Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Formula E - season finale review

Mrs F and I went to the very last Formula E race in Battersea Park on Sunday.

Formula E is a totally electronic racing car series.  This has been its inaugural year.  There is some interesting banter going on around it involving such lumineries as Christian Horner the main man at Red Bull Formula 1.  The fact that he is having to make derogatory comments about it as a series, trying to compare it to a lower formula than F1 shows it has made some sort of significant mark in its first year. 

A quick summary from my point of view about Formula E...

The good....

The season runs Oct to Jun so means some of the races are over the "winter" period when most other series like F1, Indy Racing League etc. are not running.
The promotion and development of electric vehicle technology can only be good.
The races run in city locations - for many who are not die hard fans of motorsport going to a city and taking in the race as well as other attractions is a new approach to traipsing to some airfield in the middle of nowhere where there is nothing else but the race venue.
Close racing - possibly due to this year everyone having exactly the same machinery (that is planned to change in time)
A great driver line-up.  Getting into F1 is hard, staying there harder when so many are desperate to get in as well.  So most races have had a majority of recent F1 refugees and you can't deny quality like ex F1 race winners like Trulli and Heildfelt.
Completely new tactics about power management can influence races greatly
Cheap to watch
All the practice, qualification and race action is all on the one day.
Good TV coverage - all races shown live on ITV4 (better than F1 on free to air services in the UK)

The bad

The battery only lasts half of the approx 45 min race distance.  The drivers have to stop and change car, whilst this pit stop spices up the races a lot it seems a glaring issue with the technology if you wanted to consider it for a road car.
Driver swaps - like IRL and other series like A1GP in the past some teams have had too many drivers coming and going.
Single make car - I like to see development, I have the same issue with all one make series.  They have close racing but little car development obviously.  I like both... I'm greedy!

That's my view - I like it as a championship.  The first race back in Oct in China ended in a spectacular final corner crash as Heidfelt who'd managed his power consumption better tried to pass a slow Nicolas Prost.  (Oh yes and there are three drivers with the names Senna (nephew), Piquet (son) and Prost (son) - so to hear Senna is closing on Prost is still alive and well in motorsport.

We took the train up to Victoria and the four min hop to Battersea Park. The park was a few yards from the station - see my comments above about accessibility of the races.  Somewhat easier than getting to Silverstone!  And the cost - we'd only  bought the cheapest general access tickets but were right trackside by the entry to the last chicane, we could see them coming along the last part of a long flat out left hander and then into the heavy braking zone.  I'd figure from the layout it'd be a potential overtaking spot that was reinforced with watching the Saturday race on the tv when Jean Eric Vergne used it for one of the best overtakes of that race.  Clearly others reviewed his tactic for Sunday.  So tickets were under £20 each.  For any motorsport that is a total bargain.

The race was terrific.  The back story is that going into the last weekend Nelson Piquet jr was ahead in the points and favourite but 5 others mathmatically had a chance.  Realistically that was really only 2 others, Sebastian Buemi and Lucas Di Grassi (all three F1 refugees).  Saturday Piquet didn't qualify well, Buemi landed poll (worth 3 points in this championship, something I think F1 should adopt).  So suddenly all the weight of expectation was shifting.  After Saturday's race Piquet had the lead by a mere 5 points. 

Sunday qualifying started at 12 noon under typically London leaden grey skies.  Not good for Piquet he was in the third group to go out.  And indeed with a red flag in group two delaying things the rain, although the that heavy or constant did really hamper the third group in particular and now Piquet had a mountain to climb from 16th on the grid with Buemi in 6th.  Frankly on the very tight temporary circuit I think most people just expected that the title was handed to Buemi.  But not so.  Piquet passed several cars on the first couple of laps and then once changed to his second car there was more good fortune.  Buemi span on cold tyres on his out lap and was passed by Senna putting him 6th on the road.  Try as he might be couldn't repass the clever Brazillian, Senna positioned his car just right into the chicane in front of us so Buemi couldn't get down his right hand side.   Meanwhile Piquet was handed more good luck with a safety car bunching the cars up for a last sprint to the line.  His team mate easily gave way and he passed Salvador Duran into turn 14 right in front of us - see my careful analysis of the best place to stand paid off!   So suddenly Piquet was running 8th on the road and with neither him or Buemi looking likely to get the 2 points for fastest lap now everyone was bottled back up in traffic he was 1 point ahead in the championship.  And so it stayed to the line.  Even a large penalty for using too much power dished out to Sarrazin on the slowing down lap robbing him of his first victory had any effect, Buemi and Piquet both moved up one place and still Piquet had that crucial single point advantage.

I've heard some people complaining that it is a "boring" formula running on "Mickey Mouse" tracks that mean you can't get decent racing.  Well that certainly wasn't the case on the last race.  16th to 7th was a stunning drive my Piquet and he really did deserve the title with Buemi no doubt left really regretting that spin on the cold tyres.

Next year allows manufacturers to enter the series to start developing their own powertrains - Renault who had been involved in the initial development has announced it will develop a new version exclusively for the e.dams team.  That will add some additional spice to a good series already.

1 comment:

  1. I saw a clip of this on one of the racing shows on the tele the other day. Very interesting.