Formula E has defended its energy management rules which contributed to yesterday’s farcical finish in the first of two races on Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit.
Just nine of the 24 starters were classified at the end of the race. Several of those who reached the chequered flag did so several minutes behind the winner, as drivers exceeded their maximum energy allocation.
Under Formula E’s rules, the amount of energy drivers may use during in a race is reduced during Safety Car periods. Yesterday’s race featured many such interruptions, the last of which ended in the closing stages of the event, which was scheduled to run for 45 minutes plus one lap.
As race leader Antonio Felic da Costa reached the starting line shortly before 45 minutes expired, the race ran for two further laps. Several drivers and teams had expected just one more, and found themselves with too little energy left to complete the race at speed. That included Da Costa, who lost victory to Mercedes’ Nyck de Vries, and was later disqualified from the final standings for exceeding the energy limit.
The FIA’s director of Formula E and Innovative Sport Projects Frederic Bertrand defended the championship’s rules, and said the strange finish came about due to Da Costa’s timing of the restart.
“We know that energy management is key for our championship and it’s clearly a challenge we all have to face,” said Bertrand. “We all manage it in a very accurate way most of the time and some of the time not that accurately.
“In this particular case, we have more or less the same circumstances to the one we had in Rome in that we had a late Safety Car and it was clearly expressed, in the driver and team management briefings, that in the case this happens we would reduce the energy, as we did in Rome.
“For sure, the choice of the leading driver at that moment clearly changed things for most of the drivers who had an approach that was less conservative [with energy] than the others and crossing the line a few seconds – I think it was around 15 seconds – before the end of the [race] time added one lap and changed all the circumstances and all the management of energy for most of the drivers.
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“But finally, we had some drivers able to anticipate [this] and be ready before because they understood that this would happen and managed it properly. Some were less [able to anticipate it] and clearly the risk taken was too high and they didn’t achieve a proper finish in the race.
“So that’s clearly where we are, for sure it’s not exactly the type of finish we like but still, for the ones who have managed properly it’s really well-managed, not an easy one and with all the circumstances of today.
“It was a tricky race for everyone, with Safety Cars and the rain and the specific track here but still, managing energy is the key part of Formula E and we can see that it is challenging but it’s manageable and some achieved that very well, some less. It’s clearly a lesson for the future and we will keep consistency on managing those type of challenges for all the rest of the year.”
Da Costa’s team mate Jean-Eric Vergne, who was ninth in the final classification, said the sport should reconsider its decision to race on a conventional road circuit this weekend as its long acceleration zones greatly increased the amount of energy-saving drivers had to do.
“I don’t believe we should ever go to this kind of circuit, because that’s not Formula E, you know, it’s not what Formula E is all about,” he said. “I understand the Covid situation, it’s different, we have to make do with what we have and we should be happy that we can race. But sometimes I’m not sure that we should have gone to Valencia for racing because it doesn’t look good.”
Extra slow corners were added to the track’s layout to increase the opportunities for drivers to generate energy in braking zones.
“You put a wall in the middle of the track, a wall there, a wall there, [but] the rest of the truck is huge,” said Vergne. “The amount of saving that we need to do is bigger than we ever had in Formula E.
“And look what we had. I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault, but I think for the future, we should stick to what we do in Formula E, which is street circuits.”
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