All charged up: The basic guide to Formula E

9 Comments

This coming weekend, American race fans will largely be focusing on the start of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But also occurring then is the debut of the all-electric, open-wheel FIA Formula E in Beijing, China.

The Beijing ePrix on Sept. 13 will kick off a 10-race schedule that stretches into the early summer of 2015. Along the way, the series will make stops in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

With the debut almost at hand, now’s a good time to brush up on what to expect from a racing category that’s striving to set itself apart in numerous ways.

THE CAR

Spark-Renault SRT_01E

Capable of hitting a maximum speed of 150 mph, the Spark-Renault SRT_01E is the product of a collaboration between multiple entities with deep roots in motorsports.

The cars are built by Spark Racing Technology, with IndyCar chassis supplier Dallara also serving in that role for the SRT_01E. Inside the Dallara chassis are a electric powertrain and electronics from McLaren Electronics Systems, and batteries from Williams Advanced Engineering.

Renault will oversee all the technical integration, and Michelin is supplying 18-inch tires for the cars.

THE GRID

10 teams are part of the inaugural 2014 grid for F-E, with two of them coming from the United States: Andretti Formula E and Dragon Racing.

Each team will feature two drivers, and overall, there’s a good mix of Formula One and open-wheel veterans plus bright up-and-comers. As for Andretti, they’ll enter the season with Franck Montagny and a still-unannounced second driver, while Dragon will feature Jerome d’Ambrosio and Oriol Servia (Beijing only).

So who else is where? Here’s the remainder of the F-E grid:

Amlin Aguri – Katherine Legge and Antonio Felix da Costa
Audi Sport Abt – Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi
China Racing – Nelson Piquet Jr., Ho-Pin Tung, Antonio Garcia (reserve)
e.dams-Renault – Sebastien Buemi and Nicolas Prost
Mahindra Racing – Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok
TrulliGP – Jarno Trulli and Michela Cerruti
Venturi – Nick Heidfeld and Stephane Sarrazin
Virgin Racing – Jaime Alguersuari and Sam Bird

THE SHOW

In addition to their goal of helping the environment (which you could’ve probably guessed they’d have with the whole electric thing), F-E wants to be a good neighbor in the cities it visits.

Thus, each F-E event – with practice, qualifying, and the main event on the track and assorted entertainment options off the track – will be single-day shows.

Each event will begin with two practice sessions in the morning, followed by qualifying (four groups of five cars each) at lunch time locally.

Full power (200 kilowatts, 270 bhp) will be available in both practice and qualifying; drivers can use both of their cars in practice, but only one car in qualifying.

Winners of the FanBoost, an additional five-second power boost for drivers who win a pre-race online vote, will then be announced in the immediate lead-up to the race.

The race is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. local time and have a length of approximately 60 minutes. Power on the cars will be restricted to “race mode” – 150 kw, 202.5 bhp – while FanBoost drivers can increase their power to 180 kw, 243 bhp for the aforementioned five seconds on each of their two cars.

THE PIT STOPS

All drivers must make at least one pit stop in order to switch cars in their stalls. Minimum time periods will be enforced, and tire changes are not permitted unless a puncture has occurred.

THE CHAMPIONSHIP

Driver and team championships will be up for grabs in F-E, but how they’re determined will differ. A driver’s end-of-season points total will be made up of his or her best results minus one, while the team’s total will have all results taken into account.

Standard FIA points will be doled out: 25 points for the win, 18 points for 2nd, 15 points for third, 12 points for fourth, 10 points for fifth, eight points for sixth, six points for 7th, four points for 8th, two points for 9th, and one point for 10th.

Qualifying on the pole will get you three bonus points, and the fastest lap of the race will get you two bonus points.

THE 2014-2015 SCHEDULE

Beijing – Sept. 13
Putrajaya, Malaysia – Nov. 22
Punta del Este, Uruguay, Dec. 13
Buenos Aires – Jan. 10, 2015
TBA – Feb. 14, 2015
Miami – Mar. 14, 2015
Long Beach, Calif. – Apr. 4, 2015
Monaco – May 9, 2015
Berlin – May 30, 2015
London – June 27, 2015

CHARGING THE CARS

Charging will not be allowed during any practice, qualifying, or race session or at any time prior to the completion of post-qualifying or post-race inspection. Charging in the pits is only permitted with equipment that complies with FIA safety regulations. Charging of all 20 cars from flat to full takes about 50 minutes.

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

Leave a comment

Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”