Why Formula E Drivers are the Most Vital Component: Part II
There have been mostly two types of drivers come in to Formula E since its inception in 2014. Those who are just naturally gifted at being able to drive a car and think at the same time and those that can only do one of those things. Lyon agrees.
“I remember during my days in F1 just thinking there are some who are just able to do that multi-skill thing and some that couldn’t,” he says.
“Jacques Villeneuve was one, who on the day was just brilliant. Alonso was another. They could drive, but still have their full ability to think. But other drivers who were maybe closer to the limit of their ability could only drive. “
There is no doubt that we’ve seen some drivers come in to Formula E, cracking knuckles and thinking an easy ride had been found. The awakening was bracingly rude.
“Within a couple of events, the smart ones go ‘oh, this is quite something’, and they’ve worked hard on getting their head around how to do it.”
“You’ve got Attack Mode, you’ve got FanBoost, you’ve got energy management, the tyres are quite fickle things, the brakes, you’ve got carbon brakes, half the time on the back axle they’re stone cold because they’re not being used. That lot can fry your mind a bit.”
Andre Lotterer agrees. The now Porsche driver was vocal in his judgement that Formula E was the “most challenging environment” he’d raced in. This from a man who conquered Le Mans three times and was generally acknowledged as one of the very best endurance driver of his generation.
Some of the difficulty of course is the hostile environment of the street circuits and a single day ‘winner takes all, most go home after a brawl’ type racing.
But some is also down to the car.
“It’s not a perfect car, and as a result, it’s quite a hard car to drive in some conditions,” says Lyon.
“It’s not necessarily a consistent car to drive. I think the skill level of the drivers is outstandingly good, being able to drive fast, drive efficiently, and at the same time, think about the race and their energy consumption and their tyres and their brakes and their chassis whilst racing.
The one thing you are programmed as a driver not to do is lift off. The mental ability of switching from one to another, from qualifying attack to an intricate energy strategy in the race is the domain of only a very few current professional drivers.
When Formula E do their always entertaining mash up of the pit-to-radios, people say ‘why don’t they just keep their cool’. Those who say such things know little of the intensity in Formula E races.
“At BAR F1 twenty odd years ago one of our marketing attacks was to highlight the stress and the anger and explosion of emotion in the team. It mustn’t happen too often, but seeing those emotions boil sometimes is part of motorsport.
“It’s part of realising these people are being pushed to the limits, and occasionally they go over the edge. We saw it with Buemi walking up the pit lane laying in to a few people in his way. I like that occasionally.
Formula E has been taken seriously for several years now due to its relevant technology. But without the drivers, and in particular the strong depth in quality, it would have little credibility at all.