Five key takeaways from Valencia – TechToday

Formula 1 may do its preseason tests right before the new schedule of races begins, but Formula E holds its trials months before the first E-Prix. The official action starts in Mexico City in January, but last week the all-electric series took to the turns of Valencia for its annual preseason test. 2024’s Season 10 will be the second for the ultra-efficient Gen3 car, following a debut that delivered lots of wheel-to-wheel racing and a hard-fought driver’s championship that was decided in the final two races. While there isn’t a new car this year, there’s still plenty to know before the lights go out in Mexico.

A battery fire cut testing short

Teams lost a considerable amount of track time after a battery fire following the Tuesday morning session. The Race reports that the incident occurred in a pit stall occupied by WAE, the all-electric series’ battery supplier. The fire reportedly started from a battery that had been removed from the DS Penske driven by rookie Robert Shwartzman for three separate stints. Shwartzman had to stop on track due to an issue and once the car was back in the pit lane, the battery was removed and taken to WAE for inspection. reports that the automatic battery safety system was activated causing the driver to stop. According to The Race, witnesses say there was a small audible explosion about 90 minutes after the car came to a halt on the circuit.

Formula E canceled the Tuesday afternoon and both Wednesday sessions while it looked into the cause of the fire. One person was taken to the hospital as a precaution but was released without any treatment. The series’ governing body, the FIA, deemed conditions safe to resume testing on Thursday afternoon following “investigations and findings provided by the technical suppliers,” Formula E explained.

As The Race notes, there has never been a traction battery fire at an E-Prix in nearly 10 years of events. There were incidents in 2015 and 2017, but those affected the smaller 12-volt battery. This was also unrelated to the new Attack Charge as Shwartzman had yet to demo that infrastructure. Formula E only had eight units for 11 teams and DS Penske didn’t have one at the time, The Race reports.

The first female driver in a Gen3 car

Gabriela Jilkova, TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team, Porsche 99X Electric Gen3

Gabriela Jilkova drives the TAG Heuer Porsche (Simon Galloway)

During the preseason test in Valencia, teams were required to put rookie drivers in their cars for three of the 18 scheduled hours of running. The lineup included former F2 driver Robert Shwartzman (DS Penske) and current F2 drivers Victor Martins (Nissan) and Zane Maloney (Andretti), among others. The rookie test saw the first female driver in a Gen3 Formula E car as well. ​​LMP3 and GT4 driver Gabriela Jilkova got behind the wheel of the Porsche team’s EVs, completing a 46-lap run. Formula E previously held rookie tests ahead of the Berlin E-Prix and during an extra practice session in Rome, both happening earlier this year.

The first test of Attack Charge

During a 10-hour session last Friday, Formula E held a simulated race, giving teams a 27-lap trial to test setups, run through safety car periods and demo the upcoming Attack Charge pit stops. The series had planned to introduce the stops last season, but supply-chain issues meant the technology would only be ready for the final few races. By then, Formula E felt it would be too late and decided to postpone the debut of Attack Charge to this season.

There is still a lot of unknown about how the stops will work, but what we do know is that they will take place during a specific window Formula E officials will announce right before the race. The series has also said that teams will be unable to double stack their two cars, a practice of pitting both vehicles back-to-back, which could lead to some interesting decisions about which driver gets priority. An Attack Charge stop is also expected to be quite long at 30-35 seconds. A mechanic hooks up a charging cable to the back of the car while the battery is replenished.

Jaguar and Porsche are quick… again

Mitch Evans, Jaguar TCS Racing, Jaguar I-TYPE 6

Mitch Evans in the Jaguar TCS Racing I-TYPE 6 (Simon Galloway)

After strong showings at the start of the Gen3 era last season, it looks like Jaguar TCS Racing and TAG Heuer Porsche are going to be contenders once again. Jaguar and Porsche vehicles claimed four of the top five times in each of the three test sessions, including quick laps from the Envision team that runs Jaguar powertrains.

Jaguar’s Mitch Evans posted the fastest time of the week, notching a 1m24.474s mark that was over half a second quicker than the fastest lap in last year’s test. Evans, who finished third in the driver’s championship in Season nine, also topped the times in the second session. New teammate Nick Cassidy, who finished second in the championship last season while driving for Envision, kept Evans from sweeping all three sessions with a 1m24.617s in the final running of the week.

Mahindra seems poised to bounce back

Season nine was one to forget for Mahindra. The team that’s been in Formula E since the series began finished 10th out of 11. Significant offseason changes include an all-new driver pairing of Edoardo Mortara and Season seven champ Nyck De Vries. Mortara was fifth fastest in the first session of the week while De Vries posted the third best time in session two. Mahindra was hampered by the battery fire as it suffered damage to its equipment and both cars, but both drivers showed great pace at different points during the week.

The driver’s championship should be close again

19 of the 21 drivers set lap times within 0.7 seconds of each other during the last session of the week. Sure, that’s one-lap pace as opposed to managing all of the nuances of a Formula E race (like energy consumption and regeneration), but it’s clear the drivers are learning how to unlock the potential of the Gen3 cars. Last year, for example, teams were grappling with new cars and new tires, having to figure out the optimal performance for a harder Hankook compound.

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