29 Aug 16

Five things we learned at the first test

Last week’s three-day outing at Donington Park was the first time that the 10 season three Formula E teams ran at the same time at the same place, giving us the first opportunity to see how their latest powertrain solutions stack up. While reading anything too definitive into the times from the test is a fool’s errand, there are a few conclusions that can be drawn from what took place.

The teams are all more prepared than they were ahead of season two

Ahead of season two, when all team teams gathered at Donington, the first test in particular was blighted by red flags caused by cars breaking down on track as the teams all got to grips with their new powertrains. For Andretti and Trulli especially, it was a frustrating experience as their new cars simply refused to run reliably. This time there were still plenty of red flags but these tended to be for trips into the gravel rather than due to technical problems.

Total laps completed by teams

  1. Renault e.dams 234
  2. ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport 228
  3. Mahindra Racing 209
  4. DS Virgin Racing 205
  5. Jaguar Racing 201
  6. Venturi 201
  7. Andretti 184
  8. Faraday Future Dragon Racing 177
  9. Techeetah 169
  10. NEXTEV NIO 132

Revised tyres doing their job

For season three Michelin has introduced a new specification of tyre. The new rubber is a softer compound, which is designed to warm up quicker, especially in cooler conditions.

Sebastien Buemi, the reigning Formula E champion, said: “I think they are quite tricky to use but it’s the same for everyone. We need to learn them pretty quickly. There is only so much opportunity to use them before the season starts. They definitely seem to warm up quicker but the car is moving a little bit more; that is definitely good for the show."

New wing looks great… will be better when the liveries are on

Donington was also the public debut for the new Formula E front wing. The part is designed to give the car a more distinctive look rather than to improve performance, and the social media reaction from the fans was very much positive.

Naturally, the wing looked best on cars where it had been fully integrated into the livery design – with the ABT and Mahindra versions notable striking. However, with so many teams yet to unveil their definitive liveries, the true impact of the new look was not felt. So when the 20 freshly-liveried cars line up on the grid on October 9 for the HKT Hong Kong ePrix, they are going to look absolutely stunning.

New teams on the pace

Two new teams made their public Formula E debut at Donington – Jaguar Racing and Techeetah. For many fans, the first sight of a works Jaguar all-electric single seater was something truly special, and the grey/green racer was usually greeted with a whirr of camera shutters whenever it hit the track. And it went well too. As can be seen above, the team completed the fifth most laps, and while it was never attempting headline-grabbing fast times, the team was pleased with the overall performance of the four different drivers who put the car through its paces.

The Techeetah team has taken over from Team Aguri. There are some common personnel, but this is an all-new team, and one that for season three has purchased the Renault powertrain. The team only completed its first shakedown on the Friday before the test started, so for Jean-Eric Vergne to set a new unofficial Formula E lap record was a great feat for the series’ newest team.

And so are the rookies

So far, three new drivers have been confirmed for the coming season – Jose-Maria Lopez (DS Virgin Racing), Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra) and Maro Engel (Venturi). All three had driven their respective cars before, but this was the first time they had driven them at Donington.

Rosenqvist set the second fastest time of the test was set on Day Two and was 0.3s faster than team-mate Nick Heidfeld’s best set on Day Three. Engel ended up 13th fastest thanks to his best lap from Day Three, which was a couple of tenths up on team-mate Staphane Sarrazin, while Lopez was back in 14th overall, with his best time – also set on Day Two – around 0.9s of the mark set by Sam Bird in the sister car.