Formula E

Di Grassi sees great potential in Formula E Gen3 car: "Driving 5 seconds faster would be very easy".

Tobias Wirtz

Tobias Wirtz

As already observed in Valencia, the third-generation Formula E race cars were not significantly faster than their heavier and less powerful predecessors in Mexico City either. For Mahindra driver Lucas di Grassi, the cause lies not in the technology, but in political decisions of the racing series and the automobile world association FIA.

The Brazilian believes that the currently not significantly faster lap times of the Gen3 bolides are partly due to the new Hankook tires. These were developed according to a specification from the FIA and are significantly harder than the Michelin tires used to date.

What has advantages in the areas of tire wear and temperature stability, however, proves to be a disadvantage, especially on a fast lap: cornering speeds drop due to the grip deficit. In addition, drivers now have to be more careful with the power pedal on corner exit to avoid losing control of the cars.

"They've made the tire harder and more consistent - that was the idea behind it," di Grassi described on 'The Race'. "The tire has very good grip for its long life, you can do an entire test week on one set of tires. It's not magic: if you take a softer tire, you can do fewer laps. If you take a harder tire, it lasts longer."

"It's not that Hankook has made a bad tire. On the contrary, they have developed a very good tire," di Grassi said, taking the new tire manufacturer to task. "But I think with a softer semi-slick, you could go two or three seconds faster (per lap) right off the bat."

However, this goes against Formula E's philosophy: the sustainability plays a big role, so the same tires should be used in all weather and temperature ranges. In this way, among other things, emissions are also reduced when transporting freight, as significantly fewer tires need to be transported around the world overall.

"Adjustments to aerodynamics would provide more downforce"

But di Grassi believes that potential starting points for improving lap times are not just in the tires. "Some functional changes could also be made to the design of the car," he says, adding that he also sees greater potential in the vehicle.

"A few adjustments to the aerodynamics of the cars would provide a bit more downforce and less drag," he describes further. "That would make the car another half or even a full second faster. Then, if you use the front engine to provide 50 kW out of the corners, you can gain another second. Overall, we could easily be five seconds faster, it would be very easy."

"It wouldn't be complicated or expensive," he said, not seeing any technical or financial reasons why his proposals might not be implemented in the future. "You wouldn't have to reduce the weight of the car, which would be very costly, or even change the entire concept of the car."

Di Grassi is pinning his hopes on the possibility of a performance boost for the eleventh season in 2024/25 with a facelift of the cars called "Gen3.5." At the same time, manufacturers will be allowed to homologate new powertrains in the electric series. "The potential is there," di Grassi is certain. "Gen3 has a lot of potential, and it will be interesting to see what Gen3.5 and then Gen4 will be able to do. The technology is just impressive."

Comparison of lap times in Mexico difficult

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After lap times had already been compared during pre-season testing in Valencia, despite an identical track configuration were only minimally faster than last year, an adjustment to the track layout in Mexico made comparisons of times at the season opener rather difficult. A new chicane created more opportunities for recuperation. As a result, lap times rose by several seconds. However, the first and last sectors remained virtually unchanged. Here, only the sector length changed by four and one meter, respectively.

An analysis of the sector best times by 'e-Formel.de' shows that the Gen3 cars picked up speed in the first sector: Lucas di Grassi drove the fastest time in the final duel with 22.175 seconds in the first section of the track with an average speed of 153.4 km/h. Last year, Pascal Wehrlein had still been the fastest here in his semi-final duel with 22.303 seconds and an average pace of 151.9 km/h.

Different in the third sector: Wehrlein had also achieved the best time of 21.478 seconds in the semifinal in 2022, which corresponds to an average of 131.6 km/h. In 2023, Wehrlein was again fastest here in his quarterfinal duel, but needed 21.543 seconds. He drove at an average speed of 131.0 km/h in this sector.

It is clear to see, on the other hand, that the performance of the Gen3 bolides is much better in the race. Whereas di Grassi's fastest race lap of 1:09.487 minutes last year was almost 2.5 seconds slower than Wehrlein's qualifying record lap, Jake Dennis' best time of 1:14.195 minutes was just 1.6 seconds off the fastest qualifying lap time.

Sektor Bestzeit '22 Ø-Tempo '22 Bestzeit '23 Ø-Tempo '23
Sektor 1 22.303 s 151,9 km/h 22.175 s 153,4 km/h ( + 1,5 km/h)
Sektor 3 21.478 s 131,6 km/h 21.543 s 131,0 km/h ( - 0,6 km/h)

 

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