Motorsport

Formula E getting more competitive

On the go: The Formula E season-opener took place at the Diriyah street circuit in Riyadh recently.

On the go: The Formula E season-opener took place at the Diriyah street circuit in Riyadh recently.   | Photo Credit: Richard Pardon

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Debutants Porsche and Mercedes claim podium spots in the 2019-20 season at the Riyadh Street Circuit

The 2019-20 Formula E (FE) season began with back-to-back races at the Riyadh Street Circuit on November 22 and 23. Two debutants, Porsche and Mercedes, entered the electric racing championship at the Diriyah ePrix.

Both the teams claimed podium spots in their very first race through Andre Lotterer (Porsche, second) and Stoffel Vandoorne (Mercedes, third).

Welcomes additions

Formula One (F1) veteran Felipe Massa, who is in the Venturi Racing FE team, welcomed the addition of new teams. Massa is yet to open his account this season after finishing 12th and 17th respectively in the first two races.

“More top teams want to join the championship. It shows that the competition level in FE is increasing. It’s getting more difficult and challenging,” he said.

The competitive nature of FE is evident from the results. Defending champion Jean-Eric Vergne hasn’t had the best of starts with only four points in his kitty.

Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird bagged top honours on Friday, while Alexander Sims of Andretti-BMW claimed victory on Saturday (November 23).

Qualification process

Another F1 great Mark Webber, Porsche’s brand ambassador, credited the qualification process as a reason behind last season’s top performers misfiring in the season opener.

“The random nature of different winners in Formula E is due to the qualification process. The higher you are in the championship table, the earlier you go out during qualifying.

“So the favourites on top of the standings will be part of the first qualification group when the track is at its slowest. This is a parameter which makes everything competitive,” said Webber.

The qualification is divided into two — provisional and Super Pole shoot-out. Initially, the drivers are split into four groups of six each. Every group has six minutes to set their best lap.

Super Pole

During Super Pole, the top six drivers in provisional qualifying get another 15-minute session with a clear track each to determine their starting order. The driver with the best timing during group qualification is awarded a point, while the final pole-sitter gets three.

FE follows the same end-of-race point allocation (25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1) and fastest lap rule as F1. However, there are other advantages like Fan Boost and Attack Mode.

Credibility questionable

These innovative regulations do make motorsports interesting but the credibility of these, in the long run, is questionable.

With 12 races to go in 2020, only time will tell if FE can someday get close to matching the fanfare and fame of F1.

(The writer was in Riyadh on an invitation from Porsche).

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 8:27:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/motorsport/formula-e-getting-more-competitive/article30109921.ece

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