As the Long Beach ePrix, the sixth round of the FIA Formula E Championship, approaches (April 2), it’s hard to believe we’re already at the halfway point of the 2015/16 season. In preparation, we caught up with our Senior Team Managers Jean-Paul Driot and Alain Prost to review the action-packed Mexico ePrix and delve into the strategic preparation for a Formula E race with our technical guru, Vincent Gaillardot.
Preview with Vincent Gaillardot, Renault Sport Project Leader
One of the keys to Sebastien Buemi’s superb first half to the season has been expertly planned and executed race strategy. In preparation for Round 6 at Long Beach, we caught up with Renault Sport Project Leader, Vincent Gaillardot, to learn more about it.
What is the biggest single factor influencing race strategy in Formula E?
"The biggest challenge we have to deal with is that the energy we are allowed to use is limited to 28kwh and there are penalties for going over, so we need a strategy that maximises this without exceeding it. Energy management is critical in Formula E in the same way fuel management is key in other kinds of motor racing."
Presumably we run a lot of simulations to try out different race scenarios in order to perfect the strategy. How much can you learn from this?
"A great deal. For example, the Long Beach ePrix is probably going to be the last race this season run in very hot conditions, so we can simulate those temperatures and use the data to influence not only how we set the car up, but how the driver manages it during a race. There are plenty of other unpredictable factors, though: grid position, traffic, safety cars, total pit-stop times, and so on. It’s important to simulate all these things so you can make an educated decision when sometimes you only have a few seconds to do so."
We’ve already covered how important it is for drivers to have constant communication with their engineers, but how does it affect race strategy?
"It is up to the engineer to determine their driver’s strategy but, given the limited telemetry that is reported back to the pits during sessions, they will be guided by what the driver tells them. Sebastien and Nico will report back energy consumption levels and the engineers use this information to advise on whether they need to conserve energy or can push to overtake the car in front. There’s a lot of responsibility on the driver here because sometimes they will need to make adjustments to the wheel in the midst of all the action, or adapt their driving style just to make the end of the race."
How much emphasis is given to the mandatory pit stop seeing as there is a minimum time limit imposed at each round?
"There is a minimum time that the FIA declares before each round, but don’t forget that the drivers have to swap cars, so the time very quickly disappears if you are not a slick team, and we practice our procedures a lot. It’s been extremely useful because it can help drivers gain positions."
The inaugural Mexico ePrix was definitely one to be remembered. We were treated to all the excitement you’d expect from a Formula E race, and then some, with post-race exclusions and penalties shaking up the final results. But with a double podium and fastest lap, Renault e.dams maintained their strong showing in their 2015/16 championship campaign.
Alain Prost: "Given that it was a pretty dramatic race with lots of battles on the track right to the end, we were pretty pleased to have Sebastien and Nico finish third and fourth, which later became second and third after the post-race penalties. The results kept us in the lead of the Teams’ championship and Sebastien at the top of the drivers’ standings, while Nico moved up to sixth overall."
Jean-Paul Driot: "The results were very positive, especially as we weren’t quite able to realise the full potential of the car or the team over the course of the weekend. We’ve learnt over the years though that you don’t have a perfect weekend very often, and that consistently strong finishes with both cars are what win you championships."
AP: "Weekends like this happen, but the spirit in the Renault e.dams team is incredibly strong, and the team was able to achieve a great result."
JP-D: "We always put a lot of work into being the best we possibly can be at every race, and we will never stop striving for that improvement. We’ll keep on pushing at Long Beach and in the five races that remain after it."
AP: "We have to mention the fans, too, that were amazing all weekend. Mexico is a country with a rich heritage of motor racing heroes and the spectators that came to the circuit showed incredible support. Overall, it was great success for Formula E and I hope we return to Mexico City next year."
Long Beach ePrix power facts
- Track length: 2.1km
- Number of corners: 7
- Last year’s winner: Nelson Piquet Jr. (NEXTEV TCR)
- Last year’s pole: Daniel Abt (ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport)
- Sebastien result: 4th
- Nico result: 14th
- Fastest lap: Nico Prost (Renault e.dams), 58.973s
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On average the city has 345 days of sunshine each year.
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All commercial buildings in California that are designed after 2025 must be constructed as zero net energy facilities, which means the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.
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A grand total of 10 motorsport series have raced at the Long Beach street circuit, under various guises, including Formula E, Formula 1, IndyCar, United SportsCar Championship, Formula Drift and Indy Lights.