Inside Formula E's first wet qualifying and race sessions of the GEN3 era

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Inside Formula E's first wet qualifying and race sessions of the GEN3 era

Berlin was wet; we saw GEN3's first wet timed session with a downpour before qualifying throwing up a surprise polesitter. London was wetter, though... Here's how GEN3's first wet quali and race unfolded, and how Hankook's new Formula E tyre made it happen across all conditions in Season 9.

Frijns Muller pole Berlin ABT CUPRA

Hankook's iON Race tyre has everything thrown at it - more than any other race tyre in an FIA World Championship. Unlike in Formula 1, WEC and the likes of IndyCar and NASCAR, they're designed from the ground up to cope with all conditions from wet to dry, hot to cool and across road surfaces varying from old airfield to the bumpiest streets and the  smooth indoor arena at London's ExCeL Centre - the site of the only indoor-outdoor world championship race.

On top of that, the GEN3 car and the iON Race rubber has to cope with all the undulations, kerbs, bumps and drain covers while hitting these obstacles at anything up to 200mph - with 22 drivers dicing side-by-side, within a second of one-another while racing tooth-and-nail for position.

In all conditions

Over the season, we saw eight-degree lows in Mexico City, searing Hyderabad heat, Monaco's unique challenge and yet more, humid heat in Jakarta - each of which threw up fresh challenges for Formula E's newest era car, and its tyres.

On top of all this, the championship and the FIA mandate the most stringent sustainability criteria of any motorsport series on its suppliers, meaning while managing all of the above, Hankook had to prove its tyres meet all the certifications required - the headline being some 28% of its Formula E rubber is formed from sustainable materials.

"We have designed these tyres to last, so the one set can withstand all the practice qualifying and race sessions, either hot or cold or dry or wet," explains Thomas Baltes, Hankook Formula E Race Engineer.

"The tread is working on a soft and a hard compound. So, the soft compound, which is inside, should work under wet conditions and the outside compound in dry conditions. You have much more load, you have much more torque in Formula E, [and with EVs in general compared to combustion-engined equivalents], while you also have completely different temperature windows where they have to work.

"This means a completely different development process to anything else. There is a sensor on the rim which measures data like pressure, temperature and humidity inside of the tyre which is also completely new development. For us, it's been really something completely new which we never did before."

A first foray into the wet


The final fresh challenge of the GEN3 era and the 2022/23 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship was a first foray into the wet. We saw it in Berlin, and it through up an unforgettable qualifying session.

"Berlin was a tough challenge for all of us because it's really the first time that we got in contact with the water on-track," adds Baltes. "Berlin is also not really easy [as an old airfield, it has a unique, abrasive, rough concrete surface that pushes tyres hard]. So, you can simulate it for sure. But I would say the once you're there, especially in the wet, it is a completely different thing."

Frijns hooks it up

Robin Frijns and ABT CUPRA pulled off one of the shocks of Season 9 as the Dutchman headed an all-ABT front-row lockout in the first wet qualifying session of the GEN3 era.

frijns berlin 2023 highlights

Weather conditions changed dramatically overnight in Berlin, with rain resulting in a wet track for the session after a damp Free Practice 3. It meant the first time we’d see these conditions for qualifying in GEN3 - a new challenge for the drivers, engineers and the new-for-Season 9 Hankook tyres. 

We saw the ABT CUPRA cars hook it up and finally find their feet, delivering a stunning front-row lock out here in front of the team’s home support. The duo of Frijns and Nico Mueller helped deliver one of the biggest surprises of the season on their way to the team’s best-ever qualifying result for their two drivers.

"I always feel quite strong in the wet as we saw in Berlin - wet for the first time in GEN3," recalled Frijns. "From FP3 I think it was, on Lap 1 [in the wet], I could feel the car working and I could do what I wanted to do with it - able to what I call 'play around with it'.

"We got through to the Duels which was actually like a first victory for us. Throughout the Duels you're having to win each and suddenly we're in the final as teammates - it was nice to do. I had a good feeling of trust with the car and trust with the team."

The ABT was clearly hooked up in the wet, but fell back in the race. Still - it was some story for the team on home soil.

London start

A typically British summer

Then came London. Rain doesn't quite cover it. As if the indoor-outdoor nature of the ExCeL Circuit wasn't headache enough for the teams on GEN3's maiden visit to the British capital, the heavens then opened in biblical fashion on the Sunday.

A long delay pushed back the race start as FIA Race Director Scot Elkins tested the waters - pun most definitely intended - by sending the cars out on some exploratory laps. The drivers made it known that the rain was too much, with standing water flooding the hairpin and other parts of the track. 

Eventually, though, the weather eased and the cars were able to round eight laps behind the Safety Car. Once the conditions were deemed safe enough for the race to get underway, championship contender Nick Cassidy led the pack away. From there, he raced lights-to-flag to win in stunning style.

Cassidy composed himself to stride to a comfortable victory - heading home fellow New Zealander Mitch Evans and new champion Jake Dennis (Avalanche Andretti) to deliver the Teams' crown the way of Jaguar customers Envision Racing, ahead of the factory Jaguar TCS Racing squad. 

ticktum overtake mortara head on angle

Cassidy led from pole and set the TAG Heuer Fastest Lap of the race, keeping Evans at arm's length throughout, while the lead pair drew out some 10 seconds over next-best Dennis with conditions as tough as it gets.

The race went off without a hitch, and without any clashes or further stoppages - testament to the GEN3, and its Hankook tyres' capabilities across the full spectrum of what any race car should have to contend with.

Nico Mueller was also full of praise at the final chequered flag of 2022/23: “At the start of the season, we all first had to learn how to work best with the new tyre. We are now very good at that, and the tyre is absolutely reliable. I am really impressed how well it performed in all conditions.”

Sandbichler: 'An extremely positive Season 9'

Hankook's Motorsport Director for Europe, Manfred Sandbichler, spoke of his pleasure at seeing the efforts of the tyre giant's team yield a successful first season of competition on-track in the new-for-Season 9 GEN3 era of Formula E.

"Our summary of 2022/23 is extremely positive," he says. "The Hankook iON Race has arrived in Formula E and has been fully accepted. It has behaved exactly as requested ahead of the season. Of special note is the fact that we did not suffer a single product-related puncture all season, either."

READ MORE: How Formula E accelerates tyre development

 “The Hankook iON Race impressed all along the line, and in all kinds of conditions: in a cool eight degrees in Mexico and with track temperatures of 60 degrees in a hot Rome, in the Berlin rain and the dust of India, and of course on a wide range of different surfaces," concludes Baltes.

"The performance was always there.” Felix Kinzer added: “The tyre also helped the drivers with their power management, as the relatively low roll resistance allowed them to save valuable energy.”

Development engineer Benoit Treluyer is also happy: “We had clear guidelines from the FIA and Formula E when developing the tyre. It is nice to see that Hankook has implemented these precisely and delivered exactly the product that was requested.”