19 questions for 2019: Can F1 stars mount a challenge?

Motorsport Week's team of writers got together to discuss what they believe will be the big questions for the 2019 motorsport season, covering all the major series from Formula 1 to IndyCar, WEC to DTM and everything in-between. We'll be posting one each day and today we ask...

2/19: Can Formula 1 stars mount a challenge?

Formula E’s next generation is no longer under anticipation. It is underway. For the Season Five grid, we see the arrival of a number of faces from F1 turn their hand to electric racing, with the Felipe Massa, Stoffel Vandoorne and Pascal Wehrlein enlisting to embark on the exciting new adventure, pairing up with Venturi, HWA Racelab and Mahindra respectively.

With Formula E seeing a total reformation for the 2018/19 campaign, arguably, the arrival of the likes of Massa, Vandoorne and Wehrlein to the championship could not come at a better time, with all drivers getting used to the series’ new formula of racing, characterised by the removal of pit stops and the implementation of timed racing, with this new recipe gaining flavour through the all-new Attack Mode system, which, as we saw in the province of Ad Diryah, spiced up the racing in what was a near-impossible to predict battle in the desert.

While the race in Ad Diriyah was far from a slouch in comparison to Formula E’s previous 45 races, the results were arguably far from representative. A lack of practice time due to rain and the eventual reformatting of qualifying to cater for the series’ policy of all of its racing being conducted on one day leading to a jumbled up starting grid while a number of technical gremlins, miscommunications and minor errors mixed up the order even further.

Of FE’s ex-F1 arrivals, none finished inside the points, with Massa falling victim to a multitude of penalties while a technical issue for Vandoorne relegated the Belgian to the back. As for Wehrlein, his maiden appearance is set for Morocco this coming weekend.

Can these three faces mount a challenge in Formula E though? In time, yes. Immediately, however? Not just yet. With time, the trio can challenge Formula E’s frontrunners, especially in the case of the latter with Jerome d’Ambrosio displaying the pace of the M5Electro by delivering Mahindra with an exceptional podium in the first race of the season.

For the other two, more time may be needed, with both Venturi and HWA appearing to be a distance from the sharp end of the field, with a plethora of issues hampering the weekends of both teams in Saudi Arabia. In the event of a roller coaster race, a surprise win could be on the cards.