The past three weeks have given us our first taste of second generation Formula E machinery, as teams took to Donington to put their cars through their paces.
While one must always be careful to speculate on pre-season testing performance, the six days of running have provided an invaluable insight into the advances that the sport and individual teams have made over the close season.
On the whole, cars look to be around a second quicker than the machines that ran in the inaugural championship, driven by advances in powertrain development following the rules being opened up for the eight manufacturers.
Champions in the making
While daily race reports provide a direct comparison between teams during the few hours of running on any given day, the picture they provide is a blurry and inconsistent one at best.
With teams running to their own individual programmes that can focus on everything from powertrain advances and driver development, to wet weather data and set up changes, a full review of the teams’ performance across the six days offers a more useful guide to their performance.
With over 2,800 laps completed by the teams across pre-season testing here is the form guide going into the first race. Next stop Beijing, when Formula E returns on 17th October.
Front-runners and fall behinders
While the overall fastest lap times would suggest that Renault e.dams and Abt Schaeffler are clear of the competition for outright pace, with only Virgin and Mahindra challenging their dominance ((albeit on day 5 when the rain was heaviest) Fig 1) Renault e.dams completed 391 laps – only the third highest lap count – and Abt Schaeffler managed just 245.
The lap data (Fig 2) demonstrates that Venturi were able to complete the furthest distance over the six test days, closely followed by Mahindra Racing. Meanwhile, Dragon Racing’s position as the team to have scored the fourth highest lap provides reassurances over the mechanical strengths of Venturi’s new powertrain – which is run by both teams.
When considering the lap data, it is worth noting that Team Aguri’s bold approach of running last year’s powertrain from the outset appears to have paid dividends. The Anglo-Japanese squad achieved the fifth highest lap count over the six days, beating the second generation power units of DS Virgin, Abt Schaeffler and NextEV.
With both Andretti and Trulli expected to return to the season one powertrain for at least the first race, Team Aguri has certainly stolen the march on its competitors and proved the worth of its technological approach – which allows the squad to focus on software development.
Average fastest times provide a compelling insight into the performance of the teams across the six testing days, offering a clearer understanding of the execution of overcoming the technical challenges while creating a quick car.
As shown in Fig 3, Renault e.dams and Abt Schaeffler are around 0.7s clear of the competition and are likely to be fighting for pole come Beijing.
Yet an incredible close battle appears to be emerging behind them, with little to choose between the remaining teams – just 0.3s separates the third fastest team on average (Dragon Racing) from the sixth fastest (Mahindra).
Finding a champion
When extrapolating the lap count data alongside the average lap times, it would suggest that Venturi, Mahindra and Dragon appear to be the safe and solid choices for anyone wishing to place a bet on the opening rounds.
Renault e.dams and Abt Schaeffler are quick but less proven, particularly in the case of the latter, while the French squad have also experienced multiple gearbox issues throughout pre-season testing.
Given the available data, Dragon Racing appears to offer the best blend of speed and consistency. But only time will tell.
Several days were affected by wet running, which of course had an impact on both the amount of running that teams were able to complete as well as the overall lap times.
Available power also varied up and down the pitlane across the six days. Drivers were entitled to two 200Kw laps per day – one in each session. While some, like Buemi, used these to set their fastest laps others encountered traffic of driver errors, and as such not all teams were able to fully utilise the benefits of maximum power.
Similarly, the final day was the only one to see teams utilise the proposed 170Kw power allocation that is intended for use from the opening round of the season. However, conversations in the pitlane last week would suggest that this is still open to debate – unconfirmed rumours from several reliable sources have led me to believe that the available power will depend on the batteries being used, which could be divided into two sub-categories: new, season two batteries (170Kw) and refurbished season one batteries (150Kw).
Furthermore, some teams ran two drivers per day while others focused on a single car. Each approach has its merits – the former allowing more data to be gathered and teams to complete more laps in a shorter space of time, while the latter allows quicker turnarounds between runs by charging the batteries of one car while the other laps.