Felipe Massa, Formula E, Riyadh, 2018

‘Mario Kart’ hyperboost and softer tyres part of Formula E’s overhauled race format

Formula E

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Formula E’s new ‘hyperboost’ system, which championship organiser Alejandro Agag has likened to a Mario Kart power-up, is just one change which will contribute to a dramatic overhaul of races in the 2018-19 season.

The first race with the championship’s second generation cars will take place in December. The teams are yet to learn full details of the series’ plans.

However it is known that the new cars will develop 200kW (up from 180kW) and hyperboost will add another 25kW on top of that. Drivers can activate hyperboost by running over designated areas of the track away from the normal racing line.

Drivers will no longer swap cars mid-race. This means their tyres will also have to last longer which, combined with the introduction of a softer compound from supplier Michelin, will make tyre management a greater part of the races.

However races will be shorter than previously. A new time limit of 45 minutes plus one lap has been set. Last season’s races took between 48 and 77 minutes to complete.

Jaguar’s race director Craig Wilson from told RaceFans many important details of the hyperboost system are yet to be confirmed. “We know the framework for that but it’s still not announced in terms of how that will actually be deployed and that will be some of the strategy, as well in terms of spicing it up.”

“[From] race to race we may not know, for instance, when the hyperboost periods will be, how many, etc….”

Jaguar driver Mitch Evans said hyperboost periods could constitute a substantial percentage of the race. “With the hyperboost, no one really knows how it’s going to work, how we’re going to activate it or anything.

“I think we’ll be doing some simulations in Valencia but it’s a little bit up in the air as well and we won’t know exactly, we’ll probably have eight minutes over the whole race but we won’t know how that’s divided.”

Hyperboost energy will come out of the overall battery allocation per driver, rather than being additional storage. Its use will therefore be highly strategic, and will go hand-in-hand with Formula E’s introduction of a new, softer tyre for the second-generation car.

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Nelson Piquet Jnr said managing the power modes versus tyre degradation, with only one set of Michelin tyres per car per race, would be strategically crucial. “I think the drivers are going to have to think a little bit more because there’s attack mode, the tyres are a little bit softer so there’s going to be different tyre degradation,” he said.

Felipe Massa, Formula E, Riyadh, 2018
Felipe Massa demonstrated Formula E’s new car in Saudi Arabia
“It’s not simply putting 220, 225kW and stepping on it. When you put more power, you’re asking more out of the tyre as well. [You’re] heating up more of the tyre, you’re consuming more tyres so doing that at the beginning or the end of the race – all of these things, you’re going to have to be thinking constantly what’s going on, to manage all of it at the same time.

“There’s no point in you saving this 225kW power towards the end of the race when your tyres are dead, you’re still going to be slow, so there’s a lot of different things that are going to be playing.”

Wilson said that communicating the new format would be important, not only to teams and media but as part of Formula E’s race broadcast. “I hope that the way that that’s communicated is very clear to viewers, though, because we’ve got a completely new format now and it’s going to be very important in terms of the messaging, so the people who are just getting into Formula E can understand it, in terms of power modes being used and that sort of thing.

“And I know there’s a lot of good work going on behind the scenes with the FIA and with Formula E in terms of key messaging and the communications but it is going to be very important. At the end of the day, we’re in the entertainment business in that way and we want to communicate technology but we want to entertain people so it’s going to be quite important that people understand what’s actually happening.”

Testing for the new Formula E season will begin on October 16th at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain. The first race of the season will be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 15th.

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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49 comments on “‘Mario Kart’ hyperboost and softer tyres part of Formula E’s overhauled race format”

  1. Formula E is still the biggest load of sanctimonious, self-righteous, up-itself, smug, dull, pretentious load of tosh I have ever seen, and a fan of genuine, authentic, gimmick-free racing, having occasionally watched the odd race on a day when I’ve had nothing else to do, I can certainly say I won’t tuning in again.

    Get proper slicks on the cars, go to proper circuits like Spa, ditch the silly gimmicks like fanboost, hyperboost, and RACE !!!

    1. Whether you laugh or criticise, Formula E is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and, if F1 doesn’t play their cards right, Formula E will become the premier open wheel racing series.

    2. Before watching Stephen you should have realised FE is heavily restricted due to the sanitzed world we live in.

    3. Pretty sure we’ll see sprinklers at some point. But no harm in trying something different with a few cars that is not racing but entertainment.

    4. Having watched this year’s Belgian GP I can safely say I don’t think slicks and Spa are going to improve FE’s racing.

  2. I hate these kind of gimmicks. Makes me think that Formula E is a marketing exercise rather than true competition…

    How are those designated zones going to work any way? If it is like Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing everyone will be using those areas at all time, cancelling the effect. I rather wish they just had a power boost like in Indycar

  3. While I think @StephenH above is maybe a tad too biased against Formula E in his post, I do have to say that ‘Mario cart like’ hyperboost, including patches of track that at some times give said boost, seems very gamey, and unlike real racing to me; frankly, for real life racing, it makes me shudder.

    The change to a time-based race-length, well, it works for WEC, and I guess it’s convenient for broadcasters and audience; that big variation in length of the race does not seem ideal indeed. How does this influence the power budget usage per track though, with a variable distance now, and not only a variation from track to track in where you need power, and how much?

    1. The description of the hyperboost makes me a bit apprehensive as well @bosyber, @fer-no65. On the other hand I read into this that the stupid “fanboost” thing will be dropped – did you hear anything about that @hazelsouthwell?

      A boost that is more or less limited in capacity and CAN be used by every driver as they choose / see fit – even if the way it is done is a bit “gamey” to make it more visible for fans watching (or that is probably the reason why they go for this approach?) is miles better than something some drivers get arbitrarily from the amount of likes they got online, as it puts the drivers skill and thinking in how to use this back up front.

      I do wonder a bit about the race duration though. Will some races now be shorter or was it due to a combination of pitstop, safetycars etc that some races took almost 80 minutes? The time limit will probably make planning for organisers and TV stations easier, but I’d like them to give it a bit more to avoid cutting too many races short.

      1. @bascb, the idea of a “boost that is limited in capacity and can be used by every driver as they choose / see fit” is already in place in a lot of other series. We’ve happily accepted the idea of a time limited “push to pass” system in championships such as IndyCAR – why is a system such as that so much more palatable, even though many would say that it is rather gimmicky in reality?

        @bosyber, is what Formula E doing that much more gimmicky than what the WEC did in the past when they introduced hybrid systems? In the past, the ACO told the manufacturers that they were only allowed to use their hybrid systems within specific “hybrid zones” (that was the official designation) around the Circuit de la Sarthe – for example, at the exit of the Ford Chicane, on the exit of the first chicane onto the second section of Hunaudières, on the exit of Mulsanne and so forth. https://www.fiawec.com/en/news/hybrid-cars-braking-zones-on-the-le-mans-24-hours-circuit/212

        Was that not, in some ways, a gimmick? Nobody really seemed to think that the idea of specifying set portions of the circuit where you could use the boost from the hybrid systems “seemed very gamey, and unlike real racing” though.

        1. Look Anon, as mentioned in my first line, i am not at all happy about what seems like a boost straight out of a video game.

          I am just wanting to highlight that however gamey the activation will be, it is a lot better than fanboost because it will be available to all drivers.
          My guess for why not the time / capacity limited boost like indycar has, for example will be a combination of FE trying to be different but also trying to make it more “interesting” and visible when it is used. We will be able to judge how awkward (or not, I’ll be happy if it turns out to be fine) its usage will be within a few months.

          1. @bascb, but why, other than “it feels game like”, is it that you’re so agitated about this idea (the tone of your last post gives the impression that you are quite touchy about this subject)?

            I’m not saying that I like the idea, but would prefer people to offer something more substantial when they criticise the idea other than “it feels game like”, which seems to be a fairly commonly repeated refrain. Is it just the fact that it feels alien to the sport that makes you reject it so strongly? What exactly is it that makes a particular type of gimmick acceptable to fans, such as “push to pass”, but a different type of gimmick has such an extreme reaction?

            @bosyber, I had rather been hoping that you would offer something more substantial than just complaining about gimmicks and attempt to offer something more than “because it’s too video game like” or “it’s unlike real racing” – the latter phrase being extremely nebulous, because frankly it feels like you could put ten fans together and ask them what “real racing” is, and would probably get about twelve different answers back.

            Again, the same question goes to you – why exactly is it that you are reacting in the way that you are? Why is it that this particular gimmick is so bad, but other types of gimmick are accepted, such as “push to pass”, to the point where they are no longer questioned?

        2. Well Anon, I have to say, your post reads like you first put up two strawmen from my and @bascb‘s post to then break those down – I agree what you describe was gimmicky and not great, and there are a lot of problems in those too (and WEC stopped doing that, didn’t they? And even there, it was based on track characteristics, not ‘off the racing line’). But that wasn’t the topic (I only mentioned WEC in relation to the new time-based race length).

          @bascb does make a good point that even this hyperboost system at least has the merit over fanboost, of being based on driver/on track actions; and also of being visible to onlookers, so we know what’s happening even when we don’t see telemetry displayed (bc. of watching at the strack for example).

          1. Well Anon, I have to say, your post reads like you first put up two strawmen from my and @bascb‘s post to then break those down

            indeed @bosyber. Not going to waste time arguing his own arguments against him.

    2. Add to that the unknown about when hyperboost will be available and you open a huge door for controversies. At least organizers will have the tools to make sure racing is unpredictable but then it get too artificial. I don’t like how it sounds but will keep my final judgement for when I see it.
      Would have preferred if every driver had a certain amount of hyperboost time per race or something like that. Be parcimonious and strategic.

      Good point for race distance and battery management.

      1. @jeanrien

        Add to that the unknown about when hyperboost will be available and you open a huge door for controversies

        Indeed! Especially if it is a person or group that decide mid race when to switch it on and off. I can foresee complaints about favouritism already.

        I hate the idea of this almost as much as fanboost which was one of the reasons I stopped watching mid way through the inaugural season (aside from the fact that the cars were too slow, sounded like my old Tamiya RC cars and the tracks are awful).

        I have played quite a lot of racing games over the years and especially the more ‘sim’ versions with my wheel/pedal set-up at home but would never buy any game with this sort of gimmick. It makes me feel for the drivers, many of them already rejects from other series, that this nonsense is all that is left for them. They must hate it despite all of the PR guff.

      2. It will be known on the morning of the race, it’s not something that can be arbitrarily changed during the event.

  4. tyre management a greater part of the races.

    This is exactly what fans want!

  5. are they going to race at Rainbow Road as well?

    1. @johnmilk

      They’re still missing power ups… and a rollercoaster loop. Formula E has a long way to go.

        1. That’s gold @johnmilk

          Kinda sad that a supposedly top tier Motor racing series is actually using some ideas from a game.

          1. @dbradock the situation is even worse because they went with Mario Kart, Crash Team Racing was much better

      1. sooner or later that series will end up looking like the movie speed racer.

    2. I’d watch it though

  6. Gavin Campbell
    26th September 2018, 9:27

    Have they dropped fanboost? the most rediculous concept I’ve ever seen in a sport – we can vote to give someone an unfair advantage??

    This new gimick could of been played better – on the road charging is a real option for electric racing so someform (even if they fake it for now) of inductive charging area that gives you more power or a boost or something could of been a valid and relevant addition. Except they’ve gone “lol kids like Mario Kart”.

    If you want more fans you need to keep the sport simple – not constantly add rules and strange regulations. A race (be it humans, cars, bikes, horses etc.) is the most obvious sport humans play – why people think they can improve upon a tradition of millenia by adding stupid gimicks into it is beyond me.

  7. I feel like the hyperboost and tyre wear are kind of at odds with each other. Energy management is one thing because with the excellent graphics we can follow it, hut tyre wear is less visible. And I think the best thing about FormulaE was that it got kids excited, because the cars slide on their hard tyres, look fast in the confines of the barriers (F1’s speed doesn’t translate to TV for me), the races aren’t too long and you can see what’s going on strategically. Hyperboost will help that, but I’m not not sure tyre management will.

    1. Maybe we should get Michelin to add in some colour in the tyres (maybe a “wedge” shape in the middle we can see getting wider and wider as the tyre wears?)

  8. I’m okay with a boost system that is the same for everyone. If it replaces the abomination that is fan boost, it will be a huge improvement and I might actually consider watching a race agaon.

  9. José Lopes da Silva
    26th September 2018, 10:22

    It’s a fun exercise. If you look at the comments sections of the main motor racing sites, they’re loaded with people disliking F-E. Yet, the thing doesn’t stop growing.

    Why does reality not comply with the power of the internet? Who are those people watching F-E, anyway? In what kind of alternative reality do they live in?

    1. It doesn’t stop growing in part because its what manufacturers want to look good to the world, Motorsport fans or not. The spectacle is secondary in that sense, it serves a purpose and it’s much cheaper than other series. I mean, you get to race the biggest cities in the world, right inside them, not locked away in a distant grand prix circuit. Plus it’s “green” and that’s what everyone wants anyway, right? It’s major publicity for all involved.

    2. It’s growing in some places but in others it’s losing ground. In the UK for instance the TV ratings have declined each year which has resulted in ITV dropping the coverage & Channel 5 reducing it’s coverage.

      At present I don’t think Formula E has a TV deal in the UK for there next season unless I have missed that announcement?

      1. FE has lost ground in the UK since we lost a UK-based race. Same thing happens to F1 when GPs depart.

  10. I’ll probably get shot down for this, but… Go for it! I think FE should carry on down this path, it has made a name for itself being a bit gimmicky and having an alternative approach to racing and I am sure it is building a fan-base (and enemies, clearly) by doing so.
    I have watched a fair few races since season 1 and while it is not ‘my thing’ exactly, there have been some pretty decent races and moments that I enjoyed. So I am happy that they are exploring gamey type elements and not being scared to venture away from the pure racing that we all love on here.
    It is not F1 and never will be – we have F1 for that, so live and let live, maybe try watching something that is a bit alternative and enjoy it for what it is. Or not – if you really don’t like it, it’s not that hard to avoid it!! :)

    1. @ginja42
      I know what you mean. I think that the logic of a boost makes sense (aka KERS in F1 or push to pass in Indycar), but the way its being described makes it sound ridiculous, which doesn’t help.

      Overall this article doesn’t help, as all it says is:

      “The thing that was announced 6 months ago will still happen, but we don’t know anything more about it yet. In the meanwhile, chat amongst yourselves and get angry again”.

      1. @eurobrun

        “The thing that was announced 6 months ago will still happen, but we don’t know anything more about it yet. In the meanwhile, chat amongst yourselves and get angry again”.

        Ha ha – so true – does make for some entertaining reading though :)

  11. Im not a fan of what they are proposing so far.

    I think a location specific boost would be awesome if it gave more power and didn’t use the batteries. I guess the tech for on-track power delivery hasn’t been viable yet. If it worked the cars could be lighter and have longer range. It could also be configured to give alternative lines that promote passing.

    But it has to work first.

  12. For me they have to get considerably quicker and make some kind of sound that relates to what the car/driver is doing. Even if it just a high pitched electric whine or buzz.
    The gimmicks and shortened races put me off a bit but I can accept them if it feels like an hour of racing rather than an hour of silent tedium.

    1. The good news is they will be a full 70kW quicker this year and they do definitely make a noise related to acceleration/braking etc. The whine of the electric motors is very easy to follow, IMO – and if you’re at an event (although this does come through on the feed, too) then you hear every gear change, floor-rub on a kerb, etc.

  13. It’s almost like Formula E wants to kick the traditional motorsport fan whilst he’s down, and boy is he down. Audiences in free-fall across the board. Even Formula 1 has huge sections of empty seats on Sundays as much as the TV director tries to avoid them and we’re told the place was a ‘sell-out’.
    The petrol heads cry ‘gimmick’ as their egos wont be able to take Formula E having bigger audiences. Just as the petrol heads are in a rage over Volkswagen and Tesla’s performance acheivements and records using EVs on other websites.

    People need to realise that Formula E from the word go made sacrifices for safety. Today’s horribly sanitized world would not have accepted a death in the Formula.
    Formula E has been very heavily restricted.
    Car swapping was due to William’s hi-tech battery-swap technology deemed too risky in this sanitized world. It would have been considered more than acceptable in the 90s.
    Non slick tires are because too much grip absorbs energy.
    The only problem with Formula E is that energy is too precious. Coincidentally a problem in F1 too.
    As for gimmicks, it’s totally even so far with F1.

    Formula E’s greatest asset is that they don’t have traditional fans and can do whatever they want. I noticed the drivers have a lot of fun. Which was how motorsport actually got started.

  14. Let’s bring the bananas in

  15. Hyperboost sounds exactly the same as DRS, so i have no issues with it. What does concern me though is that it can only be activated on certain off line areas, so cars dont get a chance to defend the position.

    Instead, call it a “push to pass” button and leave it to the drivers when and where on the track to use it.

  16. The Hyperboost sound less gimmicky than the fanboost but it still gimmicky. It doesn’t help that they compare it to Mario Kart. Wouldn’t be better Wipeout? I’m still curious though.

  17. Is this really racing when we have such gimmicks? I don’t watch FE and I don’t intend to do so when you have such stuff in it.

  18. Vettel fan 17 (@)
    26th September 2018, 18:05

    Hyperboost sounds too gimmicky in my opinion, even if better then fan boost. Couldn’t they add some KERS system? Have a 7 seconds boost a lap with the energy coming from the brakes, more eco-friendly power. Just a suggestion

  19. In the far-flung future, I see the Wipeout concept as the natural conclusion for top-tier racing series (sans offensive weaponry). Power-up pads are just part of the journey. Anti-grav isn’t so far away.

  20. Something simple like five ‘pushes to pass’ per race would have been much better and far less complicated.

  21. Not a fan of the ‘hyperboost’ and softer tires. They should really turn away from the gimmicks and focus more on the technology, their biggest selling point.

  22. Waiting for Formula Death Race to come next…

  23. I watched the very first Formula E race but with things such as drivers having to change car mid race and fanboost, (I also think they had background music during parts of the race) I decided it was not for me.

    I seem to recall that that the race scheduling wasn’t that great either so that contributed to me not watching subsequent races, as I didn’t know when they were on and I wasn’t motivated enough to go out of my way to find out..

    I may have caught a few laps of racing now and then in the years since that first race when I have been channel hopping but I didn’t manage to see anything that made me want to continue watching, so I haven’t been following the series as it progressed.

    But I heard that the next season of Formula E will have a new generation of car which can last the whole race, although they have shortened the races to enable this to happen, so I thought it might be a good opportunity to see if Formula E would now be worthwhile checking out, especially as Formula 1 will not be live on free to air in the UK from next year.

    Unfortunately from what I have read here this hyperboost system just seems like another gimmick which I would not like and so I don’t think I will be starting to follow Formula E just yet.

    Some people may enjoy features such as this and it may help attract some fans but it is something which doesn’t work for me.

    I am a bit late in replying to the article so this question may not get seen, but under the current regulations what areas of the car are each team allowed to develop and change and which areas are still standardised?

    I believe Formula E has attracted quite a few manufactures so I would have thought that they would want the opportunity to use their own technology to be able to differentiate themselves from their competitors. I could not see the point in car manufacturers racing against each other in a spec series where the only way the cars would be different from one another being the badge and livery.

    When Formula E started I understood it was a spec series with all the cars being the same, but obviously different teams would have different setups etc, I think since then that teams have been allowed to develop certain areas but as I have not followed the sport I don’t know what changes were introduced and when.

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