What is Formula E?
The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is an international racing series that exclusively runs its races with electric-powered single-seater race cars. Up to twelve teams with a total of 24 drivers compete against each other in numerous cities around the globe - some of which are former Formula 1 drivers. The first race took place on September 13, 2014. The ninth season is currently underway (2023).
The FIA, the governing body of motorsport that also organizes Formula 1, takes a fundamentally different approach with Formula E than with all other racing series in its portfolio. The goal: to appeal to new and young audiences. Not least for this reason, Formula E events are usually compressed into just one day. Further details on the format of Formula E can be found below on this page. The sporting regulations of Formula E are also publicly available.
At the core of the Formula E brand are values such as sustainability, energy efficiency, and technological progress. The electric racing series is intended to serve as a testing ground for the automotive industry to advance the development of electric cars, make them more attractive, and thus combat climate change. Numerous major automakers have been involved in the championship in recent years.
Formula E mainly holds its races on specially designed street circuits in city centers to bring the event directly to the spectators - and not the other way around. In addition, the FIA wants to promote electromobility where it is already taking place today - but especially in the future: in urban areas.
The Formula E usually holds its race events on a single day: two free practices in the morning, qualifying at noon, and the race in the afternoon. The so-called E-Prix (referring to the term "Grand Prix") typically take place on Saturdays. However, starting from the 2023 season, the first free practice will be held on Friday to ease the schedule of the race day.
Occasionally, events may take place on Sundays or even Fridays. In addition, Formula E holds events with two races in selected cities. In such a "double header", two full races take place on two consecutive days. In a double-header, one of the Free Practices on the second race day is cancelled, so there is only one "Free Practice 3".
Official sessions of an E-Prix
- Friday: Free Practice 1 (30 min)
- Saturday: Free Practice 2 (30 min)
- Saturday: Qualifying (75 min)
- Saturday: Race (approx. 50 min)
Since the beginning of the Gen3 car era in 2023, the race distance in Formula E is again defined by a fixed number of laps. However, three laps before the end of the regular race distance, the race director announces a potential number of additional laps that will be added to the race distance. These laps are based on the time spent under safety car or full-course yellow conditions and are based on a "reference time" set by the FIA before the race weekend. A race can be extended by a maximum of seven laps, and a race may not exceed 75 minutes.
In the bast, Formula E races were defined by a fixed number of laps until the end of season 4. At the start of the Gen2 era in late 2018, the series switched to timed races. For four years, a race lasted 45 minutes plus one additional lap. In season 8 (2022), Formula E introduced the "extra time" rule, under which the race duration was extended by 45 seconds for every full minute spent under safety car or full-course yellow conditions.
Like in almost all FIA racing series, the top ten drivers in a race receive championship points in Formula E. In addition, pole position is rewarded with three points. The fastest race lap within the top 10 earns an additional point (previously two points until Season 2). The maximum number of points a Formula E driver can score on a race day is therefore 29 points. A team can score a maximum of 47 points in total.
|Fastest Lap (Top 10)
Group stage determines the top 8
Qualifying begins with a group stage. The field, currently consisting of 22 drivers, is divided into two groups of eleven vehicles each. The division is based on the current championship standings: drivers in odd-numbered positions in the overall standings (1, 3, ...) compete in Group A, while drivers in even-numbered positions (2, 4, ...) compete in Group B. Drivers who do not participate in the race weekend are removed from the ranking beforehand and new drivers are placed at the back. Before the first race of the season, each team must decide which of its two drivers will start in Group A and which in Group B.
Each group has twelve minutes to set lap times with 300 kW of power (= race mode). Each driver can drive as many laps as they want, but they are required to set at least one lap time within the first six minutes. At the end, the drivers in positions 1 to 4 in each group advance to the knockout phase. Drivers in positions 5 to 11 are later placed on starting positions 9 to 22 - where exactly will be determined only after the final. The position of a driver corresponds to their starting row, regardless of their best time (e. g. drivers qualifying in seventh position in their group will start from the seventh row on the grid)
Duels until the final
For the top 8, the knockout phase "within" the groups now begins, in which two drivers always compete against each other in individual time trials with maximum power of 350 kW. In the quarter-finals, the fastest driver from Group A competes against the fourth fastest driver from Group A, the second fastest against the third fastest driver of the same group, and so on.
Both drivers are on the track at the same time for the duel, with the driver who placed worse in the group stage having to complete his fast lap first (plus one outlap and inlap each). The winners advance to the semi-finals, while the losers receive starting positions 5 to 8 based on their lap times. The same procedure is repeated in the two semi-final duels and in the final, where the pole position and three championship points are at stake.
In addition, the outcome of the final is crucial for the starting positions 9 to 22 mentioned earlier: all drivers from the pole sitter's group start in an odd-numbered position, thus receiving a better starting position in their already defined starting row.
Review: The qualifying format until season 7 (2020/21)
Until the season finale in 2021, Formula E qualifying was held in four groups to avoid traffic congestion on the short and sometimes narrow city courses. The groups were put together based on the current standings in the driver championship. Each qualifying group included a total of six drivers. The six highest-ranked drivers in the overall standings started the qualifying session first.
- Group 1: Positions 1-6
- Group 2: Positions 7-12
- Group 3: Positions 13-18
- Group 4: Positions 19-24
Each qualifying group had six minutes to set a time - long enough for an outlap from the pit lane, an optional warm-up lap with 200 kW (race mode), and a single fast lap with the full power of 250 kW (qualifying mode). The six overall fastest drivers from the group stage then (since season 2) took part in a final shoot-out for the so-called Super Pole.
In the Super Pole session, the pilot with the sixth fastest lap time from the group phase initially went out onto the track. As soon as he began his fast lap, the light at the exit of the pit lane turned green to release the track for the fifth fastest driver. This procedure was continued until the fastest driver of the group phase. The order of the shoot-outs ultimately determined the first six positions on the starting grid. Starting positions 7 to 24 corresponded to the overall order during the group phase.
The shakedown is usually the first session of a race weekend where drivers are allowed to drive a limited number of laps with reduced power. It is usually used to test basic functions of the car after transportation and to test the communication between the team and the driver around the track. Lap times are not officially recorded or published during the shakedown.
Currently, the duration of the shakedown is limited to 15 minutes. Between 2014 and 2018, it was still 30 minutes. During this time, drivers are allowed to complete a maximum of three laps, with the power limited to 110 kW. The shakedown is not broadcasted on TV or in any Formula E livestream.
Although the shakedown is not mandatory, the regulations state that it should be conducted if possible. The regulations also allow for the shakedown to be completed alternatively behind the safety car. In a "double-header", it is only conducted before the first race.
With few exceptions, Formula E teams have a strict testing ban during a season. Only during up to six collective test days organized by the FIA may the racing teams test their vehicles. At least three of these six test days must take place before the season begins. In the past, these pre-season test drives were held first at the Donington Park circuit in the UK, then at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo near Valencia in Spain.
Additionally, a maximum of two test days during the season can be reserved for so-called rookie tests. Only drivers who have not participated in an official Formula E session (free practice, qualifying, or race) are allowed to participate. After two days of official testing (before or during the season), a rookie also loses this status.
Furthermore, each team can participate in up to six promotional events per season, where it may send its car onto the track for a maximum of three days. As with shakedowns, a reduced maximum power of 110 kW and a total energy amount of 25 kWh are available. The tires used must be requested from the series' sole supplier. It is prohibited to conduct promotional events on a track that is part of the current race calendar before the race has taken place there.
Until the end of the Gen2 era, each team was allowed to use six so-called filming days per season, during which a maximum of 50 km could be traveled for filming and advertising purposes.
To prepare for the homologation of a new powertrain, the registered manufacturers of Formula E have twelve (formerly 13) private test days available. Each manufacturer may use a total of 4,800 kWh of energy. They may freely choose the dates and location of the test drives. The duration of a test day is limited to twelve hours, and testing cannot begin before 6 am. It is not necessary to use the entire quota of test days.
If a manufacturer supplies at least one customer team with powertrains, its quota is extended by eight additional test days. The total amount of available energy increases by 3,200 kWh to 8,000 kWh. The manufacturer must make at least 50 percent of this additional track time available to the customer team.
Further test drives, whether wind tunnel tests, measurements on the test bench, or CFD studies, are strictly prohibited for both teams and manufacturers.
Because the battery from Williams Advanced Engineering didn't last a full race distance in the first four seasons of Formula E, drivers switched to a second car provided by the team in the pit lane around the middle of the race. For the car change, the organizer set a minimum time from entry to exit of the pit lane depending on the race track in the first three seasons, which could not be undercut to ensure safety. With the Santiago E-Prix of the fourth season, Formula E abolished the minimum time for pit stops.
At the start of the fifth season in December 2018, as planned, Formula E said goodbye to the car change once and for all. The new standardized battery from McLaren Applied Technologies made the previously mandatory pit stop redundant, because with a capacity of 52 kWh of usable energy, the batteries now lasted an entire race. The Gen3 car, introduced in the 2023 season, also has the capacity to be fast-charged during the races, although in-race pitstops are not expected to return before 2024.
In addition to the vehicle costs, the total expenses are also limited by a cost cap. Since the beginning of the 2023 season, there have been two cost caps in Formula E: one for the teams and one for the manufacturers. In the first two years of the Gen3 era (seasons 2022/23 and 2023/24), teams are generally not allowed to invest more than 13 million euros per year in their race operations. The manufacturer budget limits the costs for powertrain development to 25 million euros. From the 11th Formula E season (2024/25), the team budget will increase to 15 million euros per year.
The cost cap is based on the assumption that at least twelve race weekends will be held in the respective seasons. It is irrelevant whether the events take place as single races or "double-headers". If fewer than twelve events are held, the annual budget will be reduced by 250,000 euros times the number of missing race weekends. Similarly, the cost cap can also be increased by the same factor if more than twelve weekends are held.
For now, driver salaries are not part of the Formula E cost cap. They will only be included in the deployment team's budget from October 1, 2024. Formula E wants to prevent "previously negotiated contracts" from being cancelled and renegotiated with smaller driver salaries. Also excluded from the financial framework are expenses directly related to activities in marketing, finance, legal transactions, or real estate.
Exceptions include taxes, social security contributions (provided they do not exceed 13.8% of employees' gross salaries), foreign exchange losses (relevant, among others, for teams based in the UK but paying in euros), penalties to the FIA's "Cost Cap Administration," and depreciation of intangible assets (except for software and patents relevant to race operations).
In simple terms, the cost cap only applies to the areas of a team/manufacturer that are essential to operating the race cars.