Bird: Time-limited races make prior FE experience less relevant
Sam Bird says that Formula E’s switch to being a timed race format rather than a set number of laps means experience from racing in previous FE seasons now counts for less.
For the championship’s fifth season, Formula E dropped the rule which meant all races ran to a set number of laps, and instead, put in place a new rule that means all races now last 45 minutes plus one lap, regardless of the length or speed of the circuit.
Virgin Racing driver Bird, who has raced in Formula E since it’s inaugural season back in 2014, feels that a full pre-season test programme would be more beneficial in getting to grips with the changes this season than having had prior racing experience in the championship
“I think it’s completely wiped any experience level out of the championship,” Bird told eRacing Magazine.
“Maybe in qualifying and getting the maximum out of the car on one lap, you could argue that an experienced Formula E professional might be more comfortable in that scenario, but for the racing format, people with 15 days of testing in the new Gen2 car have the advantage over the likes of us.”
He added that the teams are still adapting and learning how to maximise race strategy under the new format as the energy saving requirements of the Gen2 car differs to that of its predecessor.
“It will be different for different circuits. We need to wait and see and see if there is a pattern. Last year you really had to manage the energy to get to your pit stop, now it doesn’t seem that’s really an issue for anybody.
“Last year you would come in the pits with the thing completely empty and you’d have to squeeze every last ounce out of it because you knew where you needed to be. Now nobody knows where they need to be.”
Bird also feels that energy management could play more of a role at the sharp end of the grid this season as the pace of the leader is likely to determine how much and when the chasing pack can push.
“Everything changes because you can plan as much as you want but if you are not leading then you are totally at the mercy of the pace of the leader, it’s critical,” said Bird.
“You might be planning to finish the race at a certain point but if they cross the line in 44 minutes and 58 seconds and you’re planning not to do that extra lap, you’re done. So you’re at the mercy of [the leader’s] energy, not yours.”
One of the more notable changes this season has been the introduction of attack mode, a feature Bird feels could prove popular with the drivers over time, but the Virgin driver admits he was disappointed to see the mid-race car swap made redundant for season five.
“A pit stop always spices something up, adds an element to it,” he said. “I would love to see a pit-stop, I am not going to lie, but we’ve gone with the attack mode thing. We should embrace it, we should enjoy it and see if interesting things come from it.”
Image Credit: Formula E
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