Annoying or thrilling? Analysis of Formula E's "musical chairs" game in Portland
Already in the run-up to the Portland E-Prix Formula E drivers and teams were expecting the next "slipstream battle" as was the case at the races in Sao Paulo and Berlin. And so it came to pass. 403 overtaking maneuvers were celebrated by the electric series after the end of the race. Comments from drivers and fans tended to go in the opposite direction, because "genuine" was by no means all the overtaking maneuvers. After all, once again no one wanted to lead. Nevertheless, the race also had its charms, says e-Formula.news editor Timo Pape. An analysis.
In the children's game "musical chairs," it's all about changing places every round. Only at the end it comes down to sitting on the last remaining chair. It was much the same at Formula E's race in Portland. Attentive Formula E fans know all too well why: Those who drive in the slipstream of another driver save considerable energy in fast, flowing sections of the track and thus have a better chance of winning. Consequently, the leader consumes more power and is at a disadvantage toward the end of the race because he has to drive more slowly than his opponents.
So it came also in the US state of Oregon partly again to absurd scenes. For example, when a Nissan driver coasted so early on the left lane at the end of the start/finish line that a handful of cars were able to pass him at once. Or wild zigzag driving on the long straights to take the slipstream from the car behind. The result was another chaotic first half of the race, in which presumably only a few spectators were able to understand who was actually the favorite to win.
" In the first 15 laps, everyone was on different strategies, which made it very confusing," agrees Jake Dennis, who ultimately finished second and thus equalized a Formula E record. "In the first quarter, I never drove at full power - nobody wanted to lead. In the end, I'm just happy we're done with this race." Other drivers also shared the Andretti driver's sentiment, although winner Nick Cassidy had "fun". Well - he got the last chair at the famous kids' game.
Fans' opinions on the Portland E-Prix
On the Internet, fans tended to have similar opinions, for example on the various social media channels or in our comments section on e-Formula.news. "That was the most ridiculous race since Valencia 2021," said our reader Stefan, for example. "The Gen3 cars and the ultra-tactical driving simply don't suit a high-speed circuit. A 1-lap sprint race would have been more exciting."
Formula E fan Chris writes, "The Portland E-Prix felt like the low point of the season and a revelation." He also claims that qualifying was unnecessary "because the race was so slow anyway, you could go from 20th to 4th." He is alluding to Mitch Evans' catch up, who despite being on the last row of the grid was able to make up 16 positions thanks to his efficient Jaguar powertrain.
Formula E: Highlights of the race in Portland
Opinion by Timo Pape: Portland certainly had its charms
We have already dedicated an analytical comment to this topic after the Sao Paulo E-Prix - at that time, by the way, there were "only" 114 overtaking maneuvers. And we already stated then: As long as the current Gen3 car and tracks with very long straights exist, the "problem" of waving past another dirver will not disappear. According to our information, Formula E is planning an aerodynamic adaptation of the Gen3 bodywork for the start of the 2025 season (Gen3EVO). Until then, however, there will still be races in Sao Paulo, Berlin and Portland. So willy-nilly, we'll have to make friends with this different kind of racing - or just switch off.
I have to say, though: For me, the Portland E-Prix was one of the better races this season. Admittedly, all that waving past is clearly too much. But the risky braking and accelerating right next to each other was always a tightrope walk. The drivers had to keep their concentration high in order not to collide at distances of just a few centimeters. The high speeds in Portland increased the risk, and with it the thrill of watching.
Intermittently, I felt reminded of exciting F1 duels in the Curva Grande at Monza. Or of oval races with high speeds and small distances between cars, where centimeters can decide about success or disaster (please post criticism for this comparison in the comments below). This was a more or less new element in Formula E that definitely captivated me. Especially since the last third of the race, with its multi-fight for victory, was extremely exciting and characterized by high-class "real" overtaking.
Nevertheless, I personally don't much care for classic racetracks and am now looking forward to the four races still to come on genuine Formula E street circuits in Rome and London. Nothing beats narrow streets and close walls. For me, this is where the real appeal of Formula E lies. But even high-speed racing like in Portland isn't all bad. I see it like Bernie Ecclestone and Alejandro Agag: Entertainment comes above everything else.