The 2020/21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship gets underway in earnest this weekend with pre-season testing from Circuit Ricardo Tormo just outside Valencia. Here are your updates from Day 1.
"P1 is always a good thing," said Lotterer. "But the priority was to find out more about the car and get through our testing programme. We almost managed to do everything we wanted to do today. It's a never-ending process to find a better car balance and we're never happy. There's plenty to do better and it's a tight gap to P2, so we need to keep working hard in the next few days."
Norman Nato's stray Venturi draws the day's running to a slightly premature close, with the Frenchman beached in the gravel in Sector 3.
Andre Lotterer (TAG Heuer Porsche) and Jean-Eric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH) squeezed in a couple of late full-power efforts to take first and second spots, respectively, with Da Costa winding up third quickest.
The story of the day was arguably the speed at which Formula E's three rookies seemed to hit the ground running, though, with Nick Cassidy (Envision Virgin Racing) posting the day's fourth fastest time, Nato its seventh best and Jake Dennis (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) also finishing Day 1 inside the top 10.
As always in testing, the caveat is that it's not all about pure pace with teams working through complex programmes and inductions but a strong time on the board surely can't hurt, can it?
Into the last hour's running for the day and it's DS TECHEETAH's reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa that's now sitting atop the times.
Nick Cassidy (Envision Virgin Racing) had set the pace for a couple of hours this afternoon before Da Costa's new benchmark 1:12.651, and he's still just three hundredths of-a-second back of the DS man, with fellow rookie Norman Nato flying to third for ROKiT Venturi Racing as it stands.
The circuit's pretty much dry now, certainly on the racing line, with the afternoon sun burning off any remaining slimy spots on the asphalt.
Drivers have been taking advantage of the sun, and the raised track temperatures that have yielded a drying line.
The morning's rain has passed and we're now seeing lap times some five seconds quicker in the main. Nick Cassidy (Envision Virgin Racing) heads the way on a 1:12.982, smashing the first session benchmark of 1:18.141, set by Edo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) on a slippery, drizzle-ridden track surface.
Andre Lotterer (TAG Heuer Porsche) and Nico Mueller (DRAGON / PENSKE) had set the early afternoon pace, along with Stoffel Vandoorne (Mercedes-Benz EQ). The Belgian's Sector 1 is still the time to beat, with Cassidy in control in Sectors 2 and 3.
Plenty of running still to come on Day 1. Will anyone topple Envision Virgin Racing's rapid rookie?
Nick Cassidy (Envision Virgin Racing): "I’m excited to be alongside Robin (Frijns). His natural talent is incredible and he’s really fast, so it’s a great reference point. He’s also super easy to get along with and that’s all cool. In terms of learning from him, I think that’ll be a constant evolution throughout the season and I’ll be asking more as time goes by.
"I was limited in terms of input at the Rookie Test in Marrakesh with a one-day contract. There were certain systems and things kept blind and the focus was driving. Being involved here as a driver with development has changed things and I’ve got plenty to learn but I was always aware of that."
Alexander Sims (Mahindra Racing): "I’ve come in at the end of the year’s development with the new powertrain but I’ve done some track testing for sign off and validation. The bulk of the work was done before my time but it feels good and power delivery is smooth.
"It seems from the numbers that there’s a good improvement from last season’s powertrain. Everyone in the team would be first to admit it needed improving and so far, it feels good.
"I get on well with Alex (Lynn). He’s a really good guy – fast but very open. That’s how I like to work, so it’s been pretty straightforward. He’s a little more up to speed having done Berlin but we’re sharing everything well together."
Jake Dennis (BMW i Andretti Motorsport): "So far, so good! It’s the morning of the first day so nothing too much to look into but the car’s performing well and it’s been smooth.
"Formula E is not my natural instinct of driving – which is to hit the pedal quite hard! It’s just trying to understand that, coming from GT3 and DTM. Getting in the car and lapping is key to that but it seems to be going well – whatever I’m doing. There’s plenty to learn but I’m encouraged."
Max Guenther (BMW i Andretti Motorsport): "We’re trying things in all directions. There are smaller things to tune and optimise but there are bigger things that I would never try on a race weekend that we can try here.
"The car and powertrain feels very good and I think we’ve done a good job over the off-season. We’ll see how good in a few weeks’ time in January, but the guys at the factory have done a very good job.
"There's been lots of development and we’re still improving and understanding the new car. So far, so good. You get a feel of the improvement as a driver for sure, but the data tells you all you need to know."
Mitch Evans (Jaguar Racing): "Private testing had been going pretty good, but this morning was a bad start. There's a lot of work to do.
"My car's in bits at the moment and we had some software issues in braking and I went straight into the wall. It's the last thing you want and it's something that's crept in that we've not had before. The guys are doing their best to put it right."
The Mercedes-Benz pair found themselves at the head of the timing screens approaching the final hour, before a dash at the last - on his final lap of the session in fact - saw Edo Mortara fire ROKiT Venturi Racing into top spot.
Mortara's 1:18.148 was partly a product of a drying track after steady drizzle soaked the surface throughout the morning session, with 18 cars separated by just 0.7 seconds come the chequered flag.
Reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa led early on and was next fastest, just 0.031 seconds shy, with Oliver Turvey able to send the NIO 333 and its all-new powertrain into third.
Alex Sims looks to have made himself right at home at his new team, Mahindra Racing, on this first morning back in the office, whilst Sergio Sette Camara (DRAGON / PENSKE) and Nick Cassidy rounded out the top six runners.
Times, as ever in testing, are not the sole aim, with teams working their way through pre-planned and detailed schedules as they seek to bed in new machinery and new drivers ahead of the first round of the 2020/21 campaign in Santiago, Chile at the end of January.
We may have been a little hasty in praising the weather offered up by the Spanish winter earlier this morning, with drizzle falling through the middle of the first session's running and catching a few drivers out.
Sergio Sette Camara in the red-chrome DRAGON / PENSKE AUTOSPORT EV-5 was the first to fall foul of the increasingly slippery surface as he wound up backwards in the gravel in Sector 2, causing the red flag to be thrown. Rene Rast (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler) followed with a pirouette, but managed to recover in the same breath without ever straying from the asphalt.
The Mercedes-Benz EQ pair ran line astern for a number of laps around the half-way mark of the session, with Nyck de Vries making the best of a now-drying surface to break the 1:20 barrier with a 1:19.215s; the session's fastest time. Stoffel Vandoorne followed, less than 0.1 seconds back.
Drying, but not quite dry; the track caught out Sebastien Buemi (Nissan e.dams) at Turn 2, with the Swiss' Nissan IM03 beached in the gravel trap and requiring recovery. The conditions were certainly tricky in the lead up to lunch, though lap times did continue to tumble as around half of the field found themselves around and about the 1:19 mark.
After torrential rain and hours of thunderstorms yesterday afternoon in Valencia, the Circuit Ricardo Tormo had shaken off the standing water come Saturday morning, with the track surface largely dry, the weather much improved, and just a few wet patches remaining in the more stubborn dips and divots.
All 24 cars left the pit-lane within a few minutes of the session going live, and had completed their first laps of the 2020/21 campaign, as teams set about working through their intricately-planned practice programmes - seeking to prove their new powertrains and cars.
Reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa's first sighter lap in the DS TECHEETAH E-TENSE FE20 saw him sit atop the timesheets for the first hour of running ahead of teammate Jean-Eric Vergne and BMW i Andretti Motorsport's Max Guenther. Times, though, are not entirely the priority at testing, as team principal Mark Preston explains.
"You can do all the simulation and the calculations in the world but nothing beats actually going to a real race track to validate everything," says the Australian.
"When you test things on rigs or dynos or simulators, you don’t always find the differences that can happen on the track.
"This track is more of a traditional race circuit, so it’s maybe not completely representative but you can judge yourself against other teams. It’s nothing definitive and it won’t tell you if you’re fastest but it could show you if you’re faster.
"It validates all of your concepts and ideas you’ve developed and it comes together at the track."
Published on 28th November 2020