The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship jolts back into action from its mid-season break on June 19 & 20 with a maiden trip to Puebla's Autodromo Miguel E. Abed on the series' return to Mexico. Here's what to expect from a circuit new to every driver on the grid.
The Autodromo Miguel E. Abed will be completely new territory for Formula E's 24 world-class drivers. Experienced though they all are, none have raced on the 2.98km, 15-turn permanent race track near Puebla, which is set to host the 2021 CBMM Niobium Puebla E-Prix.
There is one man in the paddock who has raced there; Tiago Monteiro. The Portuguese touring car hero and former Formula 1 driver manages compatriot and reigning Formula E champion Antonio Felix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH). So, does Monteiro have any tricks up his sleeve that'll help his man get his hands on silverware over the double-header in Mexico on June 19 & 20?
"I've been there, although quite a long time ago – maybe 2008 or 2009," said Monteiro. "The altitude is very high. Mexico City is already quite high, but we're going even higher, on a very, very big volcanic plateau and you can feel it. So, every day you can feel that kind of a little bit of lack of air and the tiredness. With a combustion engine, you would feel it in the car as well but that shouldn't happen with Formula E cars. The track is interesting, and has a low-grip Tarmac surface. Back when I drove it, it felt almost like ice – it was really challenging.
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“I’m not going to tell everybody the secrets not! But I have a few tricks that I remember and will keep those for Antonio. He's quite capable of doing a good job on his own, though and he knows very well how to adapt to new tracks as well. I think the biggest challenge will be for the driver, breathing wise and maybe tiredness – and keeping your head cool. I remember we could feel it."
The Autodromo Miguel E. Abed houses a technical infield section inside an oval that's used for the likes of NASCAR. That string of 15 corners has been tweaked by Formula E's sporting team, most notably with the inclusion of an extended Turn 8 ATTACK MODE zone.
With a three to four second penalty over rounding Turn 8's race apex, the activation zone will throw a curveball the way of engineers and strategists, as well as drivers, as to when to make the dive for that 35kW boost.
There'll be banking to deal with, too, as the circuit rounds the outer oval through the final Turn 15, with a slingshot out onto the long back straight likely to be crucial as the tight right hander into Turn 1 will prove a hotspot for overtaking.
What are the drivers expecting? Heat, energy management challenges, a tough track surface to get to grips with and the mental challenge of another double-header race weekend. There's been plenty of time in the simulator during the summer break following the Monaco E-Prix.
Most of all, the drivers are looking forward to welcoming guests in the stands each race day. We know from five visits to Mexico City just how passionate and knowledgable Mexican fans are. They're "special", says double champion Jean-Eric Vergne (DS TECHEETAH).
"I love Mexico and I hope we have as much fun as we have had in previous years," says the Frenchman, who sits seventh in the Drivers' standings. "The Mexican crowd make it special. So far, we’ve races in cold conditions and has not really been good to us. So hopefully, the car will perform better in the warm conditions there."
"We honestly missed the fans," adds Mercedes-EQ's Nyck de Vries. "I think we really need them for the ambience and the atmosphere; they give the punch to the event. Any sport in the end is about showing fans the action action and we really hope to share it with them again. It's great to have people attending and I hope that we can welcome more very soon."
"Mentally, a double-header is quite tough when you prepare yourself for one and then the next day, you have to do it all over again."
"Mexico's a great place," says DRAGON / PENSKE AUTOSPORT driver Nico Mueller. "Last year, I got to race in Mexico City but the circumstances don't allow this year, so we get to discover new places. I'm sure the organisers will do a great job and bring the great atmosphere from Mexico City over to Puebla. Exciting the people over there about what we do will definitely be cool.
"A double-header makes things a bit easier for us because you have two shots at it. So, you can learn from the experience of day one, and hopefully transfer that into an improvement for the second day. The simulator is key for working on energy management and knowing where can you push the car to its absolute limit and have the big time gains."
“We've only raced in cool conditions so far in Season 7. So, it's a different setup than when we race in a very hot environment. We have to manage energy, and we have to manage the temperature of the battery. You have another constraint that you have to take into account, increasing the complexity of the whole event.”
"I love Mexico and I hope we have as much fun as we have had in previous years. The Mexican crowd make it really special."
“I'm really looking forward to Mexico and I’m very happy we can go there," said Porsche's Andre Lotterer. "I truthfully don't know much about the circuit but I did some research and I saw some pictures of the of the track and it looks cool. I heard the location is is a very exciting and beautiful place as well, so I can't wait to go.
"When we go to hot places and abrasive tracks, you are on the higher end of the working window and the tyre which will need more management. We’ll implement that into our energy management style and in the car setup. It's another thing to master.
"Overheating the battery due to too much regen can also be an issue in the heat. So, we’ll need to also adapt the profile to stress the battery less and not getting into the derating phase where you start losing power.
"This has to be managed from the beginning of the race because we get a kind of prediction until where we will end up with the temperature. These are all things we can simulate in simulator and get ready for it and it makes things a bit more difficult for us."
Formula E's Chief Championship Officer, Alberto Longo, is delighted that the Mexican authorities and Formula E have been able to keep a Mexican E-Prix on the Season 7 calendar, and is eagerly anticipating welcoming passionate Mexican fans back into the grandstands.
"At the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, there is a hospital at the moment but we really wanted to keep Mexico on the calendar. We decided to go only one hour and a half away from from Mexico City to the amazing city of Puebla.
"We thought it was a fantastic opportunity for Formula E and there is a lot of passion for motorsport there and there’s a big car industry in Puebla – that was a key aspect in us heading there. We're really looking forward to have the fans back at our races, and we’ll have thousands of guests back in the grandstands."
Published on 11th June 2021