A year ago, Venturi were the minnows of Formula E, hidden behind the arms race of Renault and Audi. They have hosted a number of experienced drivers throughout their four seasons in the sport including current Mahindra driver Nick Heidfeld and WEC stalwarts Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway.
However, despite the talent of their drivers and a wealth of electric car manufacturing experience, the team have one podium to their name. They are one of the few teams that have never won a race and are never on the front pages. This could all be about to change with the arrival of two former Formula One drivers – one climbing behind the wheel and the other taking the reins of the team.
It was announced this week that Susie Wolff; ex Williams test driver, will become the first female team principal of a Formula E team and will be taking up her new position at the season finale in New York in a few weeks time.
Wolff’s appointment will be a welcome one within the paddock. Since the departure of Simona de Silvestro in season 2, there has been a distinct lack of female figures in the sport. However, Formula E has always prided itself on new blood and on giving drivers from other series a fresh start. Having Wolff at the helm of one of the teams, coupled with the presence of her Dare to be Different campaign, which was first introduced at the Berlin ePrix, could inspire more women and young girls to become interested in and join the sport. It will also be a challenge. Wolff has no experience in leading a team but she will be working alongside a team of well seasoned mechanics and strategists who will help to integrate her into the new role. The appointment of Wolff is the latest step in Venturi’s plans to strengthen, following the regulation changes that will come into effect next season. F1 veteran Felipe Massa has joined the Monegasque team and will no doubt add add some further experience, flair and critical sponsorship. He will no doubt provide more exposure to the sport. Formula E already has two well known Brazilian champions in Lucas di Grassi and Nelson Piquet Jr, but a familiar face, particularly one as well known as Massa, will allow Formula E to reach a wider audience of motorsport fans. By choosing Venturi, a team who are yet to win a race, Massa may be hoping to prove something to those who think he’s too old for motorsport. Venturi certainly seem to be looking to the future and the acquisitions of Massa and Wolff are just the beginning. The Monegasque outfit are the first to establish a junior drivers programme within Formula E, which includes the likes of Arthur Leclerc, brother of F1 rookie Charles. Although development drivers are common, Venturi are taking the approach of nurturing youth to a new level. Many experienced drivers have got behind the wheel of a Formula E car and struggled with strategy and conserving the energy needed to perform well within a race. By educating a rank of junior drivers, Venturi will eliminate the problem and create a pool of experienced but youthful drivers going forwards.
Wolff’s position also raises questions over Mercedes arrival in season 6. This season, Venturi partnered with Mercedes DTM specialists HWA, working alongside them in preparation for their inaugural season. This partnership will continue into season 5 with Venturi providing customer powertrains for the new outfit. Venturi and HWA have links to Mercedes. Both Venturi drivers, Maro Engel and Eduardo Mortara currently drive for the successful German outfit. It seems likely that when Mercedes finally join the party, it will use either Venturi or HWA to ease into the transition. It is a tried and tested method that was employed by Audi upon their entry as a full works team this season. HWA seem more likely due to their customer status, but Mercedes could continue to remain in partnership with Venturi. It would not be a foolish decision owing to the invaluable experience that the Monegasque team have and the resources that they have.
No matter who Mercedes choose, one thing is certain – Venturi won’t be fading into the background anytime soon.
Lucas di Grassi ended his season four win drought by rising from fifth to first in Sunday’s Zurich ePrix, while title challenger Sam Bird finished second to slash Jean-Éric Vergne’s championship lead by almost half.
The race began in mixed-up fashion, with Techeetah’s Andre Lotterer starting well from second to threaten maiden polesitter Mitch Evans off the line. But although Evans managed to defend from Lotterer and drop him back into pressure from third-placed Bird, the Jaguar driver was unable to pull clear of the cars behind as he struggled with rising battery temperatures.
This brought di Grassi right onto the back of the podium pack, once the Audi driver dispatched with Jérôme d’Ambrosio for fourth place. By lap 13 di Grassi had passed Bird at the hairpin—taking advantage of the Briton’s battle with Lotterer ahead to close in on the pair—and three laps later did what Bird was unable to and took second from Lotterer.
With Evans’ battery issues continuing out in front, di Grassi was quickly onto the gearbox of the Jaguar—and on lap 18 the outgoing champion made his move on the run to Turn 1, and breezed past into first place.
Once in the lead di Grassi continued to build a gap to those behind him, and at the end of lap 39 crossed the finish line 7.5s ahead to take his first and Audi’s third win of the 2017–18 season.
But while last season’s champion enjoyed his best Formula E weekend since last year’s Montreal finale, current championship leader Vergne suffered huge losses at the Zurich ePrix.
Coming into the weekend with a mathematical chance of clinching the title, Vergne qualified near the back of the grid in 17th while his only remaining rival Bird was set to start from the second row.
Vergne made good progress in the early stages and before the halfway stage had already got his Techeetah up into the lower points. But on lap 17 Vergne came together with Felix Rosenqvist while taking eighth, sending the Mahindra driver into the wall at Turn 1 and triggering a full course yellow to remove the debris.
This proved to be the defining moment of the race, as shortly after the halfway pitstops it was announced that Vergne—along with Lotterer, Evans and Sébastien Buemi—had been given a drive-through penalty for speeding under the full course yellow.
These penalties drastically altered the order. With fewer than ten laps remaining, Lotterer, Evans and Buemi dropped from second, third and fourth respectively, while Vergne was once more put outside the points after his trip through the pitlane.
Worse still for Vergne, the penalties for those in front meant that Bird was elevated to second place, where the DS Virgin driver finished to add another 18 points to his championship challenge.
D’Ambrosio completed the podium in third, his and Dragon’s first podium since the 2016 London ePrix, while Lotterer held on for fourth.
Buemi recovered from his penalty to take fifth, one place higher than he started, after using his FanBoost to pass Evans in the closing stages—Evans lost a further place to Nick Heidfeld before the end, and finished behind the German in seventh. António Félix da Costa and Oliver Turvey were promoted into the lower points by the penalties ahead and a retirement for Nico Prost, and finished eighth and ninth respectively.
Meanwhile, Vergne fought his way back into tenth place to take the final point of the day. The Frenchman had been set to add another point with the fastest lap, until his Techeetah teammate Lotterer take that honour away in the final stages.
Vergne’s low finish and Bird’s podium mean the gap at the top of the standings is now down from 40 to 23 points with only the double header in New York—which Bird dominated last season—left to go.
Mexico City hosted its third ePrix at the famous Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City last weekend.
After the surprises in the inaugural race last year featuring a sublime energy-saving drive from last year’s champion Lucas Di Grassi and a duel between JérômeD’Ambrosio and Jean-Éric Vergne, it was set to be another thrilling event on the motorsport calendar. Di Grassi, still without points at this stage, had the misfortune of ending up in group 1 of qualifying. However, this did not deter the current champion as he lit up the timing screens purple, sending his Audi into the top spot, followed by Maro Engel’s Venturi and D’Ambrosio’s Dragon.
Though, this elation did not last long as group 2 – a formidable line up of Felix Rosenqvist, SébastienBuemi, Sam Bird, Nelson Piquet and championship leader Vergne took to the track.
Rosenqvist wasted no time on his flying lap, snatching away P1 before an insurgent Buemi bit back and took the top spot away from the Swede, with Piquet and Bird slotting themselves into superpole contention. Within group 3, António Félix Da Costa had a stormer, putting his Andretti into third position, with last year’s polesitter Oliver Turvey also impressing, depriving Vergne of a shot of superpole.
Group 4 also held promise with the likes of dark horses such as Mitch Evans and Daniel Abt and the best track conditions. However, a series of messy laps left everyone in mid-table positions and out of the superpole positions, leaving Buemi, Rosenqvist, Da Costa, Turvey and Alex Lynn to fight for the pole. Lynn set the bar in superpole initially despite a looming penalty, with a respectable time of a 1.02.014. Turvey followed, slotting in behind Lynn after a scrappy lap. Da Costa had another excellent run, managing to place himself on provisional pole, much to the delight of his Andretti team.
However, two men stood in the way of his first official pole, two men who excel in qualifying and in claiming pole positions. Rosenqvist went first and pulled out a stellar lap, shaving two tenths off Da Costa’s time. Buemi was the last man standing, the only one capable of toppling a dominant Mahindra. However, a lap ridden with mistakes left him adrift in a lowly fifth and Rosenqvist picked up the three points and the bragging rights for starting on pole, followed by Da Costa, Lynn, Turvey and Buemi. Da Costa’s elation at being on the front row did not last, however. He was given a penalty before the start for a underweight car, dropping him back to fourth, whilst Lynn took his grid penalty from the previous race for mechanical alterations on his car. The race started with relative calmness as Rosenqvist held P1 and began to pull away from the chasing Turvey. Evans made quick work of André Lotterer’s Techeetah for P8 and Vergne swept past Da Costa, eager to keep his championship lead strong. Struggling Audi looked better in this race – Di Grassi despite his position and a ten second time penalty looming carved his way through the field in the early stages as Abt hunted down Buemi for P3. However, the curse of Mexico struck once again as Rosenqvist’s car slowed to a stop, putting the leader of the race dead last and allowing Turvey to take the lead. Rosenqvist was able to get his Mahindra going again before it stopped again and he crawled to the pits to take his other car. Mahindra’s bad luck continued as Nick Heidfeld’s car also suffered mechanical problems, stopping mid race. Audi, however, seemed invigorated. Spurred on by their recent troubles, Abt jumped Turvey in the pits, leading the NIO driver to fight against a charging Vergne and Buemi. Buemi used his fanboost to get past Vergne, eager to capture his first win of this season as he proceeded to hunt down Turvey, but the British driver proved a harder nut to crack.
Evans give way to Piquet in order to utilise the Brazilian’s drive and lower energy consumption. Piquet was able to edge past Vergne as he fought to collect his first podium since the inaugural season in which he became champion. Di Grassi claimed fastest lap whilst out of the points paying position and set about clawing through the field to capture P10 and capture his first points of the season. As Di Grassi closed in on P10, Buemi and Piquet gave chase to Turvey as Abt continued to pull away.
Piquet forced Turvey to lock up into turn one but failed to get past his ex-teammate. Di Grassi managed to clinch P9, his first points since his disastrous title defence began as Abt finally claimed his first win of Formula E, followed by an impressive Turvey and Buemi.
After much hyped and anticipation, the newly named ABB FIA Formula E Championship unveiled its next generation of car on the 30th January 2018. Posed to make its debut in the 2018/2019 season at the end of the year, the car will be used for three seasons, and marks the first time a car has been specially designed by the FIA for one of its own series.
In keeping with the ethos of Formula E, the new model is decidedly more futuristic and advanced looking than its predecessor. The sharp angles and neat lines all constitute a more modern era of motorsport. And given Formula E’s focus on leading the way in new automotive technology and trying to push motorsport into new, uncharted territory, the Gen2 car seems a perfect fit.
Not only does the season 5 car feature an updated look, it also comes with a host of technological updates. Though the majority of the technical specs are yet to be released, the FIA can confirm that this new model comes ‘almost double the energy storage capacity and double the range’ meaning the battery will now be able to complete full race distances. This means getting rid of the contentious car swap that currently happens at the midpoint of Formula E races.
The Gen2 car and the work of the team of engineers and designers has attracted much praise. FIA President Jean Todt expressed how the car heralds the start of “exciting times for Formula E” and that he considers the FIA’s unprecedented project of designing and developing a car to be a “huge success”. Alejandro Agag, founder and CEO of Formula E, also believes that the car represents Formula E’s goal of “breaking the mould and challenging the status quo – bringing a revolution to motorsport”.
This new model will hit the track at the end of the year, just in time for Nissan and BMW formally joining Formula E, with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche planning their entry for the following season.
The full technical specifications and physical model of the Gen2 car will be revealed on the 6th of March at the Geneva Motor Show.
This year I had the chance to attend the Autosport show in Birmingham, I feel very lucky for that and I would like to thank the organizers for their amazing hospitality. It was a unique experience, I was able to see closely several racing cars and also, I watched a great show hosted by David Croft.
The first day that I went to the show, I was astonished from the variety of cars that were at the show. While I was passing and was taking photos of almost all the cars, I noticed something different, something unique, I saw the Robocar. It was placed on the side of the Autosport’s interview stage, a strange car with no cockpit and a weird design.
Before you read Bryan’s Balcombe exclusive interview, it will be useful to know some of the car’s characteristics.
The Robocar, designed by the German Daniel Simon, who has previously created vehicles for Tron Legacy and Oblivion, is a fully electric and autonomous car, weights around 1000 kg and has four 300kW motors, one per wheel.
The top speed of the Robocar is about 320kph or 200mph and it also has a 62kWh battery with 550kW power.
Around the car, there are several types of sensors, to allow the car to move safely and fast on the tight Formula E circuits. It has 5 lidars, 18 ultrasonic sensors, 2 optical speed sensors, 6 AI cameras, two radars and GNSS positioning.
Robocar, is currently powered by NVIDIA Drie PX2 which can run up to 24 trillion A.I. operations per second, but it will be upgraded to Pegasus platform and will run 320 trillion operations per second. The current Drive PX2, is connected to Robocar’s sensors and gives the opportunity for 360-degree situational awareness around the car, to give the exact position of the car on the track.
Bryn Balcombe, Roborace’s Chief Strategy Officer, answered my questions regarding the Robocar and the Roborace series. Enjoy!
When and who came with the idea of a fully autonomous and electric car?
“Denis Sverdlov, Roborace’s founder and Alejandro Agag, came up with the idea whilst discussing the future of the automotive industry becoming electric but also connected and autonomous on the way back from the Beijing race in Season 1 of Formula E. Motorsport has always been used to advance road relevant technology. Roborace applies this philosophy to Vehicle Intelligence Technologies, many of which are banned in traditional championships as driver aids.”
What are your expectations from the Robocar, what do you want to achieve with Roborace series?
“Roborace will increase the pace of innovation and development of road relevant hardware and software for Intelligent Vehicles. Ultimately technology will save lives on the road and move society close to Vision Zero. As in all motorsport, Robocar will continue to evolve as technology improves. Within two years of development there have been three significant steps in NVIDIA compute power on the car. So the pace of innovation is much faster than traditional powertrain. We will start to see Software and Cognitive Power becoming as important to performance and safety as Mechanical and Horsepower.”
How many teams will take part in the Roborace championship, how many cars will each team have?
“We are looking at completely new formats of motorsport that are much more relevant to testing driver skills in perception, reasoning and decision making. Basically the smartest driver should win which is why we refer to it as a Championship of Intelligence. This year we are opening up the hardware platform for 3rd parties to start to develop AI Driver Software. Before they can race Robocar they’ll need to test their software in a simulator and in DevBot, our development vehicle. The development process and AI Driver is much the same as a human. We often refer to Max Verstappen taking 17 yrs before making it to F1 (13 of which he spent driving). The process for AI Drivers should be faster but there are similar logical steps that progress from small scale to full scale cars and from virtual to real cars. For any competition you need at least two competitors. So we’ll have competition formats that include anything from 2 cars upwards.”
How easy will it be presenting to the public a driverless series? Considering that all these years we are used to seeing drivers to battle wheel to wheel and fans are connected emotionally to the drivers and their achievements.
“There is always a driver. In fact, Roborace is focused on being a pure driver’s competition because it intends to use standardised vehicle hardware. The only performance differentiator is the driver skill. In some formats this will be AI Driver software only. In other formats we can allow a human to collaborate with the AI Systems and take executive control over decision making. In these formats you’ll see human collaboration with AI versus pure AI Drivers. We may see the same natural progression we’ve witnessed in chess, where Human/AI Centaurs can outperform AI only systems and AI systems can outperform humans only.”
What are the biggest challenges that Roborace team is facing, and how are they planning to overcome them?
“The pace at which the industry is moving is incredible so we will have constantly evolving competition formats that ensure the AI Drivers remain constantly challenged. In Roborace all evolutions are focused on driver performance whether that’s better eyes, ears, brain size or intelligence. The competition complexity will increase in line with those technical developments.”
What excites you about the Robocar? Is it the future of the commercial cars?
“In the future all vehicles with become intelligent. They will all become aware of their environment. They will all become aware of the surrounding situations. However, there is a fork in the road at that point in how you chose to use that intelligence. Toyota describes the options as Chauffeur and Guardian Angel. The first is an autonomous future where humans no longer need to drive. The second is an assisted/augmented future where humans still drive but their skills and capabilities are enhanced by the AI systems within the car. We know of several high performance OEMs that are considering AI technology as a future Race Trainer. So an AI Lewis Hamilton might be able to act as your real-time driver coach when you take your Project One on a track day. He could even drive you around first as you are learning the track and to set a reference lap time for you to target.”
Nicki Shields had the chance to drive the DevBot at Hong Kong ePrix, from the video it is seen that the Robocar cannot match the human’s times, will it ever be able to do it? What are the difficulties that do not allow it to move faster?
“In Hong Kong we ran using our development vehicle called DevBot rather than Robocar. DevBot is a modified LMP3 race car that allows a human to drive but can also be switched into an autonomous mode. That allows us to run human versus machine competitions. The AI Driver in DevBot was around 10% slower than Nicki. We actually ran a brand new version of our internal development AI Driver which was designed to run using LiDAR sensors only. For safety we imposed VMAX limit and a minimum distance to the barriers lining the street circuit of around 1.5m. Sensor fusion of LiDAR with cameras and Radar will improve perception which ultimately improves confidence so speeds increase and safety margins can be reduced.”
Consider a hypothetical scenario, during a race, two Roboracs are close to each other, how will each react? Will the leading car be able to defend its position, whilst the one from behind will be moving faster for a potential overtake?
“Wheel to wheel racing is a key target for Roborace. Nose to tail processions broken by straight line overtakes are not exciting for the public. AI Drivers will have adhere to similar sporting regulations as human drivers; such as leaving one car width of space for a competitor or staying within track limits. They will also have similar goals as human drivers and will develop similar offensive and defensive tactics to maintain an advantage.”
“The interesting thing is that if there is an incident all the data and decision making processes will be available for immediate review to determine fault. No more waiting for the end of the race for stewards in interview drivers before confirming the result. Sporting penalties can be applied immediately and proportionately.”
Describe Roborace series in a few words or more than a few!
“Roborace is an extreme motorsport and entertainment platform for the future of road relevant technology.”
How many people are working together every day to keep improving the Robocar? Would you like to say a few words about them?
“We’ve built an incredible team full of international talent to bring the project to life. Building a fully autonomous car is probably the most complex interdisciplinary task you could imagine. Collaboration is key.”
When will the Robarace championship be ready to launch?
“As soon as enough, drivers qualify to use Robocar. “
We talked with designer Sean Bull about his work in Formula E and his change from casual F1 fan to creator of fictional and real car designs, and show the person who stands behind some of the most popular fantasy F1 liveries.
Most of the F1 community knows it: the feeling weeks before the presentation of the new F1 cars. Especially when a team has a big new sponsor or has changed their engine partner for example, everybody talks about possible livery changes. How would Ferrari look without Santander? Or the new McLaren in an old-school papaya coat? What about Red Bull with the new Aston Martin deal, or Sauber with Alfa Romeo? And most importantly: how will the cars look with the new halo system above the cockpits?
Only a few of the many questions in this year’s pre-season. Thats where the work of Sean Bull begins. A man who not only creates possible designs of real and fictional F1 teams—he also started with a real design for the Dragon Formula E team this season.
The fictional designs are iconic to many people. Thats why the disappointment is often big, when the teams reveal their real cars with a much more conservative livery. Some people might ask why the real teams don’t look as good as popular examples from designers like Sean Bull. Let’s ask the man himself about this and know more about him, his hobby and his job at the same time.
1. First of all, congratulations on your first real car livery, the Dragon Racing Formula E cars and their driver suits. They look great. Could you tell us, what was your reaction when you learned that your design had been chosen for the car?
Sean: The Dragon design was months of hard work, working closely with the team’s owner, Jay Penske to design and develop the teams refreshed identity this season after the departure of Faraday last year, going back to the team’s roots of the striking red chrome and a more elegant and flowing design was a pleasure to draw and create, with the car lending itself heavily toward the livery layout. A classic use on subtle pinstriping around the key feature lines and the minimalist American flag motif that adorn the roll hoop and front wing are the result of continued fine tweaking and development.
The decision to split the liveries came quite late and continue what is left of the team’s corporate DNA from last year with the split faraday designs, only presented in a more obvious and dramatic fashion this year, with each car being the mirror imprint of the other, something I wish F1 would be allowed to adopt with such difficulty telling the drivers apart from one another.
The race suits and garage design were also fun aspects to design and create, we went with a range of options before we settled on something more minimal and classy rather than anything too outlandish and obvious, and I believe they look great, with obvious relation between the cars, pits and corporate branding and I’m very proud to have been part of it and am certainly looking forward to working with the team for the rest of the season.
2. Tell us what got you started designing. What inspired you to design car liveries, and is that your full time job now, or is it still a hobby for you?
Sean: I started, as I believe any fan of F1 has, sketching the cars watching the race as a young kid, and it’s from then that it’s always been my passion to be a car designer, so I studied Automotive Design at Coventry university and after gaining an industrial placement in my 3rd year I continued to work for that company as an Automotive Stylist after graduating in 2016. It was the skills in Photoshop and CAD learnt at university and work that helped me develop a hobby designing fantasy F1 liveries that slowly evolved into designing and creating the real thing for some big race teams around the world. Fortunately, it is still my side hobby and one that I take great passion in, but as I enjoy my main career as a car designer, it makes for a good break and free time relaxation, I’m just lucky enough that the livery work I do for ‘fun’ has given me the opportunity of a “second career”.
3. Your designs for the upcoming year are everywhere on the web, especially during the winter break. Many are disappointed when the real cars are presented by the teams after the break. In contrast to your designs they are often more simple and less warmly received. Does this reaction make you proud?
Sean: As mentioned, this is what I love to do in my free time, so it’s good to see how my fantasy designs are received by the public, and that’s the difference between mine and the real ones that get presented in February. I’m not tied down to any corporate restrictions, branding guides or sponsor requirements, hence why my designs can be so much more extreme and dramatic compared to the real life counterparts. So I do have sympathy for the team’s actual design departments, especially now knowing the creative restrictions that do apply after working on a few real world commissions.
4. Could you tell us how much time you spend on a typical livery design?
Sean: Usually when just playing around with my F1 designs, it’s anything from ten minutes to an hour. The real time is spent creating my templates and trying to get them as photo-realistic as possible. That’s where the hours and hours of work is spent. With the real-world teams it can be a lengthy process of design and development, or it can be relatively quick if the team love an initial concept and want to go with that. For example, the Dragon designs were five months from initial sketches to the final application, with changes and tweaks being made even as the car was being wrapped. However, in contrast the F2 livery for MP motorsport last year went straight from an initial sketch to the final proposal in a matter of weeks, such was the reaction from the proposed title sponsor the designs were created for!
6. 2017 has been a special year for you, with many successes. What is your next goal? Do you have an ultimate goal, perhaps designing a livery for an F1 team in the near future?
Sean: 2017 has honestly been the best year of my life, both professionally and personally. I was lucky enough to be engaged to my now-fiancée and we are getting married next year, so that was the personal highlight for me!
In terms of professional success, this year has been incredible. I only started in November 2016, so for all this to happen in such a small space of time has been amazing—especially the work with Leclerc, going to see my first F1 race as a guest of his, and the Red Bull work I have done with their North American team this year (I was lucky enough for them to fly me out to LA to meet them and see my GRC liveries in action at the last race of the rear). And to top off the year, the Formula E commissions with Dragon and the contest win with Mahindra have been incredibly well received!
Looking forward to the future, my ultimate goal is of course F1, and to gain a commission with a team there or eventually work as part of the team. I have other aspirations that I hope will be realised in the coming year, but they’re all secret for now!
Techeetah rookie André Lotterer is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead in Formula E. We caught up with him to discuss Techeetah’s prospects and how he felt about the testing so far.
Lotterer, a seasoned WEC and Super Formula driver, was initially sceptical about Formula E but he admits that his opinions have changed towards the sport.
“I think a lot of people were sceptical about it because nobody was used to it. It’s just that my voice was probably picked out more strongly than others due to my status.” Lotterer reveals. “But then obviously you’re allowed to change your mind and it’s something that everybody needed to get used to. “ “Due to my situation in WEC, racing for Porsche and Audi, I was super happy with where I was but things changed and I began to get more interested. In the end, It doesn’t matter what car you race, you have to be the best at it and there’s a lot of top drivers here. There’s a world championship and it’s challenging so it’s the place to be be now. That finally attracted me and it’s going in the right direction with the new season’s car.” Lotterer said that he was ‘always curious’ about the sport, helped by his regular contact with ex-Audi teammate and current Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi.
”Indirectly [he brought me into the sport]. We talk about it and I was always curious how it is.”
”At the beginning, I didn’t really consider [Formula E] but motorsport is changing and we are racing for the future. This is what you want as a new driver – a new challenge. This was this case for me with everything that is changing in the world right now.”
Lotterer has already completed two days of testing with Techeetah and is making use of the limited test opportunities that the team, as a Renault customer, have at hand. For the experienced driver, the test provides more of a learning curve as he admitted that the car has been a challenge to get to grips with.
”It’s very different [to drive],” Lotterer explains, “It’s completely different to anything I’ve done before, not only because of the electric engine but mostly because of the tyres and the nature of the car with the battery and the weight.”
Here, the speeds are lower but the car is more challenging to drive because it has less potential in terms of grip with the tyres. The braking is a very random factor due to the regeneration on the rear axle and the carbon brakes have a specific way of working in different temperature ranges so it is a lot of guessing on the brakes but the driving part itself is quite fun.”
Although positive about the season ahead, Lotterer was realistic in terms of what he can achieve in these early stages.
”First of all, I need to play catch up. It is not an easy task to join the championship with only three days of testing. I was for the first time in the car two days ago, so that’s the way it is as a private team when you’re not a manufacturer. At the beginning there’s a learning curve, for sure, but this is what we have to accept and something I need to catch up as fast as possible. We always push to do the best and achieve but at the beginning, I am going to find out where I am. Here, it is a bit difficult to judge. Thing is, here is not that representative in terms of the circuit. The same guys are at the front that were competing in the championship, so being in the middle of it for the first step is not too bad. I really go race by race, give everything and do my best but I know I am going to have to face some learning time in the beginning.
But I have to say the team is a very good team, packed with a lot of brain cells. The guys in the systems side are very smart. We are only one of the teams that cannot go testing so considering that, sometimes [Techeetah] beating the Renault team is quite impressive.”
Competing alongside seasoned driver Jean-Éric Vergne, Lotterer was very optimistic about what he could learn from the French driver. “It’s really good to have him [Jev] . Obviously, he’s a really good reference now after winning the race in Montréal so this is good for me to be able to learn from him and he’s a good team player. He wants to have a good global performance of the team and he’s been helping me out with getting up to speed and sharing his information which is not something you can take for granted from teammates in general.”
With Porsche’s arrival into Formula E in Season 6, it seems reasonable that they would want to take on a presumably more experienced Lotterer into their new team, but Lotterer argued that it was not the case, stating that Techeetah was his long term prospect.
“No, of course [this is not a short term prospect]. My aim is to come and find a good situation. As a professional race car driver, you want to optimise everything – my performance, the team’s performance, everything. This doesn’t go from one day to the other so it’s going to take some time but hopefully in the long run, it will pay off. “
DTM driver Dani Juncadella is taking his foray into Formula E as he replaces the departing Nick Heidfeld for the final day of the Valencia test. We spoke to the rookie today on why he wanted to get involved and on his future in the sport.
For Juncadella, the pull of Formula E was aided by him seeing the potential in the championship and by some of his fellow drivers. Juncadella is good friends with a number of drivers already occupying the grid, including his teammate for the test day, Felix Rosenqvist.
”I think it’s a really cool championship from what I’ve heard from some of the drivers,” Juncadella explains. “You know, it’s growing so much that I think it’s the right time to give it a try and be thankful that I got a chance from Mahindra. It’s a great venue. The team is more than half Spanish so I think it’s the best combination possible.” The native Spaniard addressed reports that he was to be Mahindra’s third driver and was optimistic about his hopes to potentially become a reserve driver at the Indian team.
”You clearly have heard more than me because at the moment nothing is confirmed.” Juncadella explains, “I am just going to be testing and of course, they are looking for a third driver and I guess my chances come close to 100% being the only guy they are testing.”
”But on the other hand, I still have a contract with Mercedes so it’s more a first contact with Formula E and we’ll see if I get the chance to be the reserve driver here. For sure, I will take it if I can. If it is so, the idea is to end up with a race seat.”
As a Mercedes driver, it could seem logical for the German team to take on Juncadella for season 6 if he is able to become more experienced within the electric car but he insisted that was not the case.
”If I had a chance [to drive for Mercedes], yes. But it depends on many things, such as whether I am in another team as a reserve or concentrating on another championship. Anything to do with Formula E, I want to give it a try and if I get a reserve seat here, my aim is to then get a [full time] seat here.” As Juncadella prepares for his first outing in a Formula E car tomorrow, he spoke of the controversial chicanes which have been immensely unpopular with the drivers.
”They look tricky from the outside. I had a walk with Felix to try and see where he was braking and try get it from his side. They don’t look great but as long as I stay away from them, I should be fine. I think it’s not a big deal.”
The second day of Formula E testing kicked off once more under the sunshine of the Ricardo Tormo circuit. It was another opportunity for drivers and teams to gain valuable information from their cars.
Despite the controversy and problems that the drivers encountered yesterday with the built in chicane on the main straight, an additional chicane has been added just before the start-finish line, which distorted the times to an extent. Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne locked up twice on the exit of the new chicane and many of the drivers seemed uncomfortable with the new addition to the track.
Two new drivers made their debut this morning as Andretti elected to run Alexander Sims, who participated yesterday, and DTM driver Tom Blomqvist in place of António Félix da Costa. Blomqvist had a troubled run, running into problems with his car, but Sims had another consistent session. Venturi’s new development driver Michaël Benyahia was out on track this morning as he fought to impress the Monégasque team.
Renault made their mark early in the day on a cool track as Prost immediately began to turn the timing screens purple. However, Audi Abt Schaeffler found some momentum with Daniel Abt taking the top spot at the end of the first hour.
Audi continued to look strong and consistent on the circuit but Renault e.Dams began to fight back, improving on a warmer track. Buemi and Prost occupied the top two positions as the session ticked over the two hour mark.
Oliver Turvey had another solid run, showcasing the NIO car has been through significant development over the winter period. He took the top spot from Buemi, only for the e.Dams driver to snatch it back moments later with a blistering time of a 1.21.890. It was a position that he would retain for the rest of the session, giving indications of what Renault e.Dams could be capable of in season 4. Felix Rosenqvist had a productive session, finishing in P2 and Sam Bird rounded out the top three.
Renault continued their dominant form into the afternoon as Prost immediately turned the sectors purple with a 1.23.544. They pushed hard, consistently taking the top spots in a duel with Mahindra’s Rosenqvist and Techeetah’s Vergne.
Rosenqvist had a strong run this afternoon, putting himself into P2 in the early stages of the session before pulling together a monster lap of a 1.22.747.
Venturi’s James Rossiter brought out a red flag an hour from the end of the session after hitting the new temporary chicane installed at the beginning of the straight. The barriers were once more retooled, but many drivers were still unhappy with the set up. Buemi again went down to the site of the crash, documenting the damage.
Audi struggled in the opening stages of the afternoon session but Di Grassi soon found some pace, snatching P1 away when the session restarted following Rossiter’s incident. However, it was Buemi who whitewashed the session, taking the top position back moments later. The race ended with Buemi in P1 with Di Grassi in second and a solid effort from Nelson Piquet Jr placed him in P3.
The Ricardo Tormo circuit, situated on the outskirts of Valencia, is hosting the Formula E collective test this week in preparation for Season 4. It provides the first opportunity for drivers to get to grips with their performance in terms of their competitors.
In the first morning session of the three day test, Mahindra set the initial pace but Jaguar also showed promise from the start. By the end of the first hour, Mitch Evans topped the leaderboard with a 1.19.776, followed by Audi Abt Schaeffler’s Lucas di Grassi who was a mere one tenth behind.
Jaguar showcased that their development throughout the winter has paid off as Evans continued to dominate throughout the session. Nelson Piquet Jr also seemed to settle into his new team, taking P6 by the end of the session. DS Virgin’s Alex Lynn in a new dark testing livery, and Evans fought for the top spoils, however, Sam Bird improved on a warmer track, taking first position with a time of 1.18.669. The Audi’s of Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt followed.
DS Virgin and Audi Abt Schaeffler looked strong on this track – however, it is not indicative of the true potential of the cars when they perform on street circuits.
Regardless of this, the test has shown that all the teams have made significant development over the winter. Renault didn’t show their potential in this session as they only occupied P8 and P9 and Sébastien Buemi seemed generally unhappy with the set-up of his car.
Mahindra faded after a strong start, with Felix Rosenqvist only completing 17 laps. Techeetah also seemed to struggle getting to grips with the track, with Jean-Éric Vergne managing P11 and new driver André Lotterer P16.
Formula E has eight new drivers undertaking test duties this week. Alexander Sims made his mark in his attempt to take the second Andretti seat as the IMSA driver outperformed teammate Antonio Felix Da Costa in the morning session and made a solid start.
James Rossiter, previous test driver for Honda and Force India was the best placed of the rookies, having a excellent session which placed him in P12. The other rookies, including newly unveiled Indycar and GP2 NIO driver, Luca Filippi, had solid runs, clocking up over 20 laps a piece, good preparation for the days to come as they become familiar with the car.
In the afternoon session, Buemi and Renault showed their hand, leaping to the top of the timing screens. Jaguar once again made a solid start with Piquet and Evans climbing the rankings.
Techeetah had a much better afternoon, with Vergne shaking off the troubles of this morning and slotting himself into P3 at the beginning of the session. However, Bird soon brought out a red flag as he crashed out on the tyre chicane just before turn one, forcing his car to be towed away as he beat a hasty retreat to the pits. Racing resumed soon after with Rosenqvist snatching the top spot with a blistering time of 1.18.779.
However, red flags continued to plague the drivers as they struggled in the rising temperatures. Lotterer stopped at turn 7 with a mechanical issue and had to be towed off the track, only to appear a short while later and climb the order. However, turn 7 seemed to pose a problem for Techeetah as Vergne also fell victim to the corner, hitting the gravel and red flagging the session once more.
As racing resumed, Audi began to gain momentum, as Di Grassi and Abt fought for the top position in the latter stages. Buemi also contested the top spot, snatching the position away from Di Grassi by a margin of only two thousandths of a second. However, it was the NIO car of Oliver Turvey who finished on top. With two minutes to go, he put in a time of 1.18.565, the fastest of the day.
We grabbed a few words with DS Virgin Racing’s Alex Lynn and Sam Bird on how the day went and on the upcoming season:
Q: Congratulations on securing the drive, Alex. Just wanted to know what your thoughts on the session so far today? Alex Lynn: Yeah, it’s very positive. We had a good day. Many laps, car went round and round so very positive. I think the lads have been working really hard in the workshop to get everything done. Q: What are your aims for this season? Where do you want to be in terms of Formula E? AL: I think the plan is to definitely win races and be on the podium, that’s the immediate goal and what we’d like to achieve. As a team, I think we want to learn as much as we can over the next few days and arrive in Hong Kong in a strong position.
Q: How challenging is this circuit in comparison to the street circuits you usually operate on? Sam Bird: The circuit doesn’t represent what we will be running on but it’s unrepresentative for everybody so everybody’s in the same boat. We were very quick this morning, I think the track got a little bit quicker this evening but we were doing race running so no worries. Compared to Hong Kong, the average speeds are enormous so what we run here is not what everyone will run in Hong Kong. Q: Do you feel the season 4 car a significant step forward? SB: I think there are some teams that have made the jump forwards and hopefully, we can see where we come out of it. There’s certainly a lot of teams who have put a lot of effort and resources and obviously their new systems and we will have to see where we are after that. Q: What are your opinions on the way the series is going? SB: It’s very exciting. This series is in a very stable situation right now, loads of new manufacturers coming on board and some big names.Amazing driver line up again this season and a great calendar, just need London back on the calendar. I fully expect it to flourish.