Competing in a world championship is very demanding, both for the drivers and for the machines, but perhaps the Formula E be a little more for the complexity of its format. In this contest it is not enough to be the fastest driver, you need a great ability to manage the race, energy consumption, range, overtaking, traffic, Attack Mode ... and much more.
Formula E has not only established itself on the world sports scene, it has also earned on its own merits the coveted status of the World Championship of the International Automobile Federation.
It is a recognition for a reference category that already has six seasons of history and whose technical and sporting peculiarities make it very special. In addition, it is a championship focused on sustainability, both environmental and budgetary, and on entertainment.
Its clear objective is to serve as a spearhead in electrified mobility research. This is how he explains it Jamie Reigle, Managing Director of Formula E: “Motorsport is very different in a couple of fundamental ways. The most important thing is that it has always had some link with the industry and with the end consumer. The main purpose of Formula E is to address climate change through electric vehicles and to use the power of sport to inspire consumers to take action ”.
“For us, competition exists to help us build better cars for road use”, Add Martin Fuchtner, Technical Director of the Formula E Project. “With this event, exactly the same thing happens: it is the best laboratory to continue advancing in our electrification strategy. Our mission is to win races, but we are also pursuing a smooth transition to series production. "
These are the five factors that make Formula E a particularly difficult category for drivers and teams.
MAXIMUM EQUALITY BETWEEN TEAMS
When Formula E was launched, all teams had exactly the same tools: car, engine, batteries, and so on. In this framework of equality, the skill of the driver at the wheel and the technical ability to set-up the team to evolve and fight for milliseconds commanded.
This contest has been evolving every year by leaps and bounds and has become the greatest exponent of the technology and development of the electric car, which is now popular in the streets to protect the environment and air quality in cities. At the moment, only chassis and batteries are common to all equipment, that can develop their own motors, converters and shafts. Of course, the maximum power is the same for all: 340 CV (250 kW) in classification mode, 270 CV (200 kW) in stroke, in 320 CV (235 kW) in attack mode and 340 CV (250 kW) with Fanboost.
The technical development will increase from next year, with the arrival of the new Gen3 cars. For Fritz enzinger, Vice President of Porsche motorsport, “The new generation of Gen3 single-seaters opens another chapter in the Formula E success story and we want to be part of it. With our entry into 2019 we show a clear commitment to Formula E, which offers the most competitive environment to advance the development of high-performance vehicles, with a focus on respect for the environment, energy efficiency and sustainability. It is important to us that the DNA of Formula E is preserved, which has made the championship so successful. At the same time, we see potential to take Formula E to the next level from a sporting and technological point of view. ”
In Formula E there are twelve teams and twenty-four cars, with as many pilots at the wheel; none of them dominate the category at will and almost any of them are candidates for an E-Prix victory. In the still short history of the category there have been five different champions and no less than twenty drivers have climbed to the top of the podium.
THE COMPLEXITY OF PILOTING A FORMULA E
The Formula E driver roster says it all. Many of them have experience in F1 and practically all of them boast an enviable track record, with several international titles in all kinds of disciplines. In order to Andre Lotterer, official Porsche driver, “The future is electric and Formula E is the sporting part of that future. Here, the races are more difficult, especially because of the spectacular overtaking on the narrow urban circuits ”.
In Formula E everyone fights for victory and fights for milliseconds. The first battle is qualifying: getting a good starting position is key, because overtaking is difficult on narrow urban circuits and entails an extra expenditure of energy.
There are many issues to manage in the race. Piloting cannot focus solely on sheer speed. “Here it is not enough to be able to drive fast. There are more things at stake. If you always drive to the limit, you will only cover 70% of the distance of the race ", ensures Pascal Wehrlein, official Porsche driver, DTM winner and with 39 Formula 1 races experience.
Driver and team must manage the race pace to make the most of the available energy and be able to reach the finish line. And all this, with constant fights, the defense or attack of positions and the different strategies of the rivals.
As well energy regeneration must be taken into account that is achieved in deceleration and braking. Regenerating a lot of energy taking advantage of the circumstances of the race can be a decisive plus in the final phase of the test. And you also have to know how to play with the tools and obligations that the competition imposes, such as the Attack Mode and fan boost. The first is an obligatory passage through an area that takes you out of the way to give you an extra 50 kW of power for four minutes. The second allows you to enjoy that same injection of power for a few seconds, thanks to the fact that your fans have chosen and voted for you on social networks.
Another factor that greatly complicates driving in Formula E is that it takes place on circuits where it has not been possible to train enough. This means that the cars do not have the perfect settings, hence there are so many overtaking, different lines and possible trajectories, many incidents, touches and sometimes accidents.
TECHNICAL MANAGEMENT OF ENERGY AND AUTONOMY
Energy management and efficiency are the keys to success, both in Formula E and in the series production of electric vehicles. This is where a large part of the human and technical wisdom of each team resides; the other part focuses on the motor and the inverter, which converts the direct current from the battery (800 volts, as in the standard Porsche Taycan) into alternating current to supply it to the electric motor. Research in semiconductors and algorithms of rotation of this element allow to extract a little more performance from the available energy.
The drivers do their part by applying a race pace on the track, but they have the invaluable support of the engineers from the pits. The teams calculate the ideal energy consumption at all times, at each lap and almost in each area of the circuit depending on the type of layout, curve or slope. Engineers analyze thousands of data with sophisticated computer developments, to give the driver the maximum possible energy taking into account all the conditions of the race.
CIRCUITS IN THE HEART OF CITIES
Formula E is held almost exclusively on urban circuits with the aim of bringing the public closer and bringing to their cities a motor sport that does not pollute and helps the future development of electric street vehicles.
Furthermore, due to the “secret” nature of the routes, it is not possible to design semi-permanent urban tracks in which to improve the quality of the asphalt, the slopes or the loopholes. In this way, in a Formula E circuit, the quality of the asphalt is absolutely variable, not only from one country to another, but also from one point to another on the track. Each layout reflects the paving of the streets of a city, with its differences, potholes, cracks, ups and downs.
COMPETITION WITHOUT PRIOR TESTING
Circuit drivers usually arrive at the tracks with a very clear idea of what they are going to find: they know every curve, straight, unevenness ... even every bump and even the quality changes of the asphalt. Then, together with the engineers, they fine-tune the car for that track with pinpoint settings that allow them to get the quintessence out of your car. It is something like a constant repetition to improve and achieve perfection.
In Formula E this is almost impossible. The pre-season tests -with some limitations for budgetary control reasons- are carried out on different routes, but never on the one in which they are going to run, which is secret and is built or signaled the day before the event.
Thus, the circuit is a completely unknown terrain for drivers and teams until the celebration of each E-Prix. The teams only have two free test sessions to take all the possible data and get the best set-up. Formula E drivers and engineers must be true fine-tuning artists for their car to perform well in qualifying and in the race.