Retrospective: Formula E's Mid-Race Car Switch

ROKiT Venturi Racing revisits Formula E’s mid-race car switch, two years on from its final pit stop in New York… 

Since 2014, the technological development in Formula E has showcased a sign of the times in the electromobility arena.

As the first manufacturer to commit to the championship in December 2013, we’ve been here since the very beginning and in that time, the progression has been unparalleled.

In a generation that is characterised by close racing and high-speed street fighting, Attack Mode is a key part of today’s game plan but from 2014-18, strategy took an entirely different form. 

Completing a full race distance with one car wasn’t always possible, and from Seasons 1-4, the series’ mid-race car-switch became somewhat of a unique novelty in motor racing.

The idea behind it was simple: When a driver was running low on battery power, they would peel into the pit lane, change cars, and rejoin the race.

It was composed of two key aspects – not just the changing of the car but also executing this in a timely manner. Performing each pit stop was definitely easier said than done.

Over Formula E’s first four seasons, this switch became the most important part of every event and while it was difficult to gain time in the early days, it was still very easy to lose it.

In just under one minute, a driver would remove the steering wheel, disconnect the radio, unfasten the seat belts, get out of the car, jump into the second, get strapped in by the mechanics, re-attach the radio and re-join the race.

In this blur, mistakes were few and far between, but when incidents did happen, the importance of patience and precision was only emphasised. Time wasn’t the only thing on the line.

A minimum pit stop time over Seasons 1-3 presented a much-needed cushion to check that each change was perfect prior to re-joining but with the arrival of the 2017/18 campaign came the removal of this buffer.

As such – with even more now at stake – the pressure was ramped up for every party and practice truly did make perfect in every sense of the phrase.

Despite working on a tight schedule with every session taking place on one day, pit stops were still practiced 30 times every weekend, leading to a continual refinement of a process that was already run like clockwork.

With the technology of tomorrow waiting in the wings, Formula E’s final switcheroo took place at the New York City E-Prix, two years ago this very week.

The Gen1 car was the foundation and the Gen2 the definition of evolution, but as we prepare for the return of Season 6, we’re already looking into the future with the capabilities of Gen3.

Improved energy density, lifecycle, durability, and increased power capabilities are just some of the properties of this new era, and with fast charging capabilities, the strategy that paved the path to today could return tomorrow, albeit in an altered form.