Mahindra Racing as well as the nine other Formula E teams still have more questions than answers about the new series but searching for those answers has been fun so far
“The thing is that we don’t really know what direction the series is going to take and what the pecking order is going to be,” said Dilbagh Gill to autoX from his office in Massachusetts, America. “But that in itself is proving to be exciting along with the fact that all the team principals including someone like Alain Prost have not kept anything from each other and are helping each other to learn more about these cars and the championship. It’s very democratic!”
Gill – the Mahindra Racing Formula E team principal – is of course talking about the way things currently stand in the foundation stages of the all-electric FIA Formula E Championship that will kick off this September in Beijing at the Olympic Park venue.
Things have moved forward a fair bit since the ten participating teams were announced and the ‘Drivers Club’ candidates were revealed.
For one, Mahindra Racing has announced that India’s second Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok and Brazil’s Bruno Senna (nephew of the deceased motorsport legend) will get behind the wheel of their machines. And second, Mahindra along with all the other teams have completed a test session at the British circuit of Donnington Park, where Formula E has also set up its headquarters and where all the cars are maintained and stored.
It was the second time the Spark-Renault SRT 01E had been put through its paces. But the first time that more than one car had been tested at the same time.
At this point tests and shakedowns in Formula E are less about one team finding the edge over the other and more about developing the car to a baseline from which teams can try something different on their own in the 2015/16 season.
“At the moment the cars will remain with the FIA throughout the year with the exception of the time that we have them on track on a race weekend,” said Gill. “At the most what teams will probably be able to do differently from one another is find solutions to charge a car faster as well as prepare through simulators better than another team.
“The idea is, however, for teams to become constructors from the second season and that is when we are evaluating raising the power output of the cars too from the current limit of 270 bhp.”
Then there is also the commercial aspect of the championship. The notion of a ‘green’ motorsport series is something that companies have shown interest in at a time when the effects of pollution can be clearly seen the world over.
In particular in the world’s second largest economy, China, which just happens to be the host of the opening round of the Formula E Championship. Not to mention the political aspect. Fresh violence has broken out in West Asia – including Iraq – and has caused oil prices to spike once more.
After its successful attempt to have F1 teams make cars that produce the same amount of power as last year’s car while using 30% less fuel, the FIA has turned its attention to going all the way.
And with both McLaren (powertrain and electronics) and Williams (battery design) involved in the construction of the Formula E car, the question needs to be asked if there is scope for battery technology to be ‘farmed out’ to the more high-profile world of F1.
But that is something too premature to speculate as far as Gill is concerned.
“Well the presence of these two companies definitely raises such questions but at the moment we are too busy figuring out where exactly everyone stands and what the series will turn out to look like,” said Gill.
So it’s safe to say that one shouldn’t expect much from Formula E in its inaugural year beyond good – and novel - racing at picturesque street tracks around the world. Sounds good so far.