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The components at play in System E’s overtaking conundrum

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Whereas “that was a greater race than Mexico,” as somebody informed this author, was in all probability subjectively true, it was hardly a ringing endorsement given the shortage of motion within the Diriyah E-Prix double-header final weekend.

Sure, the opening System E race in Saudi Arabia featured a three-way battle for the win, at the very least till half distance, whereas within the sequel new championship chief Nick Cassidy needed to climb from third to take victory, however they had been hardly basic contests that may go down in individuals’s recollections. Away from the highest positions, it was very a lot a case of line-astern racing, the place positions remained unchanged for giant parts of the race, nor had been there any security vehicles to throw in an surprising twist.

Processional races in motorsport are nothing new – there have been definitely sufficient of them in System 1 final season – and are extra frequent than many fanatics would in all probability care to confess. Let’s not overlook, although, that with out the boring races, we’d have much less to understand when a very good one comes alongside and has us glued to the motion.

The conundrum with System E is that at varied factors final 12 months there have been loads of races the place drivers modified positions each lap and fairly actually a whole lot of overtakes occurred, a stark distinction to the three races of 2024 thus far. Earlier than we go any additional, let’s be clear {that a} ‘change of place’ is a extra apt description for what occurred at many factors final 12 months, moderately than what motorsport followers would contemplate an ‘overtaking transfer’.

With drivers shifting off the racing line to activate Assault Mode – a course of that’s necessary twice in each race and which provides drivers an additional enhance of vitality for eight minutes – dropping spots to drivers behind is inevitable. The 403 ‘overtakes’ for instance in Portland final 12 months, as blazoned throughout social media by the championship, is a living proof.

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Motorsport followers might rightly argue that it’s manufactured drama, which to a sure extent it’s, however alternatively it’s a strategic device that has turn into a vital factor of any race – one thing much like a pitstop, for instance. On that final level, fast-charging pitstops are presently lined up for use on the Misano E-Prix double-header in April, and may very well be what the championship wants to boost races once more.

Picture by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Diriyah’s races, just like the Mexico season opener, are unlikely to stay too lengthy within the reminiscence

The larger query, although, is why the boring races thus far? Assault Mode was used final season, but the three opening races in final 12 months’s marketing campaign supplied usually thrilling leisure. The 2 Diriyah races specifically had been a spotlight, as double-winner Pascal Wehrlein climbed from beginning positions of ninth and fifth, whereas there was loads of motion all through the sphere.

Qualifying nearly turned an irrelevance final season, with drivers successful from method again on the grid, together with Antonio Felix da Costa in Cape City (eleventh) and Mitch Evans in Berlin (ninth), whereas three of Cassidy’s 4 wins got here from eighth or decrease within the beginning order. But even earlier than a wheel had been turned in Diriyah, drivers had been absolutely conscious of how essential qualifying can be in 2024.

The largest distinction from final 12 months is that groups and drivers now have 12 months of racing the Gen3 automobile – which was new for final 12 months – beneath their belts, which means they’ve usually maximised their packages, together with vitality effectivity. 

“It actually comes all the way down to the FIA simulations round what number of laps they need to run. The extra vitality administration that we’ve got to cope with, I feel the extra enjoyable the races turn into” Roger Griffiths

Final time period it additionally turned obvious that main the race from the entrance was usually not the place to be at most tracks, with the Gen3 machine aerodynamically fairly draggy. It meant races changed into one thing extra akin to biking, the place drivers would transfer up and down the peloton – the additional again they had been within the order, the extra vitality they may save as a result of power of the slipstream. It’s why at Portland drivers went five-wide at factors as they lifted and coasted into corners in a bid to fall again into the pack, solely desirous to be in direction of the entrance within the closing laps.

However this solely turned a difficulty on tracks the place vitality administration was excessive and the slipstream efficient – the previous was not a serious concern in Diriyah, whereas the thinner air in Mexico meant the latter was by no means crucial. With extra energy-demanding and wider, quicker tracks developing on the calendar, the chances are that we’ll see extra entertaining races this season, however there’s no assure. And System E’s greatest problem relating to its on-track product stays in guaranteeing that it finds a steadiness between processional and wildly-over-the-top races.

As Andretti group principal Roger Griffiths says: “It’s laborious to say whether or not it [peloton racing] goes to return or not. It actually comes all the way down to the FIA simulations round what number of laps they need to run. The extra vitality administration that we’ve got to cope with, I feel the extra enjoyable the races turn into.

“I’d hope that we will get again to more difficult racing,I feel that’s what followers need to see. Tons of of overtakes throughout the course of a race moderately than maybe a dozen or so, it’s the spectacle that System E has turn into and it might be good if we will keep that.”

Will a return to peloton-style racing appear when FE visits more energy-critical tracks?

Picture by: Andreas Beil

Will a return to peloton-style racing seem when FE visits extra energy-critical tracks?

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