Dec 11, 2014
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A dramatic final-lap, final-turn finish at Round 1 of the FIA Formula E Championship in China… A runaway winner at Round 2 in Malaysia... What will happen at Round 3 in the resort city of Punta Del Esta, Uruguay? We’ll find out Saturday, December 13.
Punta Del Esta will be the first stop for Formula E—the all-electric auto racing championship for which Qualcomm Technologoies, Inc. is a Founding Technology Partner—on South American soil and every team is still trying to dial in the perfect formula (pun intended) for winning.
Virgin Racing and driver Sam Bird appeared to have cracked the code with a dominant performance in Round 2, but the course in Punta Del Esta is different—a varying street surface, a narrow track and lots of sharp turns. This type of course requires many more cycles of hard braking/hard acceleration—taxing the drivers’ focus and their cars.
Here are a few things fans should watch for:
- Acceleration out of the the slow turns – Torque is what gets a car moving from a stop or from a reduced speed—such as when coming out of a turn. While many petrol-based race cars reach their peak torque at around 5000 rpms, EV race cars deliver peak torque as soon as a driver hits the throttle. Drivers will have to be smooth coming out of turns—if they punch the throttle too hard, too fast, they’ll exit the turn tail first end up in the wall. And no, there’s no traction control allowed in Formula E.
- Level of competition – Many of the drivers are veterans of some of the highest levels of racing, including Formula 1, Indy, Le Mans, DTM… and if you’ve ever met a real race car driver, you know that they are extremely competitive and they do not like giving up their position on the track—which was exemplified on the last lap/last turn in Beijing. Expect the competition to be high, expect rivalries, expect drama.
- Expertise – Watch for teams with strong racing histories such as Audi Sport ABT, Andretti Autosport and e.dams Renault to continue doing well in these early rounds. As teams, they have more racing experience and know what to anticipate, and they know best how to strategically execute tasks such as a car swap…
- The car swap – This is one aspect that sets Formula E apart from all of today’s other auto racing series. A swap takes place only once, but like the fuel stops or tire changes in other racing series, the team’s decision on when to do it can determine where it finishes the race (or not). Also, if a driver and team cannot execute it flawlessly, the driver will not be able to leave the pits after the mandatory minimum 30 seconds (beginning from when the driver first touches the second car until he can leave the pits), losing precious time. Check out this video of car swap practice.
- Push-to-pass strategy – Overtaking other racers can be a challenge on tight street circuits. Formula E cars have a push-to-pass feature that gives them a couple seconds of increased power—a “boost.” For each race, each driver is allotted the same number of boosts. Additionally, the three winning drivers of the pre-race FanBoost competition will receive one extra boost. How and when drivers use their boosts will play into their race strategy. Should a driver use them at the beginning to get the hole shot, mid-race to gain position and hope to hold it, or save them until the end of the race and hope that the boosts can be used to ultimately win the race?
- All-electric safety cars – Formula E is billed as the first all-electric auto racing championship—even the safety, medical and extraction cars are electric. Moreover, they have been specifically modified to meet FIA safety and technical requirements and feature Qualcomm Halo™ wireless charging technology. While the cars are sitting trackside, watch. They’re being charged without having to plug in—that’s Qualcomm Halo technology in action.
- Entertainment – Because Formula E cars are relatively quiet, promoters can offer a wide variety of trackside entertainment that traditionally has been held inside or after the race. Entertainment will vary from track to track—at traditional races, I’ve seen everything from racing simulators, rock climbing walls, and kids’ playgrounds to RC car tracks and collectibles sales. During the race, promoters could even pump dance club music around the track to keep the pace/excitement up (e.g., music during baseball games). There’s also the EMOTION Club (get it, “E” motion?) Whatever promoters do, a Formula event will be unlike any other auto race you’ve attended.
If you can’t make it to Punta Del Esta, you can catch the race on TV. Check out the TV networks carrying Formula E here.