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SMITH: Formula E’s Milestone Test Explained

Sam Smith takes a look at the bigger picture of last week’s first group manufacturer test…

Photo: Mahindra Racing

Unlike most other global series, the ABB FIA Formula E Championship finds itself in the peculiar and complicated position of starting a new campaign while only halfway through an existing one.

The momentum of the Season Five Formula E car is undeniable in all senses of the word. It has captured hearts, but can it capture minds too?

This was the overriding feeling of the teams as they decamped to the Monteblanco Circuit near Seville, Spain, earlier this week.

A two-day first manufacturer group test saw the Season Five combatants feel their way around the new FIA-inspired and delivered hardware.

First, a few caveats.

The test was conducted in utmost secrecy, and despite this being very frustrating for the media and fans alike, it was a sensible stance from the FIA while the new car was explored and further developed.

Growing up in public can often be awkward for a race car.

Such was the newness of the design and its component parts that most of the teams were finishing off the build of their cars as the test got underway on Monday morning.

Those not familiar with new car testing will find it hard to envisage just how slow, tiresome and staccato these tests can often be, so perhaps the waiting world was tossed a favor by not being present.

You can read all about some of the details of the test here and here but the upshot of the two days running is that a genuine air of positivity is being exuded by the drivers that conducted the laps this week.

E-racing365 spoke to some of them and while we agreed not to quote any on the record, what was articulated was that the cars felt instantly quicker and had much more pull on acceleration.

“By Gen-3 [in 2021] the Formula E cars will be as quick away from the lights as Formula 1 cars,” said one of the drivers present at least week’s test.

The old moan about the cars looking slow or cumbersome is about to be made mostly obsolete with the new car.

In fact, as discussed previously, the real challenge is going to be making sure there are no big pre-race shunts.

This is because with only one car now at their disposal, the teams will have reduced time to rebuild, patch-up and fix them before the lights go out.

There is also the topic of the suitability of some of the tracks Formula E goes to.

Hong Kong has looked at extending its track but it remains unclear if this can be done for the spring of 2019 when it is likely to host its third edition.

So overall what does the first group test from last week tell us, especially in a ‘bigger picture’ sense? Very little, of course.

This is mainly because the car is so new, so fresh. One of the primary objectives is to rack up the miles, do the long runs to see what power range is comfortable for races and ensure that maximum reliability can be cross-referenced with energy targets.

The FIA is set to unveil details of the race formats and particulars of power limits this summer, until then the teams have to concentrate on the basics before the real hardcore development testing really begins.

Early thoughts though indicate a good performance improvement, better cooling of the powertrain and battery and no issues with cockpit vision around the halo and wrap-around front bodywork.

Testing threw up some issues, it always does. After all, you wouldn’t make a blockbuster movie without auditioning the leading actors first, would you?

This was one of the reasons why there was largely a ‘nil by mouth’ strategy from the FIA at the first test last week.

More info, films, photographs and insight will come further down the line as the FIA and Formula E devises plots and strategies to ensure the car attracts and inspires in equal measure.

Make no mistake about it, this is one of the most important racing cars to be conceived in recent times. It has to perform way beyond the original Formula E car and it has to stir the mind as well as the soul.

The reason it has to do this is to nourish new generations of race fans with something fresh, feisty and fearless.

The pioneering spirit of Formula E is over. The consolidation of it as a strong and vital pillar of global motorsport’s architecture now has to be the next important phase.

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

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Alex Lamas

    March 31, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    This is so exciting, it’s like seeing John Cooper’s rear engine formula car for the first time. Question is, if performance is increased and the starts are a quick as F1, won’t the track have to evolve too? What will that mean for tight circuits like Hong Kong and New York? How flexible is FE to altering or finding new venues in the same cities.? I would think both Hong Kong and New York would be extremely important too the FE calendar since they are two of the most international cities in the world. Punta del Este was great but who goes there? We need FE in London, Rome, Paris Hong Kong and New York! Those should be the anchor cities while places like Punta del Este, Santiago, Marrakesh, and Zurich should be jewel destinations that could change from time to time. Incidentally, they really have to get back to London.

    • Hernan D'Andrea

      April 4, 2018 at 5:12 pm

      Eventually I would also like to see the cars running in a traditional circuit from time to time (Silverstone, Monza, etc.).

  2. Yiannis Gavelas

    April 1, 2018 at 8:20 am

    I really hope all teams will paint the car’s floor black – or generally paint it a different (deeper) color comparing to main body!
    Otherwise it will look like too huge!!!

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