Tag Archives: Audi

Formula E: Massa’s Formula E Prospects – S5 Silly Season

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Viewers of the 2018 Spanish GP tuning in for Martin Brundle‘s grid walk over the weekend saw, in a not at all preplanned interview, Felipe Massa discuss the prospect of him joining Formula E in the not too distant future. Having tested Formula E machinery last year, Massa has an understanding of the category and clearly sees a future for himself in the championship.

Season five of Formula E will see the launch of the Gen2 car. With it comes increased power, the removal of mid-race car changes, and increases in the application of aerodynamics. This coupled with huge OEM support makes the championship more compelling than ever for drivers at any stage of their career. That being said, I find Felipe Massa’s interest in the championship curious. Formula E is a championship made up of street circuits, looking back at Massa’s track record around the streets of Monaco, city circuits on the face of it are not his strong suit.

Speaking to senior team members on the topic of the Gen2 machinery, significant concern raised has been around the size of the rear diffuser, the extent to which it is exposed and that with current designs it forms part of a single piece floor panel. Repair costs in Formula E are expected to increase dramatically in Season five, with this in mind teams should be looking for Street Circuit Specialists.

Nevertheless. The prospect of a Former F1 driver with a huge Brazilian following possibly heading to Formula E serves as sufficient justification for a quick-fire look at the Formula E silly season rumours and paddock gossip.

First to remove from the list of potential homes for Massa has to be the big hitters from Germany. Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi have a huge pool of drivers at their disposal. They are highly unlikely to offer a seat to Massa over a contracted driver. With a fantastic showing from Abt in Season four and a season plagued by technical failings for current champion Di Grassi, expect Audi to maintain their current line up into S5 and beyond.  For S5, Mercedes have opted for a soft launch to their entry into Formula E via longterm motorsports partner HWA with customer technology from the Venturi Team. Through S4 Mercedes loaned out works drivers Engel and Mortara to the Venturi Team presumably with the plan for them to graduate to HWA in S5. Mercedes departing DTM at the end of 2018 also free’s up the likes of Paul Di Resta and Pascal Wehrlein. I expect HWA and Venturi to field works Mercedes Drivers for Season five of the Formula E championship.

Having said that with Venturi being a Monaco based entry, arguably there are some links to Monaco resident Felipe Massa. It is possible the team could be a home for the Brazilian in Season 5.

Moving to BMW, Season five will see the Bavarian Marque step up its commitment and investment in the championship, Felix da Costa will likely retain his place with the team operated by Andretti Autosport, BMW future participation in DTM will likely determine the driver in the second seat. Porsche will step into Formula E from season six, with in-house driver, André Lotterer set to be retained by Techeetah for Season 5 he will be well placed to take the lead position with Porsche upon their arrival. Alongside the German, Porsche have options on a number of WEC championship winning drivers.

On the subject of Techeetah, Massa is unlikely to find a home for season five with the current championship leaders. Jean-Eric Vergne has shaped the team around him, he is unlikely to find a more amiable seat on the grid. Lotterer having now found the form that escaped him in the first half of the season will more than likely be retained by the Chinese team as they look towards a full works status future.

On to mid-season championship favourites Mahindra. Team Principle Dilbagh Gil will be doing everything in his power to ensure Felix Rosenqvist remains with the team for Season 5 and well beyond. With Felix, Mahindra has a future champion in their team, they simply need to give him a consistent car in which to deliver. Nick Heidfeld’s season with Mahindra has been a challenge, his knowledge in setting up a car a maximising potential continues to prove invaluable to the team, but could his skills be best placed in a role similar to Pedro De La Rosa’s with Techeetah? Freeing up a seat with Mahindra for a young talent, perhaps in the form of Jehan Daruvala?

Jaguar Racing is another team which to my mind could offer a seat to Felipe Massa. Season four has seen the team improve dramatically after a challenging first year in the championship. Essentially operated via Williams F1, Massa has strong links to the structure of the team. However, Piquet is understood to have a long-term agreement with the team, and Mitch Evans has more than proved his worth this season. The team would do well to retain their line up into S5.

Then to Dragon Racing. The team have struggled this season, and don’t appear to have any short-term solutions in sight. Massa would only look to move to Formula E if he had a chance of winning races. Dragon are unlikely to be able to offer this until the Blue Oval comes on board.

That leaves, Renault Nissan eDams,  Vigin Envision Racing, and NIO Formula E team, All of whom I believe are the most likely candidates for Felipe Massa in Formula E. The Renault eDams team will become Nissan in Season five of Formula E. As the most successful team in Formula E with 3 constructors championships they offer the levels of success Felipe Massa is likely to expect. With Alain Prost recently selling his stake in the team it can be expected Nico, after a very difficult season, will likely leave the team ahead of Season five. Buemi is understood to be under an agreement, and Nissan seemingly doesn’t have an issue with him representing Toyota in WEC alongside his commitments in Formula E with them. Whilst my first choice for the seat alongside Buemi in the Nissan Formula E team would be Nissan EV ambassador Margot Robbie, a more likely candidate should Massa not be considered would be Jann Mardenborough.

In season five Virgin Racing is expected to lose it works manufacturer status, it is expected the team, the majority shareholding of which was recently sold to Chinese Energy group Envision will switch to a customer Audi partnership moving forward. Current driver and championship contender Sam Bird will likely remain loyal to the team with whom he entered Formula E, teammate Alex Lynn’s place seems less secure. Massa could be attracted to a race winning Power Unit in Audi and Race Winning team set up with the Virgin Racing Establishment, but the reduced testing opportunities offered to a non- works team will make getting up to speed with the intricacies of Formula E a real challenge as evidenced by André Lotterer in this season.

Finally, to the NIO Formula E Team, the team who in my opinion are most likely to offer the conditions Felipe Massa might expect from a Formula E team. They are well funded, they have delivered a world championship, with Nelson Piquet in Season One, and continue to prove on occasion they have the pace to run at the front. Oliver Turvey will likely retain his seat with the team for Season five and continue to maximise the potential of the car at every opportunity, running Massa alongside him would bring much-needed media coverage to the team and offer a face to the broader NIO EV global rollout.

Time will tell if Felipe Massa makes the move over to Formula E for the launch of the championships Gen2 machinery. Perhaps his following in Brazil will bring the championship to the country and facilitate the World Championship status Formula E management are working to secure. I’m not convinced Formula E needs Felipe Massa, and Felipe Massa’s bank balance is unlikely to need Formula E. In my opinion, the championship should not become the home for drivers coming to the end of their career in Formula One, rather the pinnacle for young drives proving their worth in the future of motorsport.

Following recent news regarding another arrival to Formula E for the Berlin ePrix this weekend I have to say I have a similar opinion about the commentary box.

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Formula E: Why Audi don’t need Formula One

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Following on from yesterday’s post suggesting that after their success in the World Endurance Championship, Porsche may be considering a future in Formula One, Livery designer extraordinaire & MsportXtra partner Sean Bull went on to post livery concepts around a Future for Audi in F1 again partnering with Red Bull Racing.

Whilst I’m a huge fan of the livery concept. To me, Audi’s future in motorsport sits within Formula E. Earlier this month Audi became the first German Automotive manufacturer to officially commit to the championship, taking over the Abt team license.

As an automotive manufacturer, Audi has recognised the trend towards Electric Vehicles and are embracing it. In motorsports, with Formula One, Audi would be forced into a battle of the budget in order to compete and to be seen as a success. With Formula E, they can engage with a younger audience demographic within a cost controlled environment, in a sport supported by governments and industry. They have an opportunity to lead, not follow.

As Audi works driver Lucas Di Grassi tweeted last month, drivers might miss the 1000bhp LMP1 beasts of Le Mans but the future is Electric, and Audi have embraced their future.

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Formula E: The season 5 conundrum

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Formula E is in a great place. With Jaguar joining the championship, Audi scaling up their involvement, BMW committing to the category and Mercedes taking up a placeholder position, OEMS are falling over themselves to get their place on the grid. The same can be said for host cities, in only 3 seasons Alejandro Agag has secured events in locations Formula One have spent decades trying to get on their calendar. The Championship is growing beyond anyone’s expectations.

The success of Formula E is due in part to the mentality of cost control placed upon teams and organisers. Through staggering development cycles of components teams are not in a position to throw money at a problem to find a solution, instead they are forced to find creative solutions to move up the grid. The result Is exceptionally close racing in which more than half the grid are genuinely capable of winning races on their day. However, the Formula E development cycle could be about to cause the championship a serious headache.

I have followed Formula E since day one of the championship. I have been fortunate enough to attend a number of races and spend time with a variety of people in and around the sport.  I am a huge supporter of the championship and the racing, although I have to be honest until attending racing there was always one element of Formula E that I couldn’t get my head around. That was mid race car swapping. Why would a championship designed to promote electric vehicle (EV) technology build prospective EV buyers greatest anxiety, battery range, into the race? For a time, it seemed that OEMS shared the same concerns and to give credit to Formula E, they had a plan. From Season 5, battery technology will be upgraded and the need for a mid race car change will be removed. It is exactly this evolution of technology that has seen BMW commit to the championship.

However, I’m not convinced this is the best direction for the sport. As mentioned until attending a race I was a sceptic of the mid race car change. Why not have two shorter races? It wasn’t until spending time at the London ePrix last season with a group of lifestyle journalists and corporate management that I saw the value of the car change.  In explaining how the breakdown of a Formula E race, the most thrilling element of the race without any question was the car change. Witnessing drivers jump from one car to another bought the race to life and gave a very human perspective to the spectacle. It became the talking point of the day and the lynch pin of subsequent questions around the championship. The championship had me and many others converted!

So what happens in Season 5? In theory the range of Formula E batteries will be increased to remove the need for each driver to require two cars to complete a race distance. In theory we could see a lights to flag race with no interruptions. Is this the right direction? Speaking to drivers and team managers at the Marrakesh ePrix last month few seem convinced. Formula E races with no concerns over battery life and range and no need for pit stops could become quite mundane and processional. Drivers talk of their enjoyment of having a unique challenge mid race. A new element of their racing to finesse. Do we realy want to loose this?

No doubt Formula E organisers are more than aware of this and have already started to evaluate how they can change the way in which the championship goes racing to maintain the thrill and strategic element to an ePrix. To help them out along the way I’ve mapped out a few options for them to build into the equation:

Tyre change pitstop: A relatively logical and simple way to maintain the strategic element of ePrix in the post car change era would be to introduce mandatory pitstops for tyre changes. However, Michelin (the control Formula E tyre supplier) have commented in the past that their strategy around motorsport engagement is to showcase durability. They would not want to develop degrading tyres to artificially impact the race. Moreover, pitstops require additional equipment and manpower from the teams. Any savings generated through the removal of a second car would be negated. Formula E is an environmentally conscious sport; tyre changes could be seen to promote a message of waste.

Joker Laps: A seen in World Rally Cross (WRX), introducing the concept of a secondary element to a circuit layout which when taken will increase lap times by a number of seconds. Drivers could be mandated to take a certain number of joker laps during a race, introducing a dynamic element of strategy. Recently crowned WRX champion Mattias Ekström has passionately advocated their introduction in other series commenting “In F1, if you see how close many races were and it’s difficult to follow, if you have a joker lap someone has to do at a certain time, you can also time it different to get free air for a couple of laps, and that time you can launch your attack,”

Of course concerns around open wheel single seaters returning to a racing line from another point on track at full speed would have to be addressed, but Joker Laps would certainly add an interesting element to future Formula E events.

Dynamic induction charging: Qualcomm are a founding partner of Formula E. They work with the championship in the development of new technologies fit for the evolving automotive industry, one such technology is the Halo system. Halo is an induction charging plate currently used by the championship BMW i Safety and Medical cars. The charging plate removes the need to plug an EV into a charging point. This technology will be launched on road going cars in the coming 18 months. The next phase of this technology is to replicate the induction charging technology whilst a vehicle is in motion. Formula E, could look to introduce dynamic charging strips of 100-200 metres around elements of a circuit off the racing line in which drivers could pick up a power boost. Qualcomm have the technology to facilitate this kind of development. It would require additional investment and require extended periods of preparation time at ePrix circuits, but such a move would push Formula E further towards the pinnacle of motorsport technology. An accolade I am sure they are keen to achieve!

So where to next? Formula E is riding a crest of success. The Championship will have it’s work cut out in the coming years to balance the growing demands of a number of OEM’s all of whom expect to win, and the expectations of fans and sponsors to be entertained. Formula E should see the removal of mid race car changes as an opportunity to throw another element of change into racing. They’ve convinced the sceptic once; I trust they will do the same again!

WEC: The Season Starts Here

Qualifying for the first round of the 2016 World Endurance Championship took place today in mixed, at times snowy, conditions at Silverstone. The No.7 Audi R18 of Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler ended the 20-minute wet session by claiming a sensational pole position with an average time of 1m53.204 at the head, with the No.8 Audi of Duval and Di Grassi make it all-Audi front row, although last gasp Di Grassi   attempt on pole ends in trip through gravel. Porsche fill out second row with No.1 heading No.2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, Disappointment for Toyota Gazoo Racing after issues leaves then 5th and 6th.

Ahead of the season opener check out Mobil One’s The Grid Preview to the 2016 World Endurance Championship:

Despite a challenging opening qualifying session Porsche remain confident they will be the team to beat in 2016, see their preview to the season here: