The ABB FIA Formula E Championship is generating and enthusing more fans than ever. The previous races of the fifth season were excellent advertisements for the world’s most modern motorsport, and with it the voestalpine European Races. Most significantly, this championship has also succeeded in attracting fans with no demonstrable interest in motorsport to date. So for all those newcomers, here are a few answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Formula E.
What is Formula E?
The ABB FIA Formula E Championship is the brainchild of Spanish businessman Alejandro Agag. Working in Formula One, his tasks included acquiring sponsors. Once he had a customer who, for ecological and noise reduction reasons, no longer wished to advertise in Formula One, realizing this had ceased to be consistent with his company’s image. That encouraged Agag to think about establishing a race series which placed greater value on promising drive alternatives and sustainability. A few years later he convinced Jean Todt, President of the world motorsport federation FIA, that his idea had merit, and the first race in this new championship was run in Beijing, on September 13, 2014.
Formula E’s vision and objectives
At Formula E, they have integrated a sustainability mind-set into every action they take as they aspire to accelerate change towards an electric future, one race and one city at a time. Through the championship, Formula E aims to raise awareness and inspire change in sustainable practices, contributing to reducing global emissions and their impact on the environment.
What is the key characteristic of Formula E?
Formula E has a single chassis type which all the teams must use. With the start of the 2018/19 season, FE18 Spark Racing Technology, better known as Gen2, replaced the Sport SRT_01E which had been used for the first four years. In the first year of Formula E the cars also raced with identical powertrains. However, since the second year of the championship, registered manufacturers have been permitted to develop their own e-motors, inverters, transmissions, rear suspension, and software. Currently nine of the 11 teams drive with their own specially designed powertrains.Antriebsstrang an.
Is the battery also a uniform component?
Yes. The battery is a uniform component developed in cooperation between McLaren Applied Technologies, Sony, and Lucid Motors. The battery stores a total of 54 kWh of power of which the drivers have 52 kWh available during the race (analogue to the 28 kWh of useable power in the uniform Williams Advanced Engineering battery used in the first four seasons).
What are the major differences between Formula E and Formula One?
The primary difference is naturally the powertrain. Formula One uses six-cylinder hybrid engines, while Formula E exclusively uses electric drives. Formula One cars have a significantly higher maximum speed, and faster curve speeds. But when it comes to acceleration, the two race cars are already on a par, speeding from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds. However, there is one major difference: Formula One teams build their cars themselves; in Formula E identical cars are manufactured and made available to the teams. This guarantees that the teams compete on a much more level playing field. The proof: seven different teams have won the first seven E-Prix of the season.
Who takes pole position in a Formula E race, and why?
Races run on circuits are organized as follows: all the cars simultaneously complete a certain number of rounds of a closed circuit, with a single line serving as the start and finish. The cars usually start in a slightly staggered arrangement, in rows of two. Consequently, there is a huge advantage in starting as far to the front as possible, especially on a tight city circuit. For that reason, drivers need to be as fast as possible during the separate qualification training in which a single lap is timed. Usually it’s the driver with the fastest qualifying time who starts in pole position, with the second fastest a few meters behind them, on the other side of the asphalt lane. In Formula E the standard qualification format has been slightly modified: the drivers are first divided into different qualifying groups, driving the qualification training according to a fixed starting sequence. They have six minutes to drive. Afterwards, the five fastest drivers compete again in a “Super Pole”, racing to secure starting places 1 to 6. In this round, the times from the first part of the qualification training are ignored. The fastest driver in this group gets to start the race from the Julius Bär pole position, as well as being awarded three championship points.
How long does a race last?
This season heralds a new race format: the race is run over 45 minutes, and when the leading car crosses the start and finishing line they drive one more lap. This system is particularly challenging for strategists: no one can precisely predict how many laps will be completed in total, and therefore the energy management must be calculated with extreme precision, and adapted to the conditions and events during the race (rain, safety car phases, etc.).
Are there pit stops?
During the first four seasons the drivers had to change cars because the drive batteries didn’t have sufficient capacity to cover an entire race distance. From this season onwards this is now possible, and every driver can now compete without needing a pit stop. But if there is a technical defect which requires repairs to be undertaken, the car can be driven into a special side lane–the pit–where minor repairs can be made. As a rule, and in contrast to other race series, this rarely happens in Formula E.
What is the Formula E race format? Are there special rules?
The ABB Formula E Championship races include several very innovative modules which generate more race action, and are particularly familiar to younger generations of viewers accustomed to video games. They include, for example, a Fanboost. Six days before the race and up to 15 minutes before the start, fans can select their favorite driver. The five drivers who have been chosen by fans to qualify for the prized Fanboost are awarded a substantial boost of additional power which they can apply during a five second window in the second half of the race. It’s ideal for an important overtaking maneuver, for example. This year also features an Attack Mode. In order to launch the Attack Mode the driver must load their race car by diverging from the racing line to drive through the activation zone where they can collect an additional 25 kW of power. Drivers who secure the additional power–that means speed–have a couple of laps in which to use this power and drive in a more offensive manner. This gives them the chance to more easily overtake a few of the cars in front of them. Viewers can spot the race cars currently in Attack Mode because their Halo systems (security bar over the cockpit) are illuminated.
What makes the series special for fans? What happens during a race weekend?
A unique feature for fans is the ability to directly influence the outcome of race via the Fanboost. The event itself is designed for the benefit of the public: the circuits are usually located in city centers and are easily accessible, while before and after the race attractions and activities focusing on e-mobility and the technology of the future are available for the whole family. There is also very close contact with the drivers: from autograph hours to the E-race itself, there are many ways in which the stars are directly involved.
Are the drivers professionals, and what did they do before Formula E was invented?
The drivers in Formula E are some of the best in the world. They started driving in karts as youngsters, and, year for year, have usually been among the best of their generation worldwide. Only in Formula One will you find some race drivers who are better. However, in contrast to Formula One you can’t “buy your way in” to Formula E. That means all 22 drivers currently on the Formula E circuit were selected purely on the basis of sporting performance. As a result, the overall quality is simply unique. All the drivers are total professionals, with several coming from Formula One. When time allows, some also drive in other series, usually the World Endurance Championship WEC (e.g., 24 h Le Mans), or in the DTM, the German Touring Car Masters.
What can a driver do to be faster than their rivals?
The team can make a difference through preparation. Although the cars themselves are the same, the teams use their own drives, or manufacturers’ drives. It’s also possible to make adjust the set up to enhance performance. The driver, in turn, must use the simulator in order to be well prepared for each circuit. During the race itself, the key features which differentiate the drivers are the line driven, behavior during duels, the feeling for how a situation or the circuit develops, and the tires. Energy management is also vital. The way the driver brakes, steers, and accelerates, as well as exactly where they do this, helps determine not only speed, but also power consumption. The aim is to use as little energy as possible while driving as fast as possible.
Why doesn’t Formula E drive on proper circuits like the other race series?
Historically, and at the beginning of the series in particular, it was difficult to build a race car for standard racetracks, because in order to recuperate as much energy as possible from braking you need lots of tight curves in which the drivers break often and sharply. This rarely happens on a racetrack with fast curves. The founder of the series, Alejandro Agag, quickly realized that the ideal location for a Formula E race was, in any case, in the city. This is because tightly bending circuits are good for recuperating energy, and also because the idea behind Formula E is to drive in city centers, rather than round circuits somewhere out in the countryside. As the huge potential for electric vehicles primarily lies in cities, and this is a development cities are encouraging, city racing is a good fit.
Have any women driven in the races?
Yes. We have tried to support women in Formula E right from the start. To date Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro (4 races), Italian Michela Cerruti (4), and Englishwoman Katrin Legge (2) have all been at the start. Silvestro is currently also the reserve driver in the Venturi team– the team in which ex-Formula One test driver Susie Wolff is now boss. Edo Mortara’s win in Hong Kong 2019 was the first in the history of top class racing in which a women was in charge of the winning team.
Where are the cars built?
Spark Technology and Dallara (an Italian chassis manufacturer) build the cars together and make them available to the teams.
What can the teams influence, which elements are predetermined?
The teams are permitted to develop the e-motor, inverter, transmission, rear suspension, and software for the registered manufacturer. In addition, for each race they can jointly agree on a race strategy which is primarily determined by the layout of the particular circuit, the sequence and number of curves, braking zones, straights, as well as the nature of the asphalt surface.