Modern electric vehicles aren't very practical for endurance races due to the long charging times, but Toyota may have an alternative. Its Gazoo Racing unit has unveiled a GR H2 Racing Concept that's designed to compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours race's new hydrogen car category. The automaker isn't divulging specs, but the appeal is clear: this is an emissions-free car that can spend more time racing and less time topping up.
Toyota doesn't say if or when a race-ready GR H2 will hit the track. The machine is built for "future competition," the brand says. Don't be surprised if Toyota refines the concept before bringing it to a Le Mans race.
The company is no stranger to low- and zero-emissions motorsports. The brand has been racing a hydrogen engine Corolla in Japan's Super Taikyu Series since 2021, and its GR010 hybrid hypercar took the top two overall podium spots at last year's Le Mans. A purpose-built hydrogen car like the GR H2 is really an extension of the company's strategy.
The announcement comes at a delicate moment for Toyota. The make is shifting its focus to EVs after years of resisting the segment in favor of hybrids and hydrogen cars. At the same time, new CEO Koji Sato wants to be sure hydrogen remains a "viable option." The GR H2 may be a hint as to how Toyota tackles this dilemma: it can keep using hydrogen in categories where fast stops are important, such as racing and trucking, while courting a passenger car market that insists on EVs like the bZ4X and Lexus RZ.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/toyota-unveils-a-hydrogen-race-car-concept-built-for-le-mans-24-hours-182939823.html?src=rss
founder and CEO Dilbagh Gill is explaining the motivation behind building another all-electric racing series. Gill, who was CEO and team principal of Mahindra Racing since Formula E began, left his post last year to embark on something new. His project is one that had been “fermenting” in his mind for a year and a half. “I always thought there had to be a credible ladder in the electric racing series,” he said.
Gill explained that while traditional, combustion-engine racing has had a development path for decades, there’s nothing currently that exists between electric karting and FIA world championships like Formula E. “It’s not something we’re trying to reinvent,” he said. “We’re just trying to take the ladder the other direction.”
A major hurdle for young drivers climbing the ranks in motorsport is cost. It’s not enough for a driver to be quick, they need the financial backing as well. So, in addition to creating a new training ground for future champions, Ace is also working to reduce the barrier to entry when it comes to the cost of equipment. “They have the talent, but they don’t have the opportunity,” Gill noted. “Let’s try and make a championship which can be more inclusive than motorsport is today.”
Ace Championship isn’t just hoping to develop a new crop of drivers each season. The series will also offer opportunities for ages 15-25 who are interested in engineering, communications, marketing and other aspects of motorsport to get real-world experience. Gill said that during his eight years in England at the reins of Mahindra Racing, guest lectures opened his eyes to the fact that nearly 30 percent of university students in motorsport disciplines were from Asia. “What are they going to do next?” he asked himself. “Could something like [Ace] help them find a path?” Gill further explained that Ace would offer a scholarship program to reduce the financial burden even more. “Some talented folks who can’t afford getting in, we will be supporting them,” he said.
As a means of lowering costs, teams will be able to run four drivers with two cars. In most current series, each driver has their own vehicle – hence the high cost to participate. Ace Challenger will be the series’ entry-level format, meant for drivers who found success in karting and are looking for an academy experience. Here, races will run at reduced power so that drivers can acclimate to the car as well as learn about “technique, technology and collaborating with engineers.” Ace Championship is the higher level that runs the cars at increased power output. The focus shifts from the basics to things like detailed race strategy and energy management – two key elements for Formula E and other series.
To further level the playing field, Ace will keep all of the cars at its so-called Powerpark. “We don’t want the cars going back to their garages to start getting modified,” Gill explained. “We want to keep them in a controlled environment.” He also emphasized the importance of building the facilities in Asia. “We think Asia is going to be the melting pot [for electric racing],” he said. “From there, we are within five hours of flying to three or four regions.”
Serving as the series HQ, the campus will offer simulators for each team as well as classroom training on topics like telemetry, working with engineers and social media management. Preparation will be key because the currently proposed format would have each team traveling for around 10 weeks before returning to Powerpark. This means they’ll have to devise strategies for each circuit before they depart since there won’t be simulators to train on while they’re on the road.
With the new championship, Gill and his colleagues are also designing a completely new all-electric racer for the series. When Ace at the Hyderabad E-Prix in February, Gill showed off a prototype vehicle that was built from a Formula E Gen2 chassis. However, the car the series will use won’t just be modified leftovers from the previous generation forever.
“After eight years at Mahindra Racing, when I left, they gave me a Gen2 car,” Gill said. “So that was an easy acquisition of a prototype – my personal car.”
Ace is currently working to build a brand new chassis, which Gill explained won’t “use anything that exists on the market.” The reason for this, he noted, is that the custom-made cars will run a front powertrain kit and no existing chassis can integrate it “without a lot of work.” The current plan is to have the new cars ready for the third year of the championship, which should begin in 2024. Gill said Ace aims to use its initial design for six years before an anticipated upgrade. Both the Challenger and the Championship series will use the same car with some physical differences – like slight variations to the nose kit and rims. Power output can be controlled by software, which will allow a team’s four drivers to use just the two cars.
Another key element of the car’s design will be LED lighting. Formula E uses lights around the halo of its cars to indicate things like Attack Mode. The Ace Championship aims to make things a bit more dynamic here, with color changes for things like when the driver is accelerating, when a car is regenerating energy through braking or when the driver is coasting. Ace also wants to take a page from the Tour de France and use the LEDs to point out the leader. Gill said the lights could also indicate the driver in P1 as well as green and purple sectors in qualifying or the driver with the current fastest lap. “We have to figure it out,” he admits, but the lights could be a simple way to make races more informative for fans and they’ll undoubtedly provide a unique look during night events.
The series is also exploring the possibility of using two different tire compounds for Ace Challenger and Ace Championship, “so that drivers can understand the different nuances,” according to Gill. He floated the idea that there’s a tire with a smaller performance window for the Challenger series so that you have to bring it to a peak and manage it the rest of the way. And for the Championship, perhaps the tire is “a bit more forgiving… so you can push it without much degradation.” Gill enlisted former Formula 1 and Mahindra Formula E driver Nick Heidfeld to work with tire manufacturers on the various compounds and Ace already has a prototype that it’s currently testing.
At the end of the day, Gill envisions having a car that’s within three to three and a half seconds of the performance of a Formula E car. “The steps are smaller,” he explained. “New people coming to Formula E, especially on the drivers side, it takes a long time for them to get adapted.” The overall idea is for the Ace Championship cars to offer drivers a translatable experience to Formula E in the way Formula 2 does for Formula 1. “This step up from our championship isn’t where a [driver] will struggle for a year,” he said. Drivers who are new to Formula E may be quick over one lap, but variables like tire and energy management can be very challenging for the uninitiated.
“We believe tire and energy management is going to be valuable across all forms of motorsport,” Gill proclaimed. Internal combustion engines have hybrid components in series like Formula 1, and drivers and engineers must learn how to manage and deploy that energy properly during a race. That is amplified in Formula E where you start the race with less energy than it takes to finish. Teams rely on the drivers’ ability to regenerate the difference on track, as well as their strategy for managing consumption on each lap. And, of course, being able to go quick without using up your tires is a valuable skill for any racing discipline.
The Ace Championship plans to schedule races in four different regions: East Asia, Southwest Asia, The Americas and Europe and Africa. During its first two years, the series will only travel to two of those areas with the goal of expanding in 2026. Grouping races like this allows Ace to eliminate the cost of flying teams around the world between events. Racing in each region could take place over the span of a quarter, with the aim of having a new set of drivers each time. While the series hosts its first events in 2024 and 2025, it will also be building a second set of cars. Gill explained that Ace wants to have enough vehicles to have regional events take place while the others are back at Powerpark getting refurbished for the following quarter.
Scheduling is wide open at this point, though. Gill admitted a regional championship may have to be condensed into three weeks so Ace can “synchronize” with the Formula E calendar that runs from January to July. The goal here is to do tandem events with the FIA-sanctioned global EV championship, taking place around the E-Prix during the same weekend, even though it may only be one Ace category due to the time and logistics of street circuits. Again, it’s much like Formula 2 does at some Formula 1 races. Not only will piggybacking off Formula E events provide visibility for the series, but it will give young drivers and support staff a glimpse of how things are done at the next level.
Other Ace races will be standalone, including two of the six events during a regional championship being doubleheaders on back-to-back days. Gill said the current idea is for the independent races to take place on small circuits. Each regional schedule will serve as its own championship, so at the end of the first year, there will be four winners – two from each Ace category.
The ultimate prize for the Ace Championship is to train drivers, race engineers, mechanics and other members of a motorsport team who move on to FIA disciplines like the World Endurance Championship, Formula 2 or Formula 1. And that by doing so, they’re establishing a talent pool across all of those areas ready to contribute to the success of a world championship team.
“Our goal is to make world champions in the next five years,” Gill said.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ace-championship-is-more-than-just-a-formula-e-feeder-series-153018295.html?src=rss
We’re in the midst of a three-week break in the Formula E calendar, so now is a good time to take stock of the season so far. This is the ninth season of the all-electric racing series, but it’s the first of the Gen3 era. The new car is a massive leap forward in terms of technology. This model is able to regenerate up to 40 percent of the power needed to complete a race while on track. After a tumultuous preseason and major concerns heading into the first race back in January, there were some indications the series might stumble with its ambitious trajectory for the Gen3 racer. Despite the initial warning signs, the new generation for the series has begun without major issues.
I spoke to Neom McLaren team principal Ian James and Jaguar TCS Racing team principal James Barclay to get their thoughts on how the season has gone, the challenges of Gen3 and what’s to come in the near future for Formula E.
The races have been exciting to watch
One of the major selling points of the Gen3 car was the ability for drivers to race each other in closer confines than Gen2. This was proven true in one turn at the Monaco E-Prix when Envision’s Nick Cassidy passed two cars (he nearly overtook a third) in the hotel hairpin. That’s not typically a spot on the compact street course where there’s a ton of passing, but with the Gen3 car, drivers were consistently running three-wide into that tight turn.
“I think the racing has been phenomenal,” James said. “There was a lot of talk at the beginning of the season about tires and the energy side of things, even the aesthetics of the car. But I actually think it's delivered.” He noted that the start of Gen3 has “mixed up the field” and that the competition has been “very close.” There have been six different winners in the first nine races and the championship lead has already changed hands multiple times.
There have also been a lot of overtakes. That’s mostly because no one wants to lead at some of the tracks until the very end of the race. The Gen3 car has considerable drag aerodynamically, so you use a lot more energy staying out front than running in the pack. Starting in Brazil, this peloton effect became apparent where drivers willingly hand off the lead to conserve power until the closing laps. Even the leaders will back off and bunch up the field in a bid to maximize efficiency while out front. For example, Round seven in Berlin saw 23 lead changes with this in-line running.
“It’s a different kind of racing, but it’s no less exciting,” Barclay said. “In quali [the Gen3 car] looks spectacular because the drivers are on the limits, and the race looks spectacular because there’s lots of overtaking. It’s always about making sure we have the best balance of both things, and that’s what we’re all working towards achieving within the championship.”
McLaren’s team principal also expressed the need to find “balance” within the new style of racing for Formula E, but agreed what we’ve seen out of the new car so far has been quite captivating. “It’s about the drivers learning and anticipating, making sure they can turn that into their advantage,” James said. “I think we’ve got to be careful that it doesn’t become the defining feature of Gen3 racing… but if we get the balance right, the racing is going to continue to be phenomenally exciting.” The overtakes will continue, according to the McLaren boss, but there also stands to be “some real speed” from the Gen3 cars too.
Teams have adapted quickly
When I spoke to James before the season began, he explained that teams would face “a very steep learning curve” starting at the first E-Prix of Gen3 in Mexico. That has been apparent in nearly every round of Season 9 so far. Teams like Porsche and Avalanche Andretti who started off strong have stumbled at times. And others, like Jaguar, who struggled at first have begun to find their form.
“What we have seen in these first races of the year is how quickly it has evolved,” Barclay said. “From where we were in Mexico [with] everyone getting to grips with the new car and the new tech, now everyone is absolutely flat out in quali and we’re into really complex race strategies because we’re really on top of the cars.” For Jaguar, its ability to get “on top of” Gen3 was most apparent in two particular races. In Berlin, the team scored its first 1-2 finish and in Sao Paulo Jaguar cars locked out the podium for the first time with Envision’s Nick Cassidy swiping third (Envision runs Jaguar powertrains).
While there have been some temporary issues that caused teams to pull cars from practice sessions out of caution, a major catastrophe has so far been avoided. Perhaps the biggest incident occurred in Cape Town when Mahindra and ABT Cupra pulled all of their cars from that event due to a suspension issue (the latter runs Mahindra powertrains as a customer team). The decision was made before qualifying citing safety concerns over running on a particularly bumpy track. The Race reported afterwards that rear suspension problems were discovered during manufacturer testing before the season began. Mahindra apparently modified the suspension afterwards, but the issue wasn’t sufficiently resolved for the cars to run in South Africa.
The new tires are a challenge, but that’s a good thing
Heading into the season, drivers were vocal about the challenges of the new Hankook tires that were developed for Gen3. The compound is much harder than the previous version from Michelin, but it’s also more durable. Previously, tires would degrade so much over the course of the race that what began as treaded rubber would end up almost completely slick. Now, the series uses a compound that performs more consistently throughout an E-Prix
“What’s amazing is we have a car with less mechanical grip, because we have a harder compound tire,” Barclay explained. “Yet, we’re going faster.”
The tires posed the biggest challenge for the two races in Berlin, where Formula E runs on a temporary street circuit at the decommissioned Tempelhof Airport. The concrete surface is much more abrasive than asphalt. Combine that with the long curves and straights in the track layout and you can easily overheat the tires if you’re not careful. Sure, these two races are outliers for teams looking to unlock the full potential of the new compound, but it only made matters worse for those like McLaren who were already struggling with traction.
“Berlin was definitely the most acute circuit for that particular problem for us,” James said. “It's something that we're working hard together with Nissan to understand and hopefully bring some improvements in the future that will start to close the gap to the competition.” (McLaren runs Nissan powertrains as a customer team)
McLaren doesn’t have an issue with one-lap pace; the team has put its cars on pole twice already. James explained that the larger issue is due to the lack of overall traction and maximizing the energy usage simultaneously. “That’s when things start to become a little bit trickier,” he said. As a result, McLaren is seeing a compounding effect as each lap passes in a race, which James admitted “puts us on the backfoot.” He noted that some teams have figured out how to unlock the potential of the tires in different ways, but for others it’s still a fight. And at times it can be quite costly in terms of overall pace.
Formula E had to introduce in-season fixes
Following several big crashes in pre-season tests, Formula E made the decision to introduce a secondary braking system as soon as possible. Because the Gen3 car is regenerating power under braking on both the front and rear powertrains, there wasn’t a backup system in place if those systems became unusable – like in the event of a powertrain failure or a software issue. This led to several incidents where drivers weren’t able to safely slow down their cars. Formula E moved quickly to find a fix, with the first on-track tests of the emergency-use system occurred at the second race in Diriyah.
“The FIA, ourselves, we’re all learning and we’re working together to find the best outcome,” Barclay explained. “I think we have addressed those [issues], whether it be the secondary brake system or the change to the traction control regulations.” He said that all of the critical problems that have popped up are somewhat expected with a new car as both the teams and the series is “in this mode of optimizing Gen3.”
The traction control monitoring system is another area Formula E has addressed with an in-season change. Teams aren’t allowed to have traction control to ensure no one gains an unfair advantage and the FIA polices those regulations with torque sensors mounted on the driveshafts. This setup is meant to uncover any software-based tricks being used to unlock better grip. Speaking to The Race, the new system was described as “an evolution” of previous monitoring tech by Formula E’s technical boss Alessandra Ciliberti. The change had been in the works for months, in consultation with the car manufacturers who were also performing tests. Formula E decided the new tech, which monitors for consistent oscillations that differ from those caused by bumps and kerbs, was ready for use in Monaco earlier this month.
There’s still more to come
Before the first race of the season, Formula E announced that it planned to test quick-charging pit stops at a few races this year. These cars don’t visit pit lane during an E-Prix unless there’s a problem, mostly because it ends any chance you have of keeping up with the pack and remaining in contention. In the early days of the series, teams had to swap cars to complete the races, but battery tech advanced enough that hasn’t been a requirement since 2018.
Of course, it’s not only the act of stopping for 30 seconds — you also have to learn how to use the technology that makes it possible. And there will also be changes to the race format. Currently, drivers leave the racing line to activate Attack Mode for a temporary power boost while remaining on track. With the reintroduction of pit stops, drivers will instead earn two Attack Charges, but it’s unclear how and when they’ll be deployed.
When Formula E announced it would postpone the stops until next year, series co-founder Alberto Longo explained that the technology was ready but that supply chain issues meant the system couldn’t be implemented until the last three or four races. He admitted changes to the race format that late in the season made testing the system “not the right decision.” Teams up and down the paddock are in agreement.
“We need to understand the implications of bringing it in on the race itself and make sure it’s done in a way that adds value rather than detract from the show,” James said. “And because we've afforded ourselves the time to be able to do that analysis, I think we'll put ourselves in a much better position.” He further explained that he’s less worried about the impact the fast-charging stops will have on the team as he’s confident in their ability to adapt, mostly due to their years of experience in the series.
Barclay echoed those thoughts on behalf of Jaguar. “The amount of newness in this Gen3 car, from the new tires to the slightly different race format (number of laps vs. time), there was a lot to go out,” he said. “I think adding those extra things add more complexity and [could have] potentially taken away from what we’ve seen.” He noted that the team has had plenty to tackle already, but they’re looking forward to the new challenge of Attack Charge when it comes.
“We’ve gotten into a place where we’ve seen some great races, and I think that will only be more of the case as the season unfolds,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/formula-e-gen3-car-is-living-up-to-its-potential-after-a-rocky-start-130007090.html?src=rss
EA and Codemasters have revealed more details about this year's edition of their Formula 1 racing sim series. F1 2023 will hit PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC via the EA App, Steam and Epic Games Store on June 16th.
Among other things, the game will feature the return of the Braking Point story mode. Braking Point debuted in F1 2021, but it wasn't present in last year's edition. This time around, Devon Butler (the antagonist from the first chapter) and Aiden Jackson are now teammates on an upstart racing team looking to take on F1's heavy hitters. You can expect to encounter new characters, challenges and rivalries.
Codemasters has updated the cars' handling based on feedback from F1 teams. The cars are said to have more predictable behavior this time around, along with more traction when braking, accelerating and navigating corners. The studio has also improved the engine torque and inertia, balanced the aerodynamics and tire grip for added realism and incorporated Precision Drive tech for controller players, EA says.
Every team, driver and circuit from F1's real-life 2023 season is in the game, including the street circuit for the new Las Vegas Grand Prix and Qatar's Lusail International Circuit. Legacy circuits Paul Ricard (France), Shanghai (China), and Portimão (Portugal) will all be available from the jump too.
Players will be able to set races to 35 percent of their real-life distances. That should offer more flexibility to those who may not have the time for a standard-length grand prix. On top of all that, it's somehow taken until 2023 for EA to add red flags, a major aspect of F1 races, to the series.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/f1-23-will-arrive-on-june-16th-171249183.html?src=rss
Pit Stops in Formula E racing have always been a little complicated. For the electric racing series' first few seasons, divers had to swap cars halfway through the race due to battery limitations. That issue was fixed with a newer, higher capacity car design in 2018, but that eliminated and excitement of having a functional pitstop. Now, the fast battery charging system designed to bring pitstops back to Formula E racing is being delayed until next season.
"The technology is there," Formula E cofounder Alberto Longo told Motorsport Total. "It's working and at the moment many of the people are suffering with the supply chain, and that's the main issue why we haven't been able to put it in work this season." The updated pit stops were planned to debut halfway through the 2023 season with the new Gen3 Formula E cars, but at this point it would only be ready for the last few races of the season.
It's more than just a logistical problem: the new system could drastically change how drivers approach the race. In addition to reintroducing mandatory pit stops, each time a driver uses one of the quick charging stations, they will earn two "attack charges" that would give their vehicle a temporary boost in power for a limited time. The current rules already have an attack mode, but this change in how it is earned and used could have a profound effect on performance partway through the season.
"It will have a big impact on the sporting format and to do that only in the three or four races at the end the season, even though if we are capable of doing it, maybe it's not the right decision," Longo said. "We would love to have it this season, but I don't think at the moment it's totally viable to implement it."
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/formula-es-fast-charging-pit-stops-wont-arrive-until-next-year-185813092.html?src=rss
A new racing series could one day make it easier for young drivers to take part in Formula E competition. At this weekend’s Hyderabad E-Prix, former Mahindra Racing team lead Dilbagh Gill announced the launch of the Ace Championship. Gill is positioning the series as “a feeder platform for drivers and engineering talent to move into other racing series.”
When the series begins next year, the Ace Championship will consist of two levels of competition. Teams will use a single pair of cars for both Challenger and Championship tiers. At the higher level, the vehicles will output more power. As a result, participating teams won’t need to field four cars to compete.
According to The Race, the Ace Championship plans to use Formula E’s outgoing Gen2 chassis to build new designs, a move that would likely further reduce entry costs for potential participants. The series recently tested a modified Gen2 car in Barcelona. It showed off the same vehicle at the Hyderabad race track with former Mahindra driver Nick Heidfeld behind the wheel. Ace Championship organizers told The Racethere’s already been “significant interest” from existing racing teams to join the circuit – though no organization has announced its participation just yet.
After almost 20 years away from the motorsport, is returning to . The automaker is teaming up with to develop a next-gen hybrid power unit for Red Bull Racing and sibling team AlphaTauri. The teams will use the Ford-powered engines between 2026 and at least 2030. Ford will supply "expertise in areas including battery cell and electric motor technology as well as power unit control software and analytics," according to .
Ford has a long history in Formula 1 dating back to the 1960s. As an engine manufacturer, it in 13 drivers’ championships and 10 constructors’ championships before it stepped away from the sport in 2004. However, upcoming rule changes regarding increased engine electrification and prompted Ford to make a comeback.
“Ford’s return to Formula 1 with Red Bull Racing is all about where we are going as a company — increasingly electric, software-defined, modern vehicles and experiences,” Ford president and CEO Jim Farley said. “F1 will be an incredibly cost-effective platform to innovate, share ideas and technologies and engage with tens of millions of new customers.”
Red Bull started building its own F1 engine for the first time as Honda, its current partner, is to place more of its attention on fuel cell and EV technology. Although Honda officially departed F1 at the end of 2021, it's continuing to support Red Bull until new engine rules come into force in 2026, as notes. It was expected that Red Bull would need some assistance to build a hybrid system.
Audi announced last year that it will . This week, it was revealed that the automaker has bought a minority stake in Sauber, which will become .
did wonders for Formula 1. The hit Netflix series has drawn fans to the sport through its (sometimes manufactured) drama and beautiful cinematography. What you likely don’t know is that has its version, albeit with shorter episodes and massively condensed storylines. Even still, Formula E Unplugged is for the new season whether you’ll be watching the EV racing series for the first time or you’re a veteran fan.
Season two of Unplugged, which chronicles 2022’s Season 8 of Formula E,hit some broadcasters just before Christmas and all six episodes have made the rounds a few times here in the US already (CBS Sports Network). That’s a big change from season one’s 15 episodes which weren’t widely distributed and now live . The other difference with this new season is the episodes are 30 minutes with commercials, slightly longer than the 10- to 15-minute entries in the previous installment. But even with some added time, many of the narratives are condensed to the point they’re hard to follow at times.
Episode one covers Mercedes-EQ in its final season (the team was purchased ). Eventual series winner Stoffel Vandorne has to contend with the fact his teammate is the defending champion. The second episode offers a biographical look at Jaguar TCS’ Mitch Evans, including interviews with his family, his disappointing end to Season 7 and the title push in Season 8 that goes down to the very end.
In episode three, Unplugged covers two teams: TAG Heuer Porsche and ROKiT Venturi Racing. While one banked an early 1-2 finish in Season 8, the other had to contend with drama during its home race. This is the first taste of anything close to Drive to Surive drama. The fourth episode is all about the rookies as Dan Ticktum tries to put his past behind him, Antonio Giovinazzi looks to move on from F1 and American Oliver Askew tries his hand at a global series with the aid of British teammate Jake Dennis.
“Formula E Unplugged presents a realistic picture of life inside the paddock and helps fans to understand more about what makes us tick and where we are coming from,” said Ticktum, who drives for NIO 333 Racing. “I can be pretty fiery, but I think the ‘behind the scenes’ nature of Unplugged will show that sometimes there is a lot more to what drivers are going through than can be seen during races or on social media.”
More drama ensues in episode five when the series covers DS Techeetah, a team with two former Formula E champions in its garage. Things get heated on multiple occasions when both Jean-Éric Vergne and António Félix Da Costa have an equal desire to win. The final installment offers a look at the lead up to the final two rounds in South Korea. A four-way fight for the title, driver changes and a brief discussion of round out the sixth episode.
There’s plenty to glean despite the compressed format. Even I learned new things as someone who follows the sport. However, Unplugged really focuses on the top four teams in the championship standings, with the exception of Porsche who looked strong at the outset and the episode about rookies. It would’ve been great to include Envision Racing’s Robin Frijns, who finished level on points in the driver’s standings with Di Grassi and Dennis. I can appreciate that Formula E likely has a limited budget for the show, which is why we only get a half dozen episodes, but it would’ve been nice to get to know the likes of Mahindra and Nissan eDAMS along the way (the latter is covered in S1). And there could’ve been an entire episode dedicated to the Gen3 car, especially when you consider how much more advanced it is (or eventually will be) over the Gen2 racer.
In the US, Formula E races are broadcast on CBS Sports Network and usually on a tape delay a few hours after the event. For example, the first race in Mexico City this weekend won’t air until 11:30PM ET Saturday night (race is at 2PM ET). Both practice sessions will stream on the Formula E YouTube channel (5:25PM ET Friday, 8:25AM ET Saturday). Qualifying, which is completed in a knockout-style format, is only viewable on CBSSports.com. If you’re outside of the States, for the broadcast info.
Netflix has also released a teaser for the latest episodes. The clip focuses on the major rule changes that F1 brought in for the 2022 season and the potential impact that the regulations could have on the drivers' and manufacturers' standings.
The first in-depth testing for Formula E’s Gen3 car took place this week in Valencia, just one month away from the start of Season 9 in Mexico City. Across three full days, one simulated race and an added one-hour jaunt on a planned media day, some teams ran nearly 600 laps and over 2,000 kilometers to get a handle on what the new cars are capable of. The week wasn’t without incidents, of course, but Formula E co-founder and chief championship officer Alberto Longo said the sessions were “very successful.”
“The teams and drivers are obviously still learning and integrating the new system,” Longo explained. “We know that [going] from Gen2 to Gen3 is much harder to navigate than from Gen 1 to Gen 2, so it’s great to see that we are already much quicker than where we were with Gen2.”
After this week’s testing in Spain, here are the biggest things we learned about Formula E’s pending Gen3 debut next month.
The Gen3 cars look great on track
I’ll be the first to admit that when Formula E pulled the wraps off the Gen3 car in Monaco last April, I was a bit skeptical of the new, bold look. Once the teams started revealing their final liveries in the lead up to the Valencia test, I started to see the potential. All of the teams have been posting clips this week and Formula E has compiled footage as well, showing that the new cars do indeed look great on track despite their fighter jet-esque design.
The Gen3 car isn’t that much faster than Gen2 yet
When the Gen3 car was first revealed one of the main points Formula E hyped up was how much faster the new trim would be. That included a top speed of up to 200MPH. Of course, speed is dependent on a number of factors, including the circuit, but on paper the new cars should be much quicker than the Gen2 EVs. In the first practice session of the week, Maserati MSG Racing's Maximilian Günther posted the quickest official time of 1:26.096, slower than the fastest lap of Valencia testing last year in the Gen2 car of 1:25.763. The quickest lap this week came when Günther notched a 1:25.127 on the final day.
“When developing a new car, it’s really important to collect as much data as possible and to get a good feel for the car, and I believe that we have achieved this over the past few days,” Günther said. “Now, we just need to refine some aspects of our performance and continue with our preparations ahead of the first race of the season in Mexico."
With the Gen3 cars being lighter and more powerful, an added 100kW to be exact, you’d expect the lap times to fall from the previous generation running. However, with limited testing, specifically in regards to the new tires, teams haven’t dialed-in their setups to take full advantage of the new cars just yet. Hankook told The Racethat some drivers experienced the new compound “for the first time in their life” during the initial session in Valencia.
The new tires are posing a challenge
For the first eight seasons, Formula E ran Michelin tires. Starting with Season 9, however, the series is making the switch to Hankook. More specifically, it moved to a more sustainable compound that aligns with Formula E’s green initiatives. 30 percent of the new tires are made from environmentally-friendlier materials like natural rubber. The challenge for Hankook is not only does the tire have to be better for the Earth, it also has to work well in both wet and dry conditions since Formula E only runs one compound.
Autosport reports that Hankook tested “maybe even 80 different specs” of tire compounds during the development phase, according to the company’s head of motorsport Manfred Sandbichler. The end result is a tire where the inside is softer and the outside is harder – a combination that could have implications for how teams tackle corners at each circuit.
One thing that’s clear throughout the paddock is that the new Hankook tires are more durable than the final spec of Michelins. McLaren Racing’s Jake Hughes told Engadget recently that the new tires “behave very differently” and that they’re “a bit harder, a bit stiffer.” The harder tire should be more durable than what Formula E ran in the past, according to Hughes, as the degradation on the Michlins would lead to the treaded tire being nearly slick by the end of the race.
“We need to try to understand how we can maximize it,” he explained. “At some point we’re talking in miniscule details to try to find an advantage over the competition.”
Teams are dealing with reliability concerns
With limited testing ahead of the official preseason sessions in Valencia, teams are finding issues with their cars. The Race reports that some teams were in such a crunch to make it to Spain that they didn’t have time to shakedown their cars beforehand to make sure the basic systems were functioning properly due to parts that arrived late. According to that report, around-the-clock work shifts were required for some to make it to testing.
During a mock race this week, eight of 22 cars retired before the end of the trial event. One car didn’t make the start due to battery issues and two others had to pit on the first lap. A handful of others had to visit pitlane, which doesn’t happen during a Formula E race unless you have an issue (until the series institutes charging stops at least). The two biggest problems seem to be with the Williams Advanced Engineering battery setups and the brakes, both of which The Race reported teams were having issues with in early November. Formula E is said to be working on a secondary braking system after a number crashes in testing prior to Valencia, but The Race understands that it won’t be available during the first two E-Prix in Mexico City and Diriyah.
Teams expect Gen3 cars to improve quickly and drastically
This isn’t exactly a new development, but teams up and down the paddock echoed the sentiment after the handful of test runs. McLaren’s team principal Ian James told Engadget that he expects “a development rather than a complete evolution.”
“As much as we’ll prepare the best we can for Mexico and that first race, undoubtedly there’s going to be a very steep learning curve as we get into the new season,” he explained. “And a fast rate of development as well.”
Drivers are also clear there’s “a lot to learn and plenty of work to do” before the first race, as Maserati’s Edoardo Mortara explained. “This week of testing has been intense but overall positive, and although we’re still understanding the finer points of the Gen3, I think we are in a strong position,” he said. “From here, we will fully analyze our data, debrief and continue to gather simulations from HQ.”
The first race in Mexico City could be… interesting
The issues with batteries and brakes aside, there are a number of elements of a proper Formula E E-Prix that could make the first full race quite an adventure. The new tires pose a challenge on a full street circuit, as opposed to the smooth track in Valencia. Getting the rubber in the proper window for qualifying and managing any degradation over the course of the race will be key.
There are also some unknowns with race format as well, as Formula E plans to test a mandatory Attack Charge stop in certain races in Season 9. Attack Charge will give drivers a temporary power boost much like Attack Mode has in previous seasons. Formula E says the 30-second stop can deliver 4kWh of energy to power an “enhanced” Attack Mode where the power of the Gen3 cars increases from 300kW to 350kW. It’s unclear where the Attack Charge trials will take place as specific races weren’t announced when the updated sporting regulations were revealed last month.