula E season will start with the Diriyah double-header this weekend before heading to Santiago, Chile in January and to Marrakesh via Mexico City. Following the Chinese round in Sanya, teams then return to Europe in Rome and Paris.

The second part of the Asian leg will see FE visit two new countries. Seoul, South Korea will stage its first-ever event on a circuit in and around the 1988 Summer Olympics stadium. Just a month later, Jakarta in Indonesia will play host to the 10th championship round.

Races in Berlin, New York City will follow before London returns to host the season finale after a four-year absence. A spectacular indoor/outdoor circuit in the ExCel exhibition centre will cap off the season with yet another double-header.

Jean-Eric Vergne will be looking to defend his championship for a second time, but the Frenchman's rivals at Audi, Nissan and BMW will, without question, try and make this feat as difficult as possible.

Last year, nine different drivers were able to win a race and we wouldn't be surprised if FE was able to replicate it this season.

Written by Tobias Bluhm.