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Formula E – looking back from the halfway mark

The first Formula E World Championship has reached its halfway mark. Estelle Perrier, developer of MICHELIN Pilot Sport EV tires in the MICHELIN Motorsport team, and Jérôme Cambier, blogger for MICHELIN Motorsport and AutoRacingLive.com by MICHELIN look back together on the first half of the Championship.

After four races, we have now reached the halfway mark of the 2014-2015 formula E Championship. How would you sum it up so far?

Estelle Perrier: I'm really enthusiastic. The championship has aroused the interest of constructors/teams, sponsors, drivers and spectators for a number of reasons.

1. It focuses on sustainable development and mobility, promoting new technologies and proving the reliability and relevance of electric technology. It helps us to increase our expertise via the competition between the different teams/constructors.

2. We can get back to the true essence of car racing, namely driving and strategy. All the drivers have the same car, the same tires and relatively few tire or vehicle levers to give them a real advantage over the others. The difference comes from the quality of driving and strategy in managing autonomy, whilst seeking ever higher performance. This puts the spotlight back on the drivers.

3. It's exciting! The urban environment, with its pavements, vibrations, tight bends, manhole covers and different surfaces is pretty hostile. All this is in addition to the new rules, different strategies as regards autonomy and the intense rivalry between first-class drivers.

Jérôme Cambier: The first thing that comes to my mind is the professionalism of the event. The organizers start from scratch in each city to create, host and manage a 100% electric car race. Huge investments are made to ensure that the circuit is as safe and attractive as possible, for both the drivers and spectators. It is always amazing to see that an urban road around a playground in a city centre can be turned into a real car racing circuit! Each time we're there, it feels like a miracle.

Since the first event in Beijing, the quality of the racing and organization has improved over the four stages. The level really is very high and the drivers never give an inch, as was seen during the nail-biting finish in Buenos Aires, where we saw attempts at overtaking four abreast on bends!

The cars are competitive and I can tell you that from the edge of the circuit it's all pretty fast, although suspensions are still too fragile.

From the sidelines, at the opposite side of the giant screens, it's very difficult to tell one car from another and comfortably follow the race. The numbers on the single-seater cars are not very clear. In fact, this is a problem both for spectators and for me, as I have to take pictures of them in action for AutoRacingLive.com.

The assessment so far is generally positive however. The championship has its rightful place in the car racing world as it showcases speed, competitiveness, a real circuit, city centre setting and first-class drivers. And afterwards, the promoter, along with partners such as Michelin, looks at ways in which it can make improvements in all aspects of the event.

The crux of the matter for promoting the event remains strong media coverage. This is already pretty effective on the Internet and TV as the promotor has signed a number of deals with major TV channel, in particular in China, USA, UK and France but there seems to be very little promotion within the cities themselves. Apart from racing fans, new audiences targeted by formula E still seem unaware of its existence.

And how would you assess the performance of the tires so far?

E.P.: From the very first race, our tires have demonstrated their:

  • versatility both as regards road surface and the range of temperatures at which they are used;
  • consistency and low wear in hot, occasionally sandy environments and on a variety of different road surfaces;
  • robustness in a fairly hostile urban environment.

What makes this Championship different? What surprises, good or bad, have you had?

E.P.: This championship is innovative in several ways, notably on account of its

  • Format: with races of around 80 kms with a relay.
  • Location: the races are held in city centers rather than on circuits.
  • Technology: the single-seater cars are 100% electric and all fitted with the same tires.

The pleasant surprises include the high quality of the drivers, reliability of the batteries and the enthusiasm of sponsors and constructors.

J.C.: 100% electric engines work really well! The noise of the cars is astonishing – far from the world of silence announced… I particularly appreciate the autonomous recharging system introduced for the single-seater cars with natural fuels to produce electricity.  

Considering the state of the track, the MICHELIN Pilot Sport EV all-round tire is incredible, despite extreme driving conditions. The tire suffers, but retains a high level of performance and the best rounds are often driven at the end of the race. These are car races held in an urban environment, which doubtless toughens the race conditions.

The shakedown* is too short. The drivers go round three times twice and that's it.

How do the racing teams view Michelin's work?

E.P.: Feedback from drivers/teams has been very good. They specifically emphasized the performance, robustness, durability and reliability of the MICHELIN Pilot Sport EV tires.

In a championship promoting energy efficiency, durability is a key issue.

J.C.: Overall, the teams seem satisfied and focus on the quality of the tires. At the beginning of the championship, it was the only part of the car that didn't give them cause for concern!

Will the championship be held again next year? Will Michelin still be the exclusive supplier?

E.P.: The championship will be held again next year and will be extended to include new constructors. Michelin is set to be the exclusive supplier until the end of the 3rd season (2016-2017).

What lessons can be learned for standard tires from this competition?

E.P.: The technology and new simulation and testing methods that we are developing will be used for the development of our passenger car tires.

On a more general note, all the knowledge we are gaining from this championship as regards energy efficiency will be available for use by other product lines.

* A testing session preceding the first timed races.

I sincerely think that Michelin has done a fantastic job developing these tires. In the extreme conditions experienced during the Formula E races, we really put them to the test, yet they proved to be very hard wearing and high-performance, despite the suffocating heat.

Nicolas Prost from the eDams Renault team

These electric single-seaters are capable of very high performance. I was pleasantly surprised during the first rounds at Punta del Este. The tires are well designed. They can handle dry and wet surfaces and their endurance was exceptional throughout the race. The tire life and grip are both superb!

Jean-Éric Vergne from the Andretti team

Spotlight on

The MICHELIN Pilot Sport EV tire

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Practical info

The Formula E 2014-2015 calendar, a 10-race championship

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