Several Formula E teams and drivers have expressed concern on testing and development of the new Season Five car by drivers affiliated with both Audi and Porsche.
As revealed by e-racing365, Porsche GT factory driver Frederic Makowiecki recently took to the wheel of the new Spark SRT05e prototype, having completed two days of running at the Guadix testing facility in Spain.
Factory Audi driver Benoit Treluyer and former Audi DTM racer Adrien Tambay have also tested the car in recent weeks.
Makowiecki, who currently drives in the FIA World Endurance Championship for the works Porsche GT team, first conducted Formula E testing in March 2014 at Ladoux, a test facility owned by Michelin, and also at the Issoire testing facility in France. He has tested for Michelin on a variety of projects for the last 12 years.
E-racing365 has learned Makowiecki attended the test at the request of Michelin with specific remits on defining and testing the new-generation car, which is believed to be close to completion.
It’s understood he left the test on the final day when non-tire development work was carried out on the car.
“We try to do a certain amount of tire development testing, notably with Spark,” a Michelin spokesperson told e-racing365.
“Frederic is a driver we use amongst others, as does Spark. We do not have a specific dedicated Michelin test driver on this program; we use several.”
Some competitors have questioned the true independence of the tests and have suggested that Porsche and Audi could have gained an advantage from knowledge accrued through the running.
Porsche has already accelerated its Formula E learning by embedding engineers at the Dragon Racing team where factory driver Neel Jani will race in Season Four.
While some teams were not willing to go on the record with comments about the tests, DS Performance Director Xavier Mestelan-Pinon had some reservations.
“If the development drivers are working for current or future competitors, we would not consider them as independent,” he said.
“We have not heard about this [Makowiecki test] before.
“Yes, we trust Spark and the FIA to make sure experienced and independent development drivers are helping developing the S5 chassis.”
Several drivers are known to have private doubts about a factory driver testing the car without teams’ prior knowledge.
“I’m surprised too by not choosing a neutral driver,” reigning Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi said. “Although it is not a big issue as the powertrain is not relevant. It could be ok if all data is shared.”
Di Grassi, who was an early proponent of Formula E and started his role in the championship as an official employee of Formula E Holdings Ltd. back in 2013, is often erroneously credited with developing the original car in race configuration.
“A lot of people think I tested this current car but that is not true,” he said. “I never did one lap in race configuration. All tests were conducted by neutral drivers.”
Current Formula Two driver Nyck De Vries and GT driver Antoine Leclerc did the majority of the chassis and powertrain development work in 2014 for the first Formula E car, while veteran racers Emmanuel Collard and Jean-Philippe Belloc undertook tire development along with Makowiekci.
Renault e.dams driver Nicolas Prost, however, believes that Makowiecki testing was not a significant compromise for independent integrity as Season Five preparations ramp up.
“In my opinion it is not so important,” he said. “In the end there is very little you can learn from such tests.
“When it was announced that Williams would work with Jaguar everyone raised their eyebrows, but in the end it did not seem to give an unfair advantage.
“Fred is a GT driver, very unlikely to end up being a Formula E Porsche driver. In the end I think it is also important that they do the testing with top drivers, and every top driver around is going to have some sort of link with a Formula E team.
“But for sure if he does every single test then it will be a bit strange.”