The inaugural FIA Formula E Championship reaches a climax this weekend around a temporary circuit laid out in Battersea Park, south London.
After events in China, Malaysia, Uruguay, Argentina, Miami, Long Beach, Monaco, Germany and Russia, the series for electric single-seat racers culminates with a brace of hour-long races, one apiece on Saturday and Sunday. Here’s what’s in store this weekend.
Battle for the titles
With two points-scoring races over two days, no fewer than six drivers can mathematically clinch the title. However, it is realistically between three former Formula 1 racers: Nelson Piquet Jr, Lucas di Grassi and Sébastien Buemi. Nicolas Prost, Jerome d’Ambrosio and Britain's Sam Bird are the outsiders. The teams' classification, meanwhile, is topped by e.dams-Renault, which enjoys a commanding lead over its closest pursuer, Audi Sport Abt.
Fans can earn their favourite driver a power boost by voting for them prior to the race. The three drivers with the most votes will each receive one five-second ‘power boost’ per car, temporarily increasing their car’s power from 202.5bhp to 243bhp. The recipients of the extra power are revealed prior to each race. In the build-up to the race, championship leader Piquet Jr had the edge in the Fanboost poll.
The course that’s been laid out on the Battersea Park perimeter roads measures 1.81 miles and manages to squeeze 17 corners into that space. The drivers are expecting to be extremely busy during each of the 29-lap races; heavy braking zones, tight chicanes, a significant crown on the road surface and unyielding walls will place a premium on smooth, intelligent driving.
For the first time this season, the Formula E drivers will race twice over a weekend. There’s a fair amount of track time to enable them to learn the challenges of the Battersea Park circuit. There are two non-qualifying practice sessions early on Saturday morning, followed by an hour of qualifying starting at midday. The qualifying session is a straight fight for the fastest lap time. The session lasts for 40 minutes of track time and drivers are divided into four groups of five cars, with each group having 10 minutes to set their best time. The race starts at 4.04pm. Sunday’s timetable follows an identical format.
The car, as tested by Autocar earlier this year, is built by Spark Racing Technologies from a chassis constructed by Dallara. The battery pack is developed by Williams Advanced Engineering, part of the same company as the Formula 1 team, and the powertrain is the work of McLaren Electronic Systems. The car produces a maximum of 270bhp in qualifying trim and around 200bhp in race mode.
By far the most controversial aspect of Formula E has been the mid-race car changes, necessary because the current technology cannot provide sufficient energy to last for an hour-long race. So each driver has to pull into the pits and jump into a fully charged machine. Series chiefs aim to eradicate this system in future seasons, when the technology has progressed to enable a car to complete an hour-long race.
Formula E teams and officials are already ramping up for season two, when the championship’s technical rules are being relaxed. Instead of using the stock Spark-Renault SRT_01E package that’s been mandated in season one, teams will be free to develop their own powertrain and battery technology. The aim is for this to filter into the electric road cars. Eight manufacturers have committed to the 2015-2016 season.