Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Anil Parmar (editor in chief – FormulaEDiary.com)
If you watched the Miami ePrix, you’ll be well aware that what started out as a fairly dull race proved to be an absolute cracker, with strategy playing a pivotal role in the end result. Prost’s first win in the series makes him the championship leader for the time this season, but the real winner was Formula E itself. We have now had five different winners in as many races, and a championship battle that will likely go down to the wire.
With the Long Beach ePrix taking place this weekend, there hasn’t been a better time to watch this fantastic new series.
The fascinating thing about Formula E is just how varied the races have been. Whereas Miami proved to be strategic race where teams and drivers were required to carefully manage the power available to them, the fantastic race in Punta Del Este was a race full of dramatic overtakes, safety cars and even last lap heartbreak. The only common dominator in each race, other than Nick Heidfeld’s continued bad luck, is that picking a winner at the beginning of each weekend is nearly impossible.
It’s interesting to compare this to Formula 1, which according to the world’s media and many vocal fans, seems to be going through a crisis. The term dominance has always been thrown around in Formula 1, from Red Bull’s success to the success of Williams in the early 90’s. Today, there seems to be some resentment from fans and a certain Mr Horner towards Mercedes’ dominance, although Vettel’s win in Malaysia will keep everyone quiet until at least China.
Part of Formula E’s unpredictability comes from how important strategy is in determining the final result. Just five races in, we’ve seen a number of high-profile strategic mistakes and it could be argued that Miami showed this better than anywhere.
Virgin’s bizarre strategy mistake gave away a nearly guaranteed win for Sam Bird. The high probability of safety cars also makes the races unpredictable; with walls in close proximity it’s not surprising to see drivers that push hard make mistakes.
The only real disappointment so far has been the technical and mechanical issues suffered by a number of drivers.
In Miami, we saw several drivers with energy management problems and it’s become clear that ‘overcooking’ the battery is very easy to do, particularly when in traffic. This therefore gives the leader a clear advantage as cooling becomes much easier, however for now it hasn’t really had any kind of negative influence on the spectacle.
The suspension updates brought to Miami were much-needed after the failures in Argentina even though this appeared not to work for Bruno Senna. He saw two mechanical failures in Miami that may have been caused by the bumpy nature of the circuit.
All street circuits require a set up compromise in terms of ride height however Miami proved to be an extreme, far bumpier than any street circuit I can recall.
For a new series, reliability problems aren’t unexpected but I must admit that it doesn’t create a great first impression to new fans of the sport. After all, these are racing cars, not toys.
I wrote a piece for this site before the Formula E season began where I suggested that the success of Formula E should be determined by the impact it has on the electric motor industry and the improvements we see year on year.
As powertrain development kicks in from season 2 onwards and we move to cars with 250kW of power for the 2016/2017 season and beyond, I truly believe we’ll see the electric motor industry benefit from the Formula E’s R&D. I also believe we will see engineering talent being developed by Formula E manufacturers.
I’m under no illusion that once powertrain and suspension development starts we are likely to see a more spread-out field and this may lead to one team dominating – as is happening in F1.
If this does happen, it should not be seen as a negative, because the series exists to develop this technology and ultimately the spending will be directly relevant to those manufactures and not just limited to a race on a Saturday afternoon.
Marc Priestly, ITV 4’s Formula E technical analyst recently claimed, “as a spectacle and as a breeding ground for engineering talent, Formula E is proving to be without equal”.
I believe he’s somewhat underselling the incredible potential of the series. If you haven’t watched an ePrix yet, watch the Long Beach race this weekend. You won’t regret it!