Drivers at the Hong Kong ePrix have said they totally lost contact with their teams during the race, as buildings blocked radio signal for most of the circuit, leaving them recalculating regeneration and energy usage on their own.
The first race of Season 4, which also included the first red flagged race stop in Formula E, might have seemed confusing to anyone watching as chaotic incidents and dramatic battles littered the track but it was even more so for the drivers, several of whom are rookies, left without a link to their teams or vital energy management information.
Neel Jani, who was competing in his very first Formula E race, said the lack of contact made it “Very difficult because there are some teams that are a bit better set up when something happens like that, just with software and we were nowhere and I have no experience so I don’t know where I have to shoot for, in terms of numbers.
He said that even basic information such as how much of the race was left was unavailable to him, resorting to recalculating as he was driving, “Even how many laps are left, I looked on the screen actually at some stage and then I changed the targets and I recalculate it myself but this is not efficient.”
We asked Neel if it was any comfort to having been able to make the calculations during his first race in Formula E and he said it was not, as there was so much time lost during the process of working it out.
Race winner and relatively experienced FE driver Felix Rosenqvist agreed it was extremely difficult to cope with, as well as totally unexpected so drivers had not prepared for it, “Yeah, it’s never happened before. I think last year here it happened a bit and I had one time my earplugs got pulled out in Monaco. I got a bit compromised because there was so many information I needed that I didn’t get and it was a bit s**t.”
During races Formula E drivers communicate with their data engineers to work out regeneration and energy usage targets – without which it can be impossible to even reach the end of a race, let alone be able to compete with the drivers around them. Some battery transponders, reset after the red flagged race pause, led to a total lack of communication, including teams losing access to battery levels on the cars around theirs, vital for strategy calls.
DS Virgin’s Alex Lynn said that their team had had previous experience of losing contact, so were relatively well prepared – something a lot of the other teams may well be seeking to resolve overnight, “A lot of radio difficulty but to be honest it’s not the first time it’s happened to us, so luckily we’ve had enough practice of doing it on their own.”