Teams are taking a risk in not having reserve drivers at some race events, according to two high-profile ABB FIA Formula E Championship senior team figures.
Only two teams – HWA Racelab and BMW i Andretti Motorsport – had potential reserve drivers on-site in Santiago earlier this month, with Daniel Juncadella and Bruno Spengler available to cover any last-minute incidents befalling each of their teams’ respective race drivers.
It remains common practice in Formula 1, and some other championships, for each team to have an on-site reserve driver in case of an illness or accident for a regular driver.
With Formula E events typically held over a single day, and often far away from most teams’ bases in Europe, there would be no time for teams to react and replace a driver at short notice from afar.
A precedent for emergency cover has existed twice before in Formula E.
In 2016, Oliver Rowland was a late replacement for Nick Heidfeld who needed extra time to recover from a wrist injury sustained at the Putrajaya E-Prix.
More recently, Ma Qing Hua was drafted into Oliver Turvey’s cockpit at NIO when the British driver broke a bone in his finger in a practice accident in New York last July.
“We don’t have a formal reserve driver here [in Santiago], so there’s an element of risk involved at the big, flyaway races, which you’re not able to fly a reserve driver in to, but we have basically actively decided on few occasions to take that risk,” head of Audi Sport Dieter Gass told e-racing365.
Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler has Nico Mueller on hand is its reserve driver, and all teams now formally employ one.
Despite this, most entrants are electing to use their reserve drivers at their bases for testing on the in-the-loop simulators, before, during and after race events.
“Nico has other tasks as well with the DTM program, with running the simulator and he’s very important for us on the simulator,” said Gass.
“We have to take the decision between having him on the race weekend, for 99 percent of the cases not doing anything or having him actually working on a program to support the team from the sim.”
HWA Racelab’s Ulrich Fritz largely agreed with Gass that it was a risk not to travel with a reserve driver in place, but his team is one that has decided to fly its backup driver out to flyaway races.
“The likelihood of something going wrong for a driver is not high but on the other hand we are putting so much effort in to this program why take the risk,” Fritz told e-racing365.
“For us we are also learning so much this year that it is valuable to have Dani here so I want to have someone in the car so we do not lose any mileage or data.”