Pascal Wehrlein wants to accelerate Formula E further: "Would like slicks for the future".
1:08.680 (Jakes Hughes, 2023) vs. 1:06.835 (Nyck de Vries, 2022): Formula E's new Gen3 car was exactly 1.845 seconds slower than its much less powerful and heavier predecessor on the identical track layout at the Diriyya E-Prix. The pace deficit can be attributed primarily to the new all-weather tire, which is significantly harder than its predecessor. Several drivers are now calling for the introduction of slicks in the electric racing series..
"Yes, I would like to see slicks in the future," Porsche driver Pascal Wehrlein responded to a question from 'e-Formel.de' during a media round. "Having one compound for dry conditions and one for wet conditions is a good idea."
Formula E has always driven with treaded all-weather tires, but at last year's New York City E-Prix it had to realize that the solution at the time was not optimal: shortly before the end of the race, there had been a heavy shower in Brooklyn. Since the tires had hardly any tread left at that point, almost the entire lead group slid into the TecPro barrier in a mass crash.
Most likely for this reason, Formula E commissioned new manufacturer Hankook to provide a harder tire that would still have grip in the wet toward the end of the race. "If it rains just a little bit, that's fine. But when the water is standing (on the asphalt), we simply don't have enough tread left on the tire to be able to drive without aquaplaning," Wehrlein explained.
"That's why I would like to see a slick tire in the future, which would bring so much more performance in lap time alone. You can easily expect four, five, six seconds there," said the current Formula E world championship leader. "But then you would also have a proper rain tire that you can use in wet conditions. I would like to see that and it would be a good idea."
Jean-Eric Vergne: New Formula E tire "hard as concrete"
After the Mexico City E-Prix, DS Penske driver Jean-Eric Vergne had already spoken out on the subject of tires. The Formula E double champion strikes the same note as Wehrlein: "I would like to see slick tires that have 70 percent more grip," the Frenchman told 'Motorsport.com' at the time..
The new Formula E tire is "as hard as concrete, and that's what makes it so slippery. In the race, it's even more noticeable because you lose downforce as soon as you're following someone," Vergne muses. He also believes the hard tire has a negative impact on the entertainment value for fans.
As a result, there were significantly fewer overtaking maneuvers - especially in Mexico - than in the Gen2 era. "That was simply because there was so little grip. You just couldn't put in a late overtaking maneuver or braking maneuver because it was clear it wasn't going to work." The lack of confidence in the car, moreover, meant there were so many accidents,he said.
Nevertheless, all the drivers and teams keep stressing that Hankook's product is good and only complies with the briefing from Formula E and the FIA. "I think Hankook has done a super job," Wehrlein says. "You can always say that the tire could be a little bit softer."
However, he says, one must also consider the significant temperature differences over the course of a Formula E season, which play a much smaller role in other racing series due to different tire types. "In Riyadh it was 8 degrees, but in India next week we will probably have 35 degrees," Wehrlein explained. "To get one tire for so many different conditions I think is very, very difficult."
Gen3 car goes "brutally in the arms" - Wehrlein brings power steering into play.
In addition to slick tires, Wehrlein brings up another idea, because "the cars are significantly more strenuous to drive" than the Gen2 cars were in previous seasons. "After all, we don't have power steering in the cars, and the steering has become significantly heavier compared to last year."
In response to a question from his colleagues at 'Motorsport-Magazin,' the German explained, "The fact that we always steer relatively a lot on the tight circuits means that it just brutally gets into your arms. It really is significantly more strenuous than in the past. I've seen a few drivers who weren't feeling so well after the race (laughs). Fortunately, I wasn't one of them. Power steering wouldn't be such a bad idea for the future." However, he said it was also currently "fine."
Comment from Timo Pape: "It's time for slicks!"
Whether there is power steering in Formula E is relatively the same to me. Tendentially, it is certainly a bit more entertaining for fans when the drivers are also physically pushed to their limits. Because this factor can also affect the drivers' concentration and thus separate the wheat from the chaff. On the subject of tires, however, I'm 100 percent with Wehrlein and Vergne: it's time for slicks in Formula E!
That the new generation of cars is slower than the Gen2 car despite significantly more power and less weight simply cannot be. As simple as that. The lack of pace contradicts the technological progress that Formula E - that aside - rightly boasts about. What's more, it's incomprehensible to the fans. And if it then also has a negative impact on the racing action due to a lack of overtaking maneuvers, as Vergne believes, there can hardly be two opinions: something has to change in terms of tires for 2024 at the latest.
There would be two possible solutions for this: either a softer rubber compound or different types of tires. Personally, I'm in favor of slicks. Hankook could leave the tire relatively hard, so that it would continue to hold out for an entire race weekend. But without a tread, it would be significantly faster right off the bat. Differentiating for different temperatures, as Wehrlein is talking about, on the other hand, would be going too far for me.
For rain, Formula E would have to transport additional treaded tires around the world, and there's the rub. Because this would again be contrary to the sustainability messages of the E series. But please put this into perspective, dear Formula E. DHL would have to transport about five additional wheels with tires per car. So, in total, about 110. Yes, these would entail additional manufacturing and logistics costs, and the extra weight would also slightly increase the CO2 footprint.
But if you look at what else Formula E transports around the world, the additional tires would be just a drop in the bucket and acceptable to me. What's more, the rain tires would only be used very rarely. And even if they were, Hankook has a recycling strategy up its sleeve for its rubbers.
If Formula E doesn't get involved with this approach, at least the rubber compound will have to become softer. But then we could be heading back toward the aquaplaning problem in the rain. The task certainly won't be any easier for Hankook. Nevertheless, Formula E must make a decision in time - for a faster Gen3 car that reflects the progress of the series.