Karun Chandhok enjoys the outlook to compete in the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship. Thus far, the 30-year-old Indian racer tested the battery-electric car and has created a solid team around him. Driving alongside his teammate and good friend Bruno Senna for (electric) car manufacturer Mahindra, Chandhok is keen to explore the opportunities that the first global electric racing series has to offer him. However, he hopes that the final regulations will ensure excitement on the track.
Chandhok is proud to represent his home country by racing for the Mahindra Group, which is targeting the extension of its electric vehicle sales world wide. He sees a benefit for his new employer. “From engineering point of view it is a very important championship for them. Anything we learn from competing in Formula E will be used in the development of their road cars”, Chandhok knows.
Learning the car
Before constructors are able to use and develop their own technology in the Formula E cars, all competitors will race the same vehicles during the inaugural season. The first test sessions held in July were all about learning the car that has been built by a consortium of well known brands like Dallara, McLaren, Williams and Renault. “It was indeed all about understanding the car”, Chandhok tells ElectricAutosport.com. “For example we were figuring out how the energy recovery system works, which power maps we would use, how to control the energy efficiency. That sort of things.”
Teamwork is key
Some say that one’s teammate is the first important rival to beat on track. It may be the case at Mahindra, but teamwork is likely to come first. Chandhok and Senna have been teammates before and get along with each other very well. And that could be a benefit as track time will be limited to learn the city tracks and to work on the cars’ setup.
“With not much practice time during race day, we need to use our four cars running with four different setups. Afterwards we are able to collect and analyse all the data to prepare ourselves for the qualifying race. You have to trust each other on the feedback to perform well”, he says and points out that the competition will be fierce. “The quality of the series’ driver line-up is really high. If you just look at the drivers’ experience, it will probably be equal to IndyCar.”
Room for improvement
With a brand new championship using new technology, it is understandable that not all technical regulations are final yet. There is still room for discussion too. “Not everything about the regulations is clear in terms of how much energy we are going to use and how that’s going to work. The organisers are talking about the energy usage of 28 kWh on average, but I think that’s not enough.”
Chandhok points out that overtaking is not only important for any racing series, but especially in city centres were Formula E will stage their events. “We still need to have power to overtake. If we are all fixed at a certain power rate, which is quite low, nobody would be able to gain positions. Because if your straight-line speed isn’t fast, the breaking distance will be short and nobody will be able to outbreak each other.”
Formula E recently updated its technical regulations and a test programme is still ongoing. For example during the tests at Donington Park, the official Formula E car ran a programme to monitor the power consumption of the power boost. Using this feature enables drivers to get access to extra kilowatts during the race to set a faster lap or to make an overtaking attempt. Testing is required to make sure that nobody will run out of juice during the one hour race.
“A few things need to be worked out”, Chandhok says. But he is confident that the team will be prepared and successful. “We will keep working in the right direction. The car is fun to drive and Mahindra is a respectable brand to race for. We will be ready.”
Test and development work continues on August 19 and is accessible for public. But first Formula E will soon conduct full race day simulations to get prepared for the inaugural event that will be held mid-September in Beijing.
— Dilbagh Gill (@dilbagh_gill) July 21, 2014
Photos: Formula E and ElectricAutosport.com