ABB FIA Formula E 2018/2019 Pre-season Testing
Circuito de Ricardo Tormo, Valencia 16 – 19 October 2018
This year I again went to check out Formula E, the new generation cars and the drivers who will participate in the forthcoming fifth season which starts on 15 December 2018 at Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia and finishes on 14 July in New York, USA. The series will complete mainly on city street circuits and will visit twelve countries around the world.
In attendance amongst others was the CEO of Formula E, Alejandro Agag – previously a Spanish businessman and former politician. Prior to Formula E he obtained the GP2 team Barwa Addax from Adrian Campos (CEO of Campos Racing and ex-Formula One driver) and won the championship in 2008. He is also good friends with Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone.
So what did I think of what I saw and heard at Valencia? Firstly let me tell you a little about the new generation Formula E car. It is fully homologated by the FIA regarding all safety features, including the car being fitted with the ‘halo’ cockpit protection. The power has been increased to a maximum of 250kW, or the equivalent of 335 bhp. It has a maximum speed of 280 kph but on the street circuits those speeds will definitely not be achieved.
This year the car has an all new battery supplied by McLaren Applied Technologies and should be capable of lasting race distance and the drivers not now having to change into another car. However, the race simulation at Valencia saw a few cars not make the distance for various reasons.
You are now probably thinking: well, it all sounds good and Tony has changed his mind regarding this new form of electric car racing. You could not be more wrong! Racing drivers racing each other I agree will happen, it is the nature of the beast. If you put these guys on a track or in electric go-karts or pedal cycles they would want to see who was the fastest. Also these new generation cars are faster than the previous cars. In Valencia the cars were reaching speeds of 200 kph on the straight before the chicane.
What I do not like is the FIA and Formula E organizers pretending the sport is ‘Green’ and sustainable, with lower toxic emissions. Let me explain why I disagree and we have the photographs and information.
Formula E is having so much money invested in it by manufacturers of cars and other forms of electrical components. They all want the financial benefits that they hope will come from it. I’m talking about the likes of Nissan, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, BMW, Renault, Mahindra, ABB and many more.
What I did see in Valencia were nine diesel generators, each with a 3,000 litre fuel tank. I asked and was told by one of the engineers that each generator used around 2,000 litres a day (it is worth noting that the diesel generators produced 1.6 megawatts of electricity, about enough to run a small town, eh). In addition the organizers had to run large cables to each garage, with distribution boxes etc.. Each FIA Formula E race held will have diesel generators to help provide sufficient electricity. The reason being that the organizers cannot rely on local electric supply and should that supply fail then there would be no race.
We are being told that Formula E is environmentally friendly and I quote, “Sustainability – We are fighting climate change by offering electric vehicles as a solution to air pollution”. Who’s kidding who? This is a testing ground for all the manufacturers and companies involved in new technologies and nothing to do with air pollution (Cyril agrees: for sure, it’s been one massive marketing exercise so far, quite populist as well, a bit like trying to solve poverty by taking away from the rich and giving to the poor, not gonna work, they’re trying to dress it up a bit, get the right people involved, etc., I suppose the noise they make on social media is louder than their machines; I wouldn’t go vegan or drive electric car, not me, no way! Also, what’s with the calendar? It’s so second-rate, lousy tracks, no memorable corners or anything like that, they even managed to totally and 120% ruin Monaco by running it in the deformed/unfinished configuration, the wrong one! I can’t relate to it, Dario Franchitti’s Scottish accent might as well be the best part about FE, McNish ain’t bad either! Luring Kimi from F1 is their only hope for survival, that’s what I’m saying!).
Formula E has its own television production team – I kid you not. They transport all their equipment to each race event. It was explained to me that all of the ‘pods’ that contain all sorts of electronics and production equipment fit into the airplanes that transport them to each race event. I think I counted sixteen pods under one of the large waterproof structures housing them but there was one other. In addition over 130 employees travel to each event.
What about new drivers who will be participating in the forthcoming 2018/2019 Formula E season. Felipe Massa, Stoffel Vandoorne, Gary Paffett are confirmed and will be joining the likes of Lucas di Grassi, Sebastien Buemi, Nelson Piquet Jnr, and many others.
I was fortunate to be able to talk to Paffett, Massa, Vandoorne and Pedro de la Rosa so a big thank you to them. In addition I put a couple of questions to Sam Bird and Lucas di Grassi.
I asked Sam: ‘What is the new generation car like compared to last year’s?’ Sam replied: ‘Much better, faster, more technical and not thrown together like the last car was.’
‘Sam, last year you had a moment here with the improvised chicane, the layout this year is different, is it better, more representative of what you will encounter at one of the circuits you race at?’ Sam replied: ‘No, it’s still rather awful, I don’t like it at all.’
Later I caught up with di Grassi. ‘Lucas, are you happy with the new car?’ He replied: ‘Yes, it is much better, got a few things to sort out and understand but yeah better.’
I then asked: ‘What are your thoughts on Formula One today, do you miss it?’ He replied: ‘It’s pretty dull, isn’t it. If you’re not in the top three teams, then you might as well not be there. It’s not fun being five seconds off the pace like I was, at least here it’s much closer racing.’
I must give a big thank you to the organizers of the FIA Formula E Championship for allowing iberianmph.com to see first-hand the teams, cars and drivers at work. A very professional operation and well presented.
However, I hope that my next experience will be EuroNascar, Historic Formula One or any motor sport event that has those loud, smelly and fast race cars. Forever a ‘petrol head’.