Jean-Eric Vergne, Techeetah, Formula E, Valencia pre-season testing, 2018

‘Boring’ flat-out races possible in new Formula E format – Vergne

Formula E

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Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne is concerned the series’ new format for its 2018-19 season could lead to more flat-out racing which he believes would produce less action.

The all-electric championship has introduced a new, second-generation car for its fifth season which starts this weekend. For the first time drivers will be able to complete entire races distances without stopping to changes cars.

The new format will see races run to a time limit of 45 minutes plus one lap. “I think it makes it very interesting, a lot of different strategies to have,” said Vergne in an exclusive interview with RaceFans at the FIA Gala.

However he pointed out that Safety Car periods could reduce the amount of energy-saving drivers have to do, which may negatively influence the racing.

“The only concern I have and it’s quite a big one, is that in case of [a] long Safety Car the race becomes flat-out,” he said

“That’s not the DNA of the championship. We don’t want flat-out races. We want to think it’s important also to save energy throughout the race.”

Vergne said he has raised his concerns about the potential effect of the new format. “I already suggested the idea but nobody really listened to me,” he explained. “Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know, it’s just my feeling.

“I don’t say that because it would be a benefit to me or whatever, I’m saying that because of the show, the spectacle. If you have the race with everybody following each other with no overtaking, people will be bored and that’s not what we want as a championship.

Edoardo Mortara, Venturi, Formula E, Valencia pre-season testing, 2018
The new Formula E season begins on Sunday
“Hopefully I’m wrong but if in the first race we see some crashes, which we probably see in every race in Formula E, and that people are following each other because they can’t overtake because it’s a flat-out race, I think they will have to change some things.”

The championship also needs to ensure the role of technology does not dominate the competition, Vergne added.

“The only thing that we all tend to agree as drivers is we hope that technology will not be making too big of a difference because then if it makes a big difference it becomes like Mercedes in F1. Domination.

“I think one of the reasons why the championship is successful, and why there is so many manufacturers is that they all have the feeling, rightfully so, that they can win or achieve podiums at every race if they do the right job. So hopefully we’re not going too much in that direction, too far. But so far it’s OK.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 37 comments on “‘Boring’ flat-out races possible in new Formula E format – Vergne”

    1. He’s the guy we need in F1 :P

        1. He never should have never left!

    2. They need design to degrade tyres, that will spice things up

      Weird, I feel like I’ve heard this somewhere else

    3. This article has a nice video that shows a comparison of a Gen 1 vs. Gen 2 FE car (skip to roughly midway through the video to see the actual head-to-head comparisons).

      We don’t want flat-out races. We want to think it’s important also to save energy throughout the race.

      Oh dear.

    4. ”We don’t want flat-out races” – LOL, usually, it’s the other way round.

    5. Well the flat-out top speed is not too crazy to begin with.
      Maybe JEV can pick up a Blue Shell or Bullet Bill to help with overtaking? Woohoo! Itsa FormulaE time!

    6. It can’t be much more boring than it already is can it?
      I have tried to follow FE twice now and given up both times before the chequered flag. I was hoping the new cars and rules might spice things up enough to make it watchable but if the Champ is saying not only that it may be boring – but also saying he doesn’t want flat out racing then I’m concerned again.

      I don’t see how “racing” and “conserving energy” can ever be happy bedfellows.

      1. Next time you’re watching a Formula E race on YouTube, up the speed to 1,25x or 1,5x.
        It makes it look a bit more like their racing and the commentator start to sound like a young enthusiastic Murray Walker ;)

        1. Sheer genius!
          I will find some soundtracks of growling V8’s to play in the background as well.

          This is going to be great ;)

    7. Next thing we’ll have boxers coming out saying they don’t want full contact matches, because knock-outs are boring…

      1. He says later that he wants more overtaking and not it just be a procession race.

    8. I’m not sure I understand this comment. I’d rather see them drive flat out than have to nurse fuel/power/tyres for a race. F1 has the market disappointingly cornered on marathons, maybe FE would do better to experiment with being a sprint?

      I mean, they’re not THAT fast anyway….

    9. The question has to be, what do we want from motorsport? Is it that “the fastest car / driver wins”? Or is it “the team with the best fuel saving / tyre saving / pit stop / strategy wins”?

      Personally I want to see the fastest driver / car combination win. If that means dull races then so be it. During the seasons when MSC dominated, instead of turning off I followed the battle for third more closely, or sixth or thirteenth!

      1. Great comment (I just wish it didn’t need be said, because it’s pretty obvious)

    10. I watched an FE race last year (forget which one) and I saw a couple of what looked a little bit like ‘late-braking moves’ – Ricciardo-style long-distance lunges.

      After the second one I realised they were actually ‘normal braking point moves’, and only happened because the car ahead lift-and-coasted so early to save energy that the car behind could just drive past unopposed.

      Less of that can’t be a bad thing.

    11. Endurance is exciting for many engineers, but not for me to be honest. That’s why I don’t particularly watch the WEC… but each to their own. If FE wants to continue down an endurance route then fine, but I won’t be watching it… but then who cares?

    12. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      11th December 2018, 13:29

      I can see his point. Flat out in F1 is likely to produce errors, mistakes and be physically and mentally demanding.

      Flat out in FE is still to slow to cause any of that so will just be a procession.

      1. Yeah basically, he says later in the article that he WANTS there to be more overtaking and not just a procession.

    13. I was sure JEV’s comment would get bombarded here, but I don’t think he’s very wrong: if FE is about preserving resources (‘save the energy’, as he puts it), doesn’t make a lot of sense that anybody could go flat-out in case of a safety car. He seems to think FE is not about going fastest, but going faster within restrictions. And provided he’s the reigning champion (and has been a contender in every season so far), it’s hard to argue that’s a bad approach to it…

      I’m not sure I agree with it (one could argue that in a race that’s already short and cut even shorter with a safety car, seeing drivers go flat-out for the remaining laps would be quite entertaining), but it does make sense.

      1. But I though the endgame of Formula E was to drive the technology ahead with the goal of eventually getting to the point where better energy density & recharge times, so that the cars would one day be able to run flat out. Am I mistaken on this? Honest question.

        1. Good lord… not my best effort… apologies for the errors…

          1. No worries. You were going flat out. Errors are expected during these resource-limited internet screen races.

            And yes, I thought the point of FE was to make the technology better. But, it appears more like a guilt-free racing treat for the urban world choking on it’s own excessive energy use.

            1. If Formula E is about saving energy: don’t race.. its better. They can also opt to do regenerative pushcarts races. They can put a 45min counter and next to it the energy produced per driver and maybe also a metric for the amount of polar bears saved. A weighting of energy and polarbears saved will determine the winner. With fanboost we can decide who gets the tricycle. Title Sponsorship from Greenpeace.

          2. hey, it’s fine. I think you got your point across…

            like I said, this is what JEV appears to think FE is about: not sure it’s a conclusion he came up on his own, a work philosophy for his team, or whatever, but it is a sucessful approach that stays within the rules and people are willing to throw money behind, so who is to say it’s a wrong one! ;)

            that said, it doesn’t sound very sexy at all and I’m sure this is not how the owners of FE would like people to view it…

    14. They could extend the race length by the time spent on Safety Car periods. Something like 3 laps behind Safety Car adds 2 laps to race length.

    15. The problem with this is that over the first few years of Formula E the races that have tended to be the best in terms of actual racing action have been the one’s where a SC has reduced the energy saving & allowed drivers to push harder.

      Most of the more standard FE races tended to feature a first stint that was fairly dull as everyone was saving as much energy as possible in order to extend that stint & shorten the second so that they had more energy to push in the second car.

      This is why races tended to feature more action in the second stint where drivers were pushing harder, Going for more risky late braking overtakes due to less lift/coast & making more mistakes due to pushing harder. If more of the races can now be like this rather than the old first stint’s then I don’t see it as a negative.

    16. Next year the camera is probably mounted on a Tesla that follows the leaders during the race.
      If there is enough “energy saving” even i can win a race on my electric bike…

    17. I have enough on my plate being concerned with F1. I have no sympathy to spare for Formula e.

      1. You don’t have to, one of them is up and up and the other is declining.

        One of them is getting manufacturers racing to get in while the other you couldn’t bribe them enough to come in.

        One of them involves investing in technology that is more relevant to the direction of cars.

    18. Formula E? That’s where fans get to control the car power in races via Facebook or something right?

      1. @balue yes and with mariokart lanes. Generally where all the Formula one rejects go to spend retirement.

    19. Stephen Higgins
      11th December 2018, 17:25

      And that is why I will not watch Formula E.

    20. This pitched idea makes no sense, especially if you look at the whole FE concept.
      The understanding is that FE several things and different things o different groups.
      The drivers see it as a concept that they can race in. To do that they want fast competitive cars and limited opportunity for one manufacturer to dominate. Result, they want spec cars because they each KNOW that they are the best driver and can win. Just give me the same car as the other guy.
      The promoter wants to put on a show. For that he (natural assumption) needs bums in the seats and TV contracts to help bring in the $$$. He also wants competitive exciting racing and he really doesn’t care how this is managed. He likely also realizes he needs outside sponsorship to provide more $$$. End result, he doesn’t care if they are spec cars or who the drivers are, beyond a couple of stars.
      The FIA wants to manage and promote a growing series. They don’t have much concern for the drivers, who or how they got there, and they only manage the technology, reluctantly, in order to placate the two groups above. I doubt they are terribly interested in the level of competition, but they too want to see bums in the seats. Not sure why, but I suspect they do.
      One group that the FIA really wants to have come to the show are the manufacturers. Without them, it’s likely there wouldn’t be a show. No buck$, no Buck Rogers. There is also the ECO card at play here as the FIA wants to be perceived as “saving the planet”.
      Last group are the ones with the most money in the game, the manufacturers. They want to show off how great they are at the Technology Game and how awesome they are at running a racing team. No doubt that they deserve all the advertising and promotion they get and as with F1, the leaders will be willing to spend lots to get there. Or is it that those who spend lots get to be leaders..??
      Either way, JEV may want a spec series, but if he expects it to turn out to be any more successful and lucrative than a national F-Ford championship (apologies to the F-Ford crowd) he is probably going to fail the anti-doping test.
      Don’t get me wrong, FE is a neat idea, but from a BIG picture perspective, they need to embrace the manufacturers, have competitive and exciting racing which means fast cars on the limit and show technology development with real world application. Sorry, 46 minute races on street circuits probably won’t cut it.
      And what is this high nose, no Halo and grooved tires nonsense? Did someone transport me back in time?
      Before anyone asks, I haven’t been able to endure a whole race. Not yet anyway. Now which one was the Golf Channel.?

    21. My expert opinion on this – already said this to Keith – is that JEV is very committed to Formula E and to seeing it succeed. And also prone to worrying about things and getting things embedded in his head.

      He might be right – he might not be. He’ll be the one running simulations obsessively at the moment but that’s different from on-track circumstances (flat-out running, for instance, would rag the tyres sideways and if drivers still have mandatory Attack Mode periods to complete they could find themselves in serious trouble) so I would say… let’s wait and see. JEV certainly knows what he is talking about but this is a totally new race concept so I don’t think anyone has a crystal ball on it.

      But it’s interesting to see the champion thinking so hard about the show, more than his own specific race.

    22. FE doesn’t have any DNA at 5 years old. Think he’s on the sauce already for the holidays.

    23. Electrics cars are boring… Ok they accelerate fast, so what? So does a go-go cart. They are quiet and handle poorly. The only reason why formula E exist is becuse the industry wants to invest in electric cars due to oil industry colapse… The moment oil becomes atractive again, the electric cars will desapear.. There is nothing to do with environment, moslty because electric cars are not enviromentaly friendly at all.

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