Formula E must “learn from mistakes” says Da Costa after bizarre end to Valencia race

Formula E

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Antonio Felix da Costa has called on Formula E to learn from its mistakes after the conclusion of today’s race was spoiled by multiple cars running too low on energy.

Just 10 drivers were initially classified at the end of this weekend’s first of two races on the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia. Multiple Safety Car periods meant the maximum energy allocation was repeatedly cut during the race.

After the final restart, which occured with just two laps remaining, many drivers found themselves with too little usable energy to finish the race. Da Costa, who was leading the race at the time, was among those who ran too low. He officially finished seventh, over a minute behind winner Nyck de Vries.

The farcical end to the race, which occured on one of Formula E’s rare visits to a permanent race circuit, squandered an opportunity to win new fans to the series, said Da Costa.

Report: De Vries wins as energy shortage brings Valencia race to farcical end
“Obviously for me the number one problem is I lost the win in the last lap,” he told RaceFans. “But as a motor sport fan, as a Formula E fan and having been here from the beginning and for seven years of trying to convince people that we’re the real deal and we’re a professional and serious series, today I think we had some unconvinced people watching us because we’re racing at a permanent track and it’s not the ending we should have given them.”

While Formula E’s cars are capable of carrying enough energy to reach the finish, the rules stipulate the amount of energy drivers can use must be reduced if the Safety Car is deployed.

The reigning Formula E champion urged the FIA and others involved in running the championship to consider changes to ensure today’s outcome is not repeated.

“I don’t want to start going on the FIA or whatever but they have the power to do it differently,” said Da Costa. “So I’m sure that they’re not happy with what happened, no one’s happy.

“We shouldn’t be here blaming each other. For me we learn from the mistakes and the whole paddock will do better.”

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DS Techeetah team principal Mark Preston said they didn’t realise they wouldn’t have enough energy to finish until race director Scott Elkins told them how much their allocation would be reduced by after the final Safety Car period.

“Basically we were calculating how much energy we had to do to get to the end of the race plus one lap,” he explained. “A lot depended on how much energy Scott, who’s the director, took away from us. He’s got a number that he’s allowed to do, per minute of Safety Car running, and the risk was that basically when the Safety Car came in, we may end up with basically not enough energy to do the last lap, depending on that calculation.

“But as the Safety Car came in and then they gave us the number, then we suddenly went ‘we haven’t got enough to do the final lap’. Then we were telling Antonio ‘save energy, save energy’. Obviously Nyck had a little bit more energy, so he was able to do the last lap faster than we were.”

Da Costa’s team mate Jean-Eric Vergne also reached the finish, albeit four minutes behind in 12th place after driving an extremely slow final lap to save energy. The final race classification has not yet been issued.

“You probably saw Jev actually went very, very slowly around the last lap and he actually did cross the line with enough energy,” said Preston. “But we’re going to have to wait until all the calculations of who had energy across the line and who didn’t gets all worked out.

“It’s a little bit confusing and I think we have to find a better way of explaining exactly how that rule affected us at the beginning. But as you saw, it affected quite a lot of people on the grid.

“As my engineers were explaining to me the error margin gets worse at the end of the race. So at the beginning, if you have a Safety Car, you’ve got a lot of time to make changes along the way. But as it happens right before the last lap, then all the calculations start to go out the window.”

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Hazel Southwell
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33 comments on “Formula E must “learn from mistakes” says Da Costa after bizarre end to Valencia race”

  1. I do have some sympathy for those who ran out of energy. But I do think Da Costa and his team were a little naive and werent thinking on that final SC restart towards the end.

    He was leading the race. On the restart he accelerated 3 corners before the line and started the lap with 15 seconds to go. He could have slowed it down sufficiently that they wouldnt have needed to do that extra lap at the end.

  2. I think I understand better what happened than everyone except possibly Scot Elkins, the race director, or whoever does the safety car energy reduction calculations, because they made a mistake and are trying to cover it up. This is scandalous, and tonight they need to disallow this race or count back the results to the end of the last safety car. Let me explain.

    The cars have 52kWh capacity for the race. So each individual kWh reduced is equivalent to 1.92% reduction.
    With 20:36 minutes to go, a roughly 3.5 minute safety car period ended, and the graphics showed that every driver’s energy was reduced by 3%. With 19:53 minutes to go, a graphic appeared saying that the energy reduction had been 3kWh. But 3 kWh is equivalent to 5.8%, not the 3% that had been taken away. A mistake had been made, but nobody noticed. I’m guessing somebody typed ‘3’ in the % instead of kWh box in the software.

    Later, with 0:25 minutes to go, a roughly 5.5 minute safety car period ended, and the graphics showed every driver’s energy was reduced by 12%. At 0:13, a graphic appeared saying that the energy reduction had been 5kWh. But 5 kWh is equivalent to 9.6%, not the 12% that had been taken away. Another mistake had been made. However, this time, it had effectively ‘corrected’ the original error from the aforementioned safety car, as the two safety cars’ wrong 12%+3% reductions total 15%, which rounds up to the same total of the 15.4% made by summing the correct 5.8% + 9.6% reductions that should have been made instead.

    Although they got the correct total deduction in the end, the fact that so many teams got it wrong make me believe that the teams were misled by the same energy % left data for each driver as had been presented on the TV, which was reading 2.8% higher than it should have been between 20:36 and 0:25.

    Please can I have COTD for figuring this out??? :) How do I inform Formula E of their error? Like I said, they need to retrospectively red flag the race and take the result at either 20:36 or 0:25. Of just pretend the whole race didn’t happen.

    1. If that is so, then the teams never stood a chance.

      The data they get is the data on the TV screen (part of the reason they show it so much). If the TV data was wrong, then the teams were misled exactly as much as viewers at home, for the same reason.

      Further, 15% is less than the 15.4% you are suggesting got done (at the resolution teams work at, this matters a lot). That 0.4% rounding error is also important – more people would have crossed the line had that not been wrongly taken away.

      This is even worse than the “calculating energy removal as if the cars were stationary” that I thought had happened.

    2. I went back to the replay at the time stamps you mentioned and the maths is quite simple.

      Just before the restart at 20:36, De Costa had 61% of 46 kWh (note that total capacity also reduces with every safety car) which is about 28 kWh. At restart, he had about 25 kWh which is 58% of 43 kWh (notice the message on screen also mentions the total reduction).

      Similarly, at 0:25 it is 18% of 40 kWh (7.2 kWh) before restart and 6% of 33 kWh (2 kWh) post-restart with the roughly 5 kWh reduction over 5 minutes.

      The actual value will of course differ slightly in terms of precision and the actual SC period in seconds, but you get the picture. Thus, no need to inform FE as it is your maths skills which needs an error correction. 😏

      To extend the calculations further, we can see that Da Costa had 22% remaining at 5:38 when the safety car came out which would translate to about 8.8 kWh remaining at that point, with the car a few corners away from the end of the lap. With the lap time being over 1m 40s at that time, it can be argued Da Costa was looking mostly at 4 laps at just over 2 kWh per lap or in the worst case 5 laps at less than 1.7 kWh per lap which was going to be quite tight.

      At the end of the day, the teams ended up in this situation because the energy they spent was in the expectation of doing one lap less in race conditions.

      Also to @palindnilap, the pace doesn’t matter as the deduction is fixed at 1 kWh/minute under the SC.

      1. Odd to have to reply to one’s own post but the total capacity before the final SC would be close to 38 kWh considering the total reduction after the 5-minute SC was 19 kWh. This means a remaining capacity of close to 8.4 kWh for Da Costa before the final SC.

        5 laps at may be 8 kWh at the line sounds even more difficult and indicates the teams were too marginal and really would have struggled with the extra lap.

        1. To make it even simpler to understand, under the SC, if we assume a 2:40 lap, then it translates to 2.67 kWh reduction whereas in the race conditions, they were looking to complete a lap using less than 2 kWh.

          It implies that the SC reduction is far too excess and should probably reflect the race conditions. Thus, the reduction should be about a race lap worth of kWh per SC lap time (2 kWh per 2:40 minutes in this example).

          This is something worth suggesting to FIA FE.

      2. Thanks SaMa. That’s put my mind at ease, and I just have to live with the embarrassment of being publicly shown to be probably wrong! I might still be right, but your hypothesis checks out, and your subsequent analysis in the comments below show how the teams were caught out.
        I hadn’t realised that the % values were a % of the reduced total rather than the 52kWh they started with. So the reduction was simultaneously made to both the numerator and the denominator of that %.
        I was very unlucky that the figures made my hypothesis work perfectly too, and I was going on limited data due to the %s only being displayed occasionally. Also, I hadn’t realised the % is made relative to the reduced total because no other race has had so many safety cars, so the non-linearity of the % drops had never been so pronounced before to be noticeable.

        Curses. I have a few emails to retract. One day I’ll get another COTD.

      3. @f1g33k, good digging work. Bu if they had 28 kWh at the start of the 20:36 SC and 25 kWh at the end, with 3kWh deducted. that would mean they used 0 kWh during the safety car. I don’t remember how long that SC lasted, but that seems too low… :-)

        1. Those kWh values were measured just before the restart (and energy reduction), and just afterwards. So just seconds apart.

          I wanted to add that my mistake stemmed from how unintuitive it is that the TV graphics express % energy left relative to the total reduced by safety cars, rather than relative to the full total of 52kWh they started the race with (which was the convention I had wrongly assumed). The TV’s approach makes it really hard to judge whether the drivers collectively have spare energy or need to start saving more. Rather than just comparing the % left with the proportion of the 45 minute race left to run, they instead need to recalculate the % according to their memory of how many minutes of safety car has been running for. I guess I wrongly assumed they wouldn’t have demanded that of their viewers.

        2. It is as Alesici mentioned, the 28 kWh and 25 kWh figures are from 20:38 and 20:36 remaining when the percentage was updated in the TV graphics.

          For your benefit, the consumption under SC was about 0.75 kWh/lap or 0.3 kWh/minute as the percentage dropped from 22% to 18% with 38 kWh available energy under the final SC.

          Just before the SC came out at 5:38, Da Costa was about 25s away from the line at race speed and thus he has looking to take 5:13 to complete 3 laps before the +1 lap or about 1:44 – 1:45 per lap which would have been difficult considering the fastest lap was less than 1:40. If he was forced in to completing 4+1 lap, then he would have been in real trouble.

          The bottom line is that it was going to be 4 laps to the end, with or without the SC but the deduction under the SC was much larger compared to consumption at race speed.

          If there was a lap lost due to SC, then everything would have been fine which implies that FE should probably look at reducing the deduction rate towards the end of the race as 1kWh/min with less energy remaining leaves little scope for energy management by the driver.

    3. This is an impressive theory and I take my hat off to you but teams and race control manage energy in kW not % – that’s only for the onscreen graphic, which doesn’t show full telemetry detail. (of course, cus the teams would get rightly narked)

      1. While it seems logical that teams track the energy in kWH, the fact is that the driver is still informed about it in terms of percentage difference to the competitor which is counter-intuitive.

        This, it seems the percentage values serve a purpose to the teams beyond informing the audience, as otherwise they should always be informing the driver in terms of kWh advantage over radio.

  3. Your explanation is plausible, maybe it is indeed a human error . But I had a different theory, which is not backed up by numbers. In order to compensate for the safety car laps, the FIA had to devise a formula for how much energy to deduct by km/minute/lap under the safety car, possibly depending on the circuit. But if the formula was working on a dry track, it would go very wrong on a wet track, when the energy consumption is lower in race conditions.

    For instance, if the energy consumption was 2 kWh / lap on a wet track, 3 kWh on a dry track and 0.5 kWh under the safety car (I am totally making up those numbers), then the formula would deduct 3 – 0.5 = 2.5 kWh by lap under a safety car, while it should in fact deduct 2 – 0.5 = 1.5 kWh. Result, a 1 kWh loss for every team by lap under the safety car. Uh oh…

    Surely “they” had thought about that ? Well, there is not a lot of data about FE cars running in the wet. Moreover, a track is not simply either wet or dry. How is one supposed to take into account any state of the track ? If the rule can’t be saved, the wisest would be to ditch it altogether and go back to the good old times when teams could overconsume in the hope of a safety car.

    1. You think that is plausible? Why in your imagination do you think there are two boxes to enter reductions? Either it’s a percentage or a decimal value, there is absolutely no logical reason for the to be both.

      We often see cars running at low percentages at the end of races and having to back off in the last few laps, most of the field does it to some extent. Expending the energy early to gain track position and then defend is a lot easier than vice versa. With 4 laps to go most cars (maybe not Nato) could have made the finish by following this strategy, but by using a constant rate for 2 of those laps they just did not have the time to do that any more.

    2. If they had applied your principle (and calculated it correctly), then all it would mean was that the teams would just have to run the race a bit slower to save energy.

      My analysis showed that the % reduction for each driver’s displayed displayed was wrongly calculated too small earlier in the race, then too big late in the race, and the teams had been misled by this error.

    3. @palindnilap That sounds like a good start to fixing the problem, since it at least takes into account that the cars move and use energy under SC.

    4. someone or something
      24th April 2021, 21:11

      Sounds good, but I don’t think that’s how that works in FE. They’re very much limited by energy, so the amount of energy they use per lap is largely independent of track conditions. Instead, the target amount of energy per lap is the remaining (usable) battery charge divided by number of remaining laps.
      That’s why they’re deducing usable energy behind the Safety Car in the first place: They don’t want to end up with cars that have much more energy per lap available, encouraging drivers to go baloney after the restart. They had that in the past, when they were still changing cars mid-race, and the results weren’t pretty.
      But not as ugly as today, either …

  4. Can someone explain why the stewards are messing around with battery capacity in the first place? This seems so bizarre and counter-productive to actual racing.

    1. FE has stupid rules, it’s as simple as that. Its the literal equivalent of slowly cutting your fuel tank capacity in F1 for each minute the race is under Safety Car.

    2. It’s because there’s supposed to be energy management in FE and that’s their attempt to make it fair for those who who start energy saving early and would otherwise lose out under a safety car.

    3. This rule specifically came about because of apprehensions that the energy saved under safety car will lead to the drivers having excess energy that cannot be utilised until the end of the race, thereby allowing every one to run flat out until the end and removing any opportunity of overtakes resulting out of energy management.

      You must remember that all teams have the same power output and battery capacity and thus everything comes down to efficiency. Otherwise, you could see in qualification than the time difference across different track conditions was still less than a second for all cars who properly completed a lap.

  5. Battery power management should be a limitation imposed by the technology used, not by race stewards. The whole idea of removing energy capacity is absurd. Yes, if we do not remove charge during a SC, people who haven’t been saving charge will luck out, but that’s race strategy! That’s why we watch! Imagine a race where there are no safety cars: how exciting would it be to see cars who have been running hard in front suddenly having to save big time to finish the race and getting caught by those who hae managed their charge better. And if there is a safety car, it’s an all out battle til’ the end, what real ‘motor’sport fans want to see.

  6. The end of the race was a farce, but at least it was a fair farce. I really don’t like the idea of the race director having discretion about how much energy is taken off – how are the teams supposed to calculate how much energy they need if part of the calculation relies on the discretion of the race director? The race was the same length for all competitors, the energy reductions were calculated in a fair and consistent way with no ‘discretion’ – sure the end was a farce but at least it was fair and the same for everyone.

    I much prefer black and white rules than to have grey areas. The Indycar Series uses to have a lot of problems back in the late 2000s and early 2010s with a wooly rulebook with loads of discretion which meant that similar situations in different races were not treated fairly, but crucially the rulebook allowed those inconcistent outcomes to happen. Just trying to highlight that you’ve got to be careful what you wish for and be prepared for unintended consequences which arise.

  7. But couldn’t the most popular guy just get a topping from the fans with their fanboost or whatsit? Facebook not working?

    1. Great idea, solving the problem the FE way, patching a gimmick with another gimmick !

    2. Haha, good one @balue! Vote for who you want rescued!

      1. I have no idea what he’s talking about. I enjoyed watching the race and I’m very certain others did too.
        The thrill of not knowing if a car is actually going to finish the race or not is one of the reasons myself and many others even enjoy watching the sport.
        It’s like boxing matches in ice hockey, or spectacular Nascar crashes. It’s just part of the fun of the sport.

  8. Bruno Verrari
    24th April 2021, 21:39

    Formula E is a hard-to-watch, fan-boosted farce driven by failed F1 drivers at half speed that cannot climb Monaco’s Casino hill, but where the race director can take away battery capacity…NO, I’m not joking.

    1. And I look back at the times where there were former F1 drivers on the grid. Now we only have five.

    2. Did you see the “fireworks” in the winners circle? My neighbor lights off bigger ones on random weekends. The only thing F E is missing is the 1 meter tall stone henge set from Spinal Tap. It was so fitting for a race that features the wonder of electrical power to have no electricity at the end. Well done.

  9. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    24th April 2021, 21:58

    New week, new Formula E farce.

  10. I really want to give this sport a chance. I really do. I have been trying to get into it for a couple of years now, and the reason I have not given up yet is because there are some things about this sport that I really appreciate.

    This is mostly because it is so competitive, with so many different engine manufacturers and likable drivers. Also, I believe this sport has a potential in replacing the road relevance that F1 was seeking.

    I personally have even started appreciating the power boost mode, because it gives a fun and quickly changing diversity in tactics. Also, the qualifying I can put up with because I think it is a good experiment to look for ways of making the order more competitive.

    However, there are still so many small things that keep annoying me about the way this sport is managed and broadcast.

    Just to mention a few:
    – The fanboost to me seems very unfair. Why give Da Costa and Vandoorne a benefit every single race, just because they come from countries that apparently have more active fans!?

    – Why is the scoreboard still not displaying team colours? I have actually done my best at the start of this year to remember what team every driver belongs to. But I still sometimes forget the likes of Nato, Dennis, Mortara or Rowland and because of that am sometimes losing track of what is being shown, despite really putting in an effort.

    – Why does it, after 7 seasons, still happen that battles for the lead are being missed because the camera is focusing on somewhere else on the grid?

    – The website/ app has so many easy to fix inconsistencies that make the sport so hard to follow.

    o For instance, why are the 3 points for super pole explained in the race results, but the 1 point for the first part of qualifying not mentioned? It took me half a season to figure out where that one point kept coming from.
    o Why were the driver standings on the website not updated for at least a day after race 4?
    o And where can I find the standings in the App? Have they just forgotten to add that!? I can’t imagine.
    o Why do race results or summaries not display penalties? I once had to research between several websites to figure out why some got penalties or got disqualified.

    But something that to me seems really unjustifiable is when race results do not reflect the differences in strengths because of some arbitrary ruling.

    How on earth can you defend that the race leader did not know about a race deciding ruling until it was too late? De Vries now walks away with 25 points over Da Costa, even though up till that point even his team was telling him that he was not using the right tactic because of his under consuming.

    And how do you defend that Vergne does get 2 points, for taking over 4 minutes to do the last lap, but Mortara gets disqualified, even though they started the last lap on almost the same energy.

    Even if it would have been possible to find the standings in the App, I still wouldn’t look at it, because for me the rest of the season they are worthless. I just don’t think it fairly reflects how these drivers and teams have performed anymore.

    This will be the last race in a while that I watched. I might come back somewhere next year to see if it has improved.
    Thank you for listening to my rant. I had to type it here because I have not yet been able to convince any of my friends to follow this sport 😊.

  11. petebaldwin (@)
    25th April 2021, 0:43

    I think I’m like a lot of people – I really want to enjoy Formula E and to really get into the series but every time I watch it, something ridiculous seems to happen and it just ends up looking like a bit silly…. It was much better seeing them on a proper track but what happened at the end just made watching the race feel like a waste of time.

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