The second day of the Formula E testing got underway on Wednesday at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit. Having held the top spot in the first two sessions yesterday, BMW Andretti continued to dominate once again during the morning by snatching the top spot and breaking the unofficial track record in the process, courtesy of António Félix da Costa.
Alexander Albon grabbed many of the headlines on Tuesday as he seemed to disappear midway through testing, leaving Buemi to test both cars in the afternoon session. He too was absent from the media duties later that evening. The plot thickened further, as it was declared that car number 22 would not run in this particular session, leaving the prospect of Albon staying with Nissan looking slimmer and slimmer.
Battery issues blighted many of the drivers Tuesday and Wednesday morning, was no exception. Both Virgin’s Robin Frijns and Mahindra’s Pascal Wehrlein both seemed to suffer with battery issues but these were quickly resolved and had little impact on their session. Stoffel Vandoorne of HWA seemed to recover from the previous battery problems and scooped P2 in the early stages.
Felipe Massa was the first man on the track to turn the sectors purple with a time of 1.18.511 but Da Costa wasn’t far behind, edging the ex-F1 man out with a time of 1.18.496 as the temperature began to rise and conditions became more favourable. Quite a few of the drivers had problems with the chicane, including BMW’s Alexander Sims who bumped one of the edges with his front wing and André Lotterer and Lucas di Grassi avoided it altogether.
However, the morning session again went to BMW Andretti for the third consecutive P1 position in the testing session so far, Da Costa’s time four tenths away from the nearest competitor, Techeetah’s Jean-Éric Vergne. Such success so far in testing is a surely welcoming prospect for a team that struggled so much last season.
The afternoon session in comparison, was filled with drama. The paddock was treated to a 45 minute racing simulation, which did not fail to disappoint. Daniel Abt slammed into the problematic chicane early in the race and Stoffel Vandoorne suffered some more bad luck, stopping on track which brought out the red flag. Racing soon resumed, only for Piquet, Wehrlein, Dillmann and Massa to collide at the chicane.
As the green flag waved once more, da Costa began to close in on race leader Vergne and managed to get through with five minutes of the session to go. Sims, however, began to close on da Costa and passed him as the dying moments drew nearer. However, despite BMW’s dominance throughout the season, they were beat in the last few corners as di Grassi managed to push past da Costa and finally, Sims to take P1 in the simulation race.
Last week, it was announced that McLaren man Stoffel Vandoorne would be joining Formula E next season with the HWA outfit, Mercedes’ precursory entry into the electric series. Today, he said that he was ‘convinced straight away’ to join up the developing sport after losing his Formula One drive.
“I had my initial contact with Toto, which was before McLaren decided what they were going to do. Toto explained the project and as soon as I thought about it, there was no real hesitation”
Vandoorne was plagued by battery issues in the first day of testing which significantly reduced his running time in the car but on the second day of testing, he was able to utilise more time on track. ”We had a better day than yesterday.” The Belgian stated. “We had more laps this morning which was quite productive for me. The focus for us is to push through all the difficulties we’ve been having and learn from those.”
He admitted that the issues did not reveal themselves during the private testing that Venturi had been afforded to both himself and new teammate Gary Paffett.
“For us, it’s a new challenge, there’s a lot of processes we have to go through and from my side, I’ve also been combining this with Formula One. It’s like jumping from one ship to another for the past few months but the team is now focused on Formula E.”
In reference to the additional Venturi testing that he had received, he said that it put him in a much better position.
“You always want to do more testing and I would have liked for [this test] to have gone a lot smoother. But the two days I had before definitely helped to come here and have an idea of what everything feels like.”
When asked how Formula E compares to Formula One, the Belgian was very open that there was a difference and also spoke of his inexperience within the series.
“It’s very different to what I am used to, and compared to any other series, it’s quite different the way you drive the car and how the car handles. It’s all different challenges. I have no reference of the Gen 1 car but the car seems a big step forward in terms of the previous generation. You can set up the car in a number of ways and make a big difference with those. I had no expectations. I went into it very open minded and tried to maximise what we have.”
Vandoorne did not think that despite having a new Gen 2 to contend with and new regulations in the fifth season that he would have an advantage against those much more acquainted with the previous generation car.
“I don’t think there is a big difference. A lot of the drivers have been here a while working with their teams so they’ll have a bit of a head start. It’s not easy as a new driver to step in and perform straight away. From our team perspective, we need to manage our expectations and be competitive as I want to be successful.”
Speaking of his opinions of the sport before he joined, Vandoorne always had a open outlook on the series.
“It’s an up and coming series and I think if you look, they have only existed for four seasons. In that timespan, many manufacturers have joined and I think it shows that they see a future in this sport. It has huge potential and the electric development is still in such an early stage so I think that cars will keep progressing. There’s already been a huge step between the two generations of cars and I am sure they’ll be another step forward.”
The Ricardo Tormo circuit, situated on the outskirts of Valencia, hosted the Formula E collective test this week for the second year running in preparation for the new season. For some of the drivers such as Stoffel Vandoorne and Gary Paffett, it was the first opportunity for them to get to grips with the car and with race performance.
Audi set the initial pace as to be expected, coming off the back of a strong season in winning the constructor’s championship with Daniel Abt setting the sectors purple in the first phase. Virgin also looked strong despite their lack of pre-season testing as a customer team, occupying P2 and P3 in the early stages of the session.
However, as the track began to heat up, the track times tumbled and with it, BMW Andretti’s Antonio Felix Da Costa and Venturi’s Felipe Massa battled for top spot as the clock ticked over the first hour. Mahindra also looked competitive after a torrid season last year with experienced stalwart Jerome D’Ambrosio at the helm, putting in a respectable time of a 1.19.535.
Gary Paffett of HWA was the first unlucky driver to bring out the red flag, having misjudged the tricky chicane installed on the pit straight to imitate the tight street corners the drivers will fight on next year. After racing resumed, Virgin again took the top spot and dominated proceedings. However, as the time ticked away, it was BMW Andretti that were the surprising victors, heading a one two finish in the first session. Several of the drivers reported battery issues, including Stoffel Vandoorne who did not run in the afternoon.
In the second session, it was Venturi who again impressed in the beginning of the session with Felipe Massa taking top spot with a time of 1.20.273. However, the gaps between drivers were much closer in the afternoon. After the first hour, D’Ambrosio was in the coveted P1 spot with less than one second separating the top four cars.
Audi continued to look impressive this afternoon with di Grassi being held off the top spot by only three tenths of a second and Abt occupying P1 for a time during the session. D’Ambrosio and Abt continued to exchange blows throughout the afternoon with the former being the first man into the 1.17 minute mark.
However, it was BMW Andretti that continued their success first day with Da Costa setting the pace towards the latter end of the season. The performance of both drivers is certainly showcasing the development that BMW have made after taking over the team in a full capacity. Da Costa was soon joined at the top of the table by new recruit Alexander Sims, who impressed this morning by finishing in P1 and finished the second session in the same position.
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.