The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship operates at the cutting edge in more ways than one, with driver extrication another area in which the pioneering single-seater series sets the pace both on and off-track.
Safety is high on the agenda throughout international motor sport for the FIA, and being prepared for any eventuality is paramount to ensuring events run as safely and smoothly as possible. In Formula E, a key part of that equation are so-called ‘red car’ exercises, which concern the extrication of drivers from stricken electric cars and the recovery of the car itself.
Overseen by the championship’s FIA Medical Delegate, Bruno Franceschini, in partnership with the FIA E-Safety Delegate, Konrad Essen, a permanent medical extrication team from MDD Motorsport Medical travels to every E-Prix. To encourage peak performance, red car simulations are conducted on-site in the immediate build-up to each race weekend, and have been since the championship was launched back in 2014 - making Formula E the benchmark for all other electric or hybrid series, as it continues to pioneer procedures that are then routinely rolled out elsewhere.
A ‘red car’ is essentially a car stopped on-track as a result of either an accident or electrical issue, rendering it potentially unsafe – or ‘red’ like the safety lights located on the chassis in front of the halo. Due to the voltage running through electric vehicles, certain steps must be followed in order to carefully and safely extract the driver from the cockpit and recover the car.
During these training exercises, FIA Formula E safety car driver, Bruno Correia, plays the role of the driver needing to be extricated. Wearing special protective gloves, the medical extrication team covers the car with non-conductive tarpaulins before beginning the operation.
These regular simulations ensure the procedure remains fresh and clear in the mind of every member of the team, while taking into account any relevant particularities or updates to each circuit.
Additional extrication exercises are carried out with two championship drivers at every event, to make sure they similarly are fully aware of what will happen and what they must do should they find themselves in such a situation.
In both instances, the local medical and rescue teams are also involved in the ‘dress rehearsal’, enabling their members to practise and develop their own competencies, which may prove beneficial at future national and regional race meetings.
“Special care is always required when extracting a driver from a stranded race car, and that is even more the case when the car in question is electric, with the additional factors that need to be considered,” explains Bruno Franceschini. “We are proud of Formula E’s status as the standard-setter in this domain, but can never rest on our laurels and must continuously train and re-train to ensure skills stay sharp.
“In the same way, these red car exercises enable us to educate and enhance the expertise of local medical and rescue personnel in the locations the championship visits, leaving behind a positive legacy for the overall benefit of our sport".