With Hyderabad gearing up to host India’s first-ever Formula E race on February 11, there’s plenty of buzz surrounding the all-electric racing championship. So if you’re a newcomer to Formula E or simply want to learn more about the series, here’s our go-to guide:
1. What is Formula E?
Launched in 2014, Formula E is the world’s first electric car racing series. The races aren’t just an outright battle for who is the fastest driver on track; teams and drivers also need to manage battery energy consumption. This is where strategy plays a big role; drivers need to know when to push and when to conserve energy. After all, there’s no use being the fastest person on track if you don’t have enough energy left to finish the race.
This year, a total of 11 teams are competing – including Indian squad Mahindra Racing – with each team fielding two drivers. There’s more Indian representation on the grid, with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as Jaguar’s title partner. All cars have the same chassis and battery. Manufacturers can design their own powertrain (including the motor, transmission, inverter and rear suspension) and develop their own software.
Aiming to bring racing to the city centres, most of the races are held on temporary street tracks around the world. Race day is also an action-packed affair with practice, qualifying and the main race all held on the same day.
In 2020 Formula E was granted world championship status by the FIA. In fact, it’s the first single-seater series since Formula 1 to be recognised as an FIA World Championship.
2. Formula E qualifying format
Qualifying determines the grid for the race. The first round of qualifying is the Group Stage where drivers are divided into two groups – drivers with odd rankings (1st, 3rd, 5th and so on) in the championship standings in Group A and those with even rankings (2nd, 4th, 6th and so on) in Group B. Drivers have access to 300kW of power for this section of qualifying.
The fastest four drivers from each group progress to the Duels round, where power now increases to 350kW. Drivers from the groups are further divided into pairs – Group A is divided into A1 and A2, and Group B is divided into B1 and B2. The pairs battle it out and the fastest from each move on to the Semi Finals, where the fastest from each group will make it to the Finals.
The two remaining drivers (one from Group A and one from Group B) will go head-to-head and the one who sets the fastest lap earns pole position and will start the race from first on the grid.
The runner-up will be second, eliminated semi-finalists will be third and fourth. The remaining duels competitors will fill positions five to eight based on their lap times. Drivers who competed in the polesitter’s group, but didn’t make it to duels, will fill the remaining odd positions on the grid. Corresponding drivers from the other group will fill the remaining even spots on the grid.
3. Formula E race format: Attack mode, Attack charge and more
Just like F1, Formula E races are run for a set number of laps. More laps can be added to this if there are Safety Car periods or yellow flag interruptions.
To further add an element of strategy, you have Attack Mode. This gives drivers an additional 50kW boost (up from 300kW to 350kW) and can be used to pull off some key overtakes. To activate this, drivers have to drive off the racing line and through an Activation Zone.
All drivers get certain allocated minutes of Attack Mode, which have to be used in two batches. The exact duration of Attack Mode allowed is only announced hours before each race. It’s up to the teams to decide one of three options to divide this time. For example, if there’s a total of 4 mins of Attack Mode, drivers can divide it into 2-2 mins, 3-1 mins or 1-3 mins.
At select races this year, Formula E will also trial a new Attack Charge. Here, drivers will have to take a 30-second pit stop to receive a boost of energy. This will unlock Attack Mode minutes which they can activate once back on the track.
4. Formula E: Points
The first 10 finishers score points. Three additional points are handed out for pole position, while the driver who sets the fastest lap in the race gets one extra lap.
5. Formula E: New Gen3 cars
Perhaps the biggest talking point of the upcoming season is the debut of the new Gen3 cars. They represent a significant technological leap, delivering 350kW (100kW more than before) and a top speed of 320kph. They’re also the first formula cars to feature front and rear powertrains, doing away with the need for rear hydraulic brakes.
With a combined 600kW, it doubles the regenerative capability of the Gen2 cars. In fact, over 40 percent of the energy used in a race is produced by regenerative braking.
And then there’s the actual chassis itself; the design is inspired by a fighter jet. A narrower car and shorter wheelbase should, in theory, offer better racing around the tight and twisty street circuits. All of these changes have resulted in what Formula E calls the “fastest, lightest and most sustainable electric race car ever built”.
6. Formula E: Teams and drivers
On the back of the recent departures of BMW, Audi and Mercedes, Formula E pushed for the Gen3 cars to be more relevant to brands when it comes to technology transfer to road cars. The new battery, for example, is far smaller and lighter than any road-going equivalent.
The strategy has paid off, with several new teams joining the fray. McLaren has taken over the Mercedes-EQ Formula E outfit, while Maserati has returned to single-seater racing after over 60 years. German squad ABT Sportline has teamed up with Spanish carmaker CUPRA to make its Formula E return. They’re competing as Mahindra Racing’s customer team. French brand DS has, meanwhile, joined hands with Penske. Jaguar, Mahindra Racing, Nissan, Porsche, Andretti, Envision and NIO 333 remain part of the grid.
As for the drivers, plenty of former F1 racers – like Stoffel Vandoorne, Sebastien Buemi, Jean-Eric Vergne, Pascal Wehrlein and Lucas di Grassi – are part of the grid.
|2023 Formula E teams and drivers|
|DS Penske||Stoffel Vandoorne, Jean-Eric Vergne||DS E-Tense FE23|
|Jaguar TCS Racing||Mitch Evans, Sam Bird||Jaguar I-Type 6|
|Envision Racing||Sebastien Buemi, Nick Cassidy||Jaguar I-Type 6|
|Mahindra Racing||Lucas Di Grassi, Oliver Rowland||Mahindra M9Electro|
|Abt Cupra||Robin Frijns, Nico Mueller||Mahindra M9Electro|
|Nissan||Sacha Fenestraz, Norman Nato||Nissan e-4ORCE 04|
|Neom McLaren||Jake Hughes, Rene Rast||Nissan e-4ORCE 04|
|Maserati MSG Racing||Edoardo Mortara, Max Guenther||Maserati Tipo Folgore|
|TAG Heuer Porsche||Antonio Felix da Costa, Pascal Wehrlein||Porsche 99X Electric|
|Avalanche Andretti||Andre Lotterer, Jake Dennis||Porsche 99X Electric|
|NIO 333 Racing||Dan Ticktum, Sergio Sette Camara||NIO 333 ER9|
7. 2023 Formula E calendar
2023 will be Formula E’s longest calendar yet, featuring a total of 16 rounds. The championship will head to four brand-new venues, starting with the Hyderabad E-Prix on February 11. Other new additions include Cape Town, Sao Paulo and Portland.
|2023 Formula E calendar|
|1||January 14||Mexico City, Mexico|
|2||January 27||Diriyah, Saudi Arabia|
|3||January 28||Diriyah, Saudi Arabia|
|4||February 11||Hyderabad, India|
|5||February 25||Cape Town, South Africa|
|6||March 25||Sao Paulo, Brazil|
|7||April 22||Berlin, Germany|
|8||April 23||Berlin, Germany|
|9||May 6||Monaco, Monaco|
|10||June 3||Jakarta, Indonesia|
|11||June 4||Jakarta, Indonesia|
|12||June 24||Portland, USA|
|13||July 15||Rome, Italy|
|14||July 16||Rome, Italy|
|15||July 29||London, UK|
|16||July 30||London, UK|
8. Formula E: Sustainability
Sustainability is another key pillar of Formula E. The championship was the first global sport to be certified with a net zero carbon footprint since inception, and now, further strides have been made on the sustainability front.
The new batteries feature sustainably sourced minerals, and the battery cells themselves will be reused and recycled at the end of their lifecycle. The new tyres are made of 26 percent natural rubber and recycled fibres, and will also be completely recycled after the races.
The bodywork is constructed from linen and recycled carbon fibre from retired Gen2 cars – a first in any formula car. This is said to reduce the carbon footprint of the Gen3 bodywork’s production by over 10 percent. All waste carbon fibre will be reused for new applications as well.
Diriyah E-Prix: Wehrlein takes double victory; no points for Mahindra
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