Silent but deadly? – Formula E in China

Formula E

I’m not sure what to make of today’s Formula E début race at the Beijing Olympic park, there was a few odd things about it that made it look utterly half baked.

Given the fact that there was a lot of ex-F1 talent on the grid (not top drivers admittedly, but you still need to have a hell of a lot of skill to get as far as the F1 grid), I think I was expecting a lot more than what the technical specs of the series can provide, but still I think it managed to shoot itself in the foot.

For starters, the circuit looked very cobbled together at the last minute with some sections of the track looking as though they were only just wide enough to fit 1 car, let alone giving anyone room for overtaking, also the surface looked very uneven in places and although the cars were only doing about 100mph, the vibrations from the road surface were very visible at that speed and with more powerful engines and faster speeds (which I’m given to understand is the development aim of the formula) it would have been a major issue on the lines of the infamous USA Grand Prix in 2005.

As for the cars themselves, the sound of them is just wrong for racing, the high pitched whine provided by electric power trains was like nails on a blackboard to me and I can see why the broadcasters chose to have background music on during the warm up lap and during the safety car period.

Talking of the safety car, was that the quickest appearance by one from the start of a series ever? 2 corners in and there’s the first major track blocking incident, this I suppose is one of the downsides of a temporary street circuit as there’s just not the space to provide run-off areas as everything has to be fenced in (as Renault used to their advantage for Crashgate!)

Down to the race itself, it seemed as though some of the drivers were a little wary of the cars and weren’t driving them to their full potential, but like F1 has become now, it’s not about the racing all the time and it’s about conserving power to get you to the end of the race, or rather round about half way through the race when you make your mandatory pit stop and then change into your second identical car for the 2nd half of the race. I’ve got an issue with this as the FIA is all about making teams save money as well as being environmentally concious, now excuse me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t having 4 cars per team per race increase the manufacturing costs to double what a petrol driven series would have and how about the environmental aspect of making double the amount of everything? Now I know that the battery power isn’t there to give the cars the juice to run full race distance (even though it’s only 25 minutes long) but wouldn’t running 2 shorter races with re-charging time in the middle work out cheaper and also wouldn’t have the potential for disaster when the entire field comes into the pits (a row of tents by the way) all within roughly a lap of each other.

One thing that we did find out though is that the safety cells appear to work in the cars after what became the major incident of the race on the last corner. There’s going to be a lot of fall out about Heildfeld & Prost coming together with the German driver being launched into the air by the extremely unpopular “sausage” kerbs, but the question is, does anyone care about what will be changed.

All in all, I’d call this an unsatisfactory introduction to the series and given the alternatives out there, the organisers need to make things better for the viewer if they want this to last beyond the inaugural season that is meant to run till June 2015