A mechanical failure 13 laps into the inaugural FIA Formula Sanya ePrix on Hainan Island in China ended Race Lab driver ’s race. 

 

The failure, attributed to a broken driveshaft, was similar to the issue that teammate Stoffel Vandoorne had two weeks before at the Hong Kong ePrix, which also took him out of race contention. 

 

 

Paffett ended up catching some of the race action trackside with GEOX Dragon’s Jose Maria Lopez, who also stopped on track and retired from the race. 

 

“We were talking about how good some of the cars looked,” joked Paffett with a laugh after the race. “We were looking for a good spot for action actually. We found it at the apex of turn 5!

 

“It’s frustrating. Qualifying wasn’t great. We had a few issues with the car so we didn’t make the grid because we were trying to sort the car out, so we started from the pitlane.

 

“Then we had some software issues with the energy stuff earlier on and we dropped back.

 

“By the time we lost a bit of gap we were just waiting for something to happen – a safety car or something because we were so far back.

 

“But then we lost drive. I don’t know what it was – maybe a driveshaft or something broke but we lost drive, and that’s why we had to retire.

 

“Pretty disappointing – qualifying that far back. But then we were trying to be in the race for the end until something happened but we can’t even survive the race driving around slowly, so, disappointing.”

 

 

While the dry pace left a lot to be desired, Paffett maintained that HWA is on the right path operationally and not running afoul of Formula E’s sporting regulations and incurring unnecessary penalties.

 

Both Paffett and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne were penalized a total of nine times by the FIA stewards in the first four races. The offenses ranged from non-compliance with the state of charge (SoC) in the car’s battery to using too much energy during FanBoost mode in the race. 

 

Vandoorne was briefly under investigation in Sanya for causing a collision with Envision Virgin’s Sam Bird during the race. The stewards found neither Vandoorne nor Bird were to blame for the crash, which took both cars out. 

 

“From the start I think we’ve done things the right way,” said Paffett. “We’ve done our homework – we’ve read the rule book inside out to understand what we can and can’t do.

 

“As drivers we are doing the best we can to get used to the car, to get used to the series. I think that’s important for us – not to make silly mistakes and we’re not making silly mistakes. We are kind of doing the right stuff.

 

“We are being let down by a bit of reliability at the moment. The software problems we have – kind of out of our control as well, which is frustrating.

 

“We are making small mistakes as drivers and as a team but I think the bigger problems are stuff that’s out of our control.

 

“Reliability wise it’s mechanical parts that get supplied to us. It’s not really something we can do much about.

 

“The team is making sure that we do the right things, and that’s working well.”

 

Driven by Software

 

From various power modes to battery discharge / recharge cycles and brake-by-wire systems, Formula E relies heavily on software to ensure that these electronic systems work harmoniously during a race session, far more so than in other single-seater categories or in sportscars. 

 

It was something that the team had to get accustomed to, according to HWA Race Lab team principal Ulrich Fritz. 

 

“That is the name of the game in Formula E,” said Fritz of the series’ software driven nature before the Sanya ePrix. “The mechanical side is one thing and if you have driveshaft failures it will not put you in a good position. The software control is key to the whole thing, and that is a big learning for us.

 

“We also depend on our manufacturer, which is I think a fact for every team. We cannot do work completely free – in freedom there because we are bound to Venturi, which is not a bad thing – not at all. I think we have quite a bit of experience there because we get all the support from Venturi.

 

“On the other hand, there’s a big learning curve. We need to understand all the systems, how they are working together, the parameters that influence the whole performance and especially the energy management.”

 

Paffett explained that as a customer team to Venturi, the software is supplied by the manufacturer, but HWA can further develop and augment the software on their own and optimize it for their own setups.

 

“Software wise, we can develop our own stuff,” Paffett explained. “We are given the software and we have availability of everything they are running, so there’s no secrets there. But we can go in our own direction.

 

“Everything we want to do has to go through the engineers there [at Venturi] but they never stop anything. They are open to do anything, and then we share the data with them from what we learned. We are not that restricted.

 

“Mechanical parts we get what we were given. But software wise we can do development ourselves.”

 

Images: FIA Formula E / Michelin