Racing Academy: Cornering in Formula E

Discover the key to being quick in the world’s premier all-electric racing series… 

When it comes to cornering, Formula E is unlike any other racing category, and in every session, the driving technique changes almost seamlessly.

Lifting and coasting is synonymous with the series, as is regen, but the Gen2 car is so unlike any other race car that it demands a completely different driving style.

ROKiT Venturi Racing’s Edoardo Mortara can be deemed as a driver of the world and the Swiss-Italian has raced in everything from the DTM to the GT World Cup.

With three seasons and success in Formula E, and seven victories at the infamous Macau Circuit, one thing is certain – he’s a certified street circuit specialist.

As Edo explains, the Formula E car has its own character, specifically in the corners through weight transfer.

“The biggest difference between a Formula E car and a regular single-seater is that we have a very heavy 300kg battery at the rear so that makes cornering a bit special,” he said.

“The weight at the back of the car makes it quite unstable and one of the keys to being quick is mastering that instability. 

“Because of it, you’re almost constantly drifting, but driving a Formula E car is about balancing the drift so you can find some stability.”

A large portion of a car’s level of grip can be attributed to its tyres, but instead of racing on slicks, Formula E uses Michelin all-weather tyres.

These tyres pose a different challenge on the management front, specifically through temperatures.

“Most single-seater cars have slick tyres, but in Formula E, we have all-season tyres which are very similar to the kind used on road cars,” continued Edo.

“In dry conditions, they give you a little less grip than a set of slick tyres because every tyre has a temperature window.

“Because there is a smaller contact patch on the road with all-weather tyres, we have more of a problem with temperatures. 

“We’re able to warm them up quickly when the track temperature is high but it can be tricky to keep them in a good operating window – they can overheat very quickly.”

This temperature fluctuation is ever-present in qualifying and in the race with both sessions demanding their own different approach. As such, calculation is key.

“In qualifying, it’s important to maximise the performance of the car and part of that is getting the tyres in the right window. 

“They can’t be too hot and they can’t be too cold to find the perfect grip and you need to manage that during the lap. Because it’s only one lap, you can really push and drive the way you want. 

“The race is completely different because we face a lot of challenges, on top of energy management. 

“We need to manage brake and tyre temperatures – these two elements can be tricky because it’s very easy to overheat the tyres when you’re running constantly and the brakes can get too cold under regen.

“It requires a different type of driving in which you have to adapt constantly and make the right changes inside the car that can help you.”

The role of lifting, coasting and regen is pivotal in every 45-minute + 1 lap E-Prix, and as Edo explains, changes the way corners are taken as entry speeds are reduced with the aim of consuming less energy.

“The key element of the race is trying to drive efficiently – you try to be as quick as you can while spending the least amount of energy and there are different ways of doing that,” added Edo.

“Normally, carrying more minimum speed is the way to go and there are three steps to doing this perfectly.

“You have the lifting point where you slow, then you start to regen with the paddle on the steering wheel, and then you have the braking phase which is when you corner.

“Having good transitions during these stages of the key to being quick in Formula E.”