Hyderabad hurled that same challenge the way of Hankook - the Official Tyre Supplier of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, with its Hankook iON Race required to perform at its best in trying conditions – not least record heat for a Formula E encounter.
Right in the middle of dry season in India, temperatures hit more than 50 degrees on track, with average temperatures for the month sitting around 32 degrees. We saw even hotter than that, though and, combined with the dusty, well-used asphalt frequented by huge amounts of traffic which traversed the banks of the Hussain Sagar Lake just a week prior to the race, there was a lot to think about for Hankook and the teams’ engineers to get the rubber operating in the right window.
“There was a lot of dirt and dust on the track, which formed a very slippery surface. Particularly at the end of the long, high-speed straights, the Hankook iON Race really had to work hard to provide the drivers with the necessary grip,” explained Thomas Baltes, Hankook Formula E Race Engineer. “The tyre also overcame the high track temperatures of over 50 degrees without any problems.
“The drivers are learning a lot about the new Formula E tyre in every race: after heavy rain at the test in Valencia and cool temperatures in the Saudi Arabian desert, the teams this time gained valuable experience of running the Hankook iON Race in extreme heat,” added Baltes.
Coping with the heat and staying ‘in the window’
Race Tyre Development Engineer Mike Choi explains just how he and his team have worked to get the most out of what is already an extremely specialist tyre, which is required to work across all conditions; dry, wet, hot and cold temperatures and across a variety of surfaces - all at racing speeds.
“We have used different blends of polymers in the construction of the tyre compound rubber,” says Choi. “Those blends are designed to cover off the varieties of conditions the tyres will face on-track in Formula E, and in India – that includes the high temperatures; in-fact the highest of the season and potentially in Formula E history.
Daring overtakes and high-speed chases on the streets of Hyderabad 🇮🇳— ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) February 14, 2023
Presenting Grip Gallery, from our first ever race in India, brought to you by @Hankook_Sport.#HyderabadEPrix pic.twitter.com/rc3qVyvf2q
“The optimal window for the tyre is designed to take in between 10 and 50 degrees and we have reinforced units in the mixes and blends to achieve a constant performance level throughout that window and across a variety of different temperature windows.
“That range is where the tyre works at its best and it’s always interesting from an engineering perspective to see how much the performance relies on track temperature. India was the highest we’ll likely see, and that throws up a lot of challenges from our perspective and from a driver and race engineers point of view. The major challenges for a driver will be managing the tread and compound temperature.
“There’s always a trade-off between push laps and energy saving laps and pushing the tyre hard and managing temperatures to keep it in the optimal window for its best performance [ultimately; grip, and lap time]. Managing this over a race distance will be a real challenge for a driver.”
‘Feedback, support learning and development’
Working closely with Formula E’s teams is an important component of Hankook’s race week operation, and Thomas Baltes is responsible for this aspect of the job on-track. He works closely with the teams to collect data trackside and makes sure they have all the information at their collective disposal to make the most out of their tyres from Free Practice through to the end of the race.
“The key factor is being in really close contact with the teams and we’re supporting them to adapt to the tyres in these [high] ambient conditions, he explains. “A couple of weeks prior to India we were in Saudi Arabia, racing in the evening, and the air and track temperatures were pretty cold – it's a massive contrast in the space of just two weeks and two race weekends.
“So, keeping in close contact with them is key to provide them with the base information necessary to help them adapt their setup and cars to the conditions.
#HistoryMade: @JeanEricVergne wins the first #FormulaE race in 🇮🇳— Hankook Tire Motorsports Official (@Hankook_Sport) February 11, 2023
The @ds_penske_fe driver started the E-Prix from P2 and went on to take 🏆 at the end of an exciting race.Track temperatures of 56°C really put our iON through its paces but it passed the test with flying colours💪 pic.twitter.com/thvJLg8SeZ
“We will provide an overview about certain temperatures and tyre pressure values and this baseline information helps inform teams about the optimal window given what’s going on around them in the ambient conditions.
“The best engineers, drivers and teams should be at the front – it's a racing championship – so we’re not here to step in but we support and provide information; the final decisions are up to them.”
“You collect your data in all conditions – in India the most useful information we’ll gather is the tyre’s performance and behaviour in the hot weather and in high ambient and track temperatures,” adds Hankook Motorsport Director Manfred Sandbichler.
“Once we’ve collected that data, we use it to inform our next project. We also gather feedback from the teams, drivers and engineers that filters back into our development cycle – pushing things forward with what we learn on-track in a variety of circumstances. Data is key.”
Sandbichler: ‘We can be satisfied so far’
With four races at three locations, each requiring a very specific set of demands from car, driver and tyre, Sandbichler is happy with what we’ve seen so far.
“From our side, we’re satisfied with what we’ve seen across the first three rounds so far,” he says. “We’ve experienced exactly what we expected, except maybe some rain – but we’re sure this will come over the course of the season!
“We found the temperatures we expected in Mexico City and the same was true in Diriyah. Hyderabad was far, far hotter than either of those – with noon seeing around 50-degree track temperatures and maybe higher in the afternoon sessions. We checked in frequently to see where we are, where the peak and maximum temperatures were likely to be to inform things. It was clear from the beginning, when the event was announced for this time of year that Hyderabad would provide a challenge in terms of heat.
“We feel our tyre mastered the track conditions, which were really difficult, and the high ambient temperatures and supported the drivers, for whom every fraction of a second was vital. After four races with a diverse range of challenges for the Hankook iON Race, I can draw a very positive conclusion.
“It’s also good to see how quickly the teams are learning to work with the new Formula E tyre. Through very close communication with the drivers and engineers, we know how much faith they have in our product.
“The next race in South Africa awaits at the latest new Formula E circuit, which we are very much looking forward to already.”