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SEASON REVIEW: Andretti Haunted by Self-Inflicted Issues

Andretti faced widespread self-inflicted errors over its disastrous Formula E season…

Photo: Formula E

Andretti’s Season Four campaign was more or less a mirror of its disappointing third season with the American team ultimately finishing last in the teams’ standings.

A host of largely self-inflicted errors and the hangover of its planned ATEC-01 from 2015-16 resulted in a paltry haul of just 24 points, despite the team’s constituent ingredients looking good at the start of the season.

Confusion over its second driver at the beginning of the season largely set the tone for a disorderly campaign.

BMW works drivers Tom Blomqvist and Alexander Sims ran at the pre-season test in Valencia in what was assumed to be a shoot out for the drive, but Kamui Kobayashi was later offered the seat for one race only.

This was largely to satisfy the whims of Andretti’s title sponsor, Japanese insurance company MS&AD, but Kobayashi came away from Hong Kong with no points, while teammate Antonio Felix da Costa registered a hard-fought sixth-place finish.

This Race 1 result was to be the highlight of both Felix da Costa and Andretti’s seasons.

The team has some good people in its ranks and so, with BMW getting more involved this season, more was expected from the operation.

Even team principal Roger Griffiths, an engaging, adept and professional engineering manager who has been in the industry for over two decades, was unable to stem the tide of disappointment that the team faced.

The pressure that had formed and escalated since the ambitious and doomed ATEC-01 project of Season Two came back to haunt Andretti as others developed and stretched away, putting even a respectable midfield position well out of reach.

The absence of a bespoke powertrain for its 2015-16 project meant that Andretti was forced to run a slightly modified ‘generic’ Season One powertrain with the ATEC-01 unable to be completed sufficiently and reliably prior to homologation.

Results became hard to come by when a partnership with Magneti Marelli kicked in for 2016-17, while the knowledge of an incoming BMW deal for 2018-19 meant that little advancement was made prior to Season Four.

The little development that did take place largely involved software and silicon carbide inverters but this was countered by the weight of the powertrain, which retained its bevel gears and bulky casing.

The team did enjoy flashes of promise, most notably in Mexico City when Felix da Costa qualified second but was then penalised for being slightly underweight.

He put in one of his best laps of the season in qualifying for the Paris E-Prix, placing his car fifth on the grid, before issues in the race forced him to retire.

The Portuguese driver can be a formidable force in the all-electric championship but memories of his giant-killing acts with Team Aguri in the first two seasons are now growing faint.

Andretti Made “Life Difficult” for Itself

Blomqvist found himself sacrificed for Stephane Sarrazin after Paris for the final races of the season.

The Frenchman didn’t produce the results expected of him, and the team’s decision to swap drivers, which was a somewhat desperate move not to finish last in the standings, proved unsuccessful.

Griffiths, who stays as part of the new-look BMW entry for the upcoming season, says the team ultimately had only itself to blame for a poor showing in 2017-18.

“The pace was in the car, we know this and we know that Antonio is a capable driver,” said Griffiths.

“It is more than just the car and more than just Antonio, it is across the board that we need to be operating at the highest level.

“If you don’t achieve those standards then you make life difficult for yourself.”

Felix da Costa looks set to remain with the team for a third season, while either Bruno Spengler or a return for Blomqvist could be on the cards for the other car.

Sims’ fading relationship with the program and his lack of recent appearances remains something of a mystery, meanwhile.

It will be fascinating to follow the BMW and Andretti association in Season Five as the team transforms into a new force and enters as a fully-fledged BMW program.

Photo: Formula E

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for Motorsport.com from 2014-17. Contact Sam

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Edward Hunter

    August 14, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    It was actually after Paris that Blomqvist was replaced by Sarrazin, not Rome as you state in the article.

  2. Sam Smith

    August 15, 2018 at 4:23 am

    Thanks Edward. Now rectified.

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