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Monaco ePrix: triumphs and new electric cars

Before the start of the electric racing circuit of the FLA Formula E championship in the Principality, we could compare the promotion of the 2nd ePrix in Monaco to a boxing event.  In the blue corner, Renault-e.dams: Sébastien “The King” Buemi! Winner of the first edition here, on the 9th of May 2015, reigning champion and leader of the current edition after the first lap. In the red corner, Audi Sport ABT: Lucas Di Grassi, aka “The Challenger!” Five victories (plus he placed 3rd in 2014-2015 and 2nd in 2015-2016).  He was only five points short of winning last month in Mexico.

Lucas di Grassi after Paris ePrix.
Lucas di Grassi after Paris ePrix. Source:

A record before pole position

And the winner is… Sebastien Buemi. Same dominance, same outcome: the hero of the first edition made history yesterday on the famous track between sea and sky. On the 1.76 kilometer track, which uses the lower part of the F1 circuit, the driver, born in Aigle in Vaud, spread his wings and flew the qualifying lap from beginning to end. First during the morning trials, he beat his own time, and his pole position from two years earlier: 52.129s versus 53.478s, 1.3s faster, despite his slower Sainte-Dévote turn. A good omen in the hunt for a pole position, while Di Grassi’s blue car with the number 9 had an excellent time of 53.313.The first results: Buemi ahead of Di Grassi. Were they inseparable? To convert the advantage into a win, he must have perfect runs, avoid the vibration of acceleration, and find the right balance between speed and energy management over 51 laps.

2016/2017 FIA Formula E Championship.
FIA Formula E Championship. Monte-Carlo, Sebastien Buemi (SUI), Renault e.Dams, Spark-Renault, Renault Z.E 16, celebrates on the podium. Photo: Andrew Ferraro/LAT/Formula E

Batteries flat during the race

“The important thing was to keep ahead at the start,” said Buemi. “Monaco is not like Marrakech or Buenos Aires. Here, it is impossible to overtake! Here, I managed to go a little bit ahead of time. As the safety car entered the track, we decided to anticipate changing cars. From there, I knew that it would be necessary to watch my energy consumption at the end of the race. Lucas came back strong. He put on the pressure. But I managed to resist until that finish line, with almost flat batteries.” Short of power, he was able to fill up with champagne on the Princely podium, alongside Di Grassi, 2nd with 0.3s, and Nick Heidfeld, 3rd with 13.6s. And together with Alain Prost and Jean-Paul Driot, the bosses of the Renault-e.dams team, who now dream of adding the next round to their chart of wins.

Formula E Season 5 car unveiled

Looking forward to the future, Formula E is now actively preparing for season 5, which will mark the start of a new, more sophisticated single-seater. 2018 is coming up fast for Spark Racing Technology, the French designer of the current vehicle that won, this winter, the call for tenders of the International Automobile Federation (FLA) with the FE called to take over in a year and a half. The first images of the model of this SRT05e show a significant evolution in design, with futuristic lines including a complete profiling of the front and rear wheels. What will be added to the final version presented this summer? It will certainly be equipped with a new, more powerful battery(54 kW) produced by McLaren, with double autonomy. Which will power the distance of an ePrix, and finish with the batteries still half-charged.

“Approval of the power-units, to be used from season 5, is a very important step, because it means that cars will be able to run twice as long for an equal or better performance level,” said Jean Todt, president of the FLA, “This shows how motor sport can stimulate and accelerate the development of new technologies which will then be applicable to road cars. And in this case it plays a fundamental role since to this day; electricity is one of the most realistic solutions when it comes to finding more sustainable forms of mobility for the future.”

On Monaco’s F1 track in 2019?

Formula E Season 5 car, SRT05e front and back.
Formula E Season 5 car, SRT05e front and back. Source:

Their peak power will increase from 200 to 250 kW, with harvest energy climbing to the same level and should be approved in three months for future Formula Es.

The crash test is scheduled for the 1st of September with a premier on the tracks in October. The first practice session involving all the teams is scheduled to take place in February 2018, between two rounds of season 4, which will serve as a farewell tour for the current FE. In the future, the championship will no longer host ten teams but twelve, with two additional players who could be Mercedes and a major Japanese or Korean manufacturer. The number of races in season 5 is still far from being decided. Whatever the roadmap, the 3rd Monaco ePrix will be included in the program, under a signed agreement which stipulates one round in the Principality every other year until 2021.

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