When Formula E returns for its fourth season next week, racing around the streets of Hong Kong in a spectacular double-header season opener, many racing drivers old and new to the championship will be embracing a new routine on race day.
Unlike most championships, Formula E squeezes the entirety of on-track action into one day, often a Saturday: everything from practice sessions, qualifying and of course the ePrix itself. It is a non-stop day of racing and media duties, as well as time spent in the fan-focused eVillage.
With such an unusual schedule for a racing driver over a weekend, I caught up with Panasonic Jaguar’s Mitch Evans during Valencia Pre-Season Testing to discuss what the Kiwi racing driver gets up to on a standard Formula E race day.
“It is a very early start,” Evans begins. “FP1 gets underway at 8 am, so I normally wake up, depending on the location of the hotel and circuit around 6 am. For a racing driver, this is early!”
As Formula E race around street circuits travel to the track should be relatively simple for the drivers, media and team personnel – no need for long car journeys out of town to the race track.
“We will then head to the circuit for around 7 am and then have some breakfast and sit down with the engineers, have a briefing and go through the plan for the day.
“We eat at the circuit normally because hotels don’t tend to serve breakfast at 6 am!”
Before FP1 begins, several important procedures must go ahead, such as inspection laps, medical inspections and a safety car exercise which takes around 20 minutes. The track will, however, be cleared ready for practice at 8 am.
“We then basically start running the day as it is.”
Practice 1 lasts 45 minutes, finishing at 8:45, then the teams and drivers will have just over an hour to discuss and delve into statistics on how to prepare the car for race day.
On either side of the first and second practice sessions, the drivers attend a qualifying lottery.
“In between the sessions we have qualifying lotteries, lunch, track parade, autograph signings.”
The lottery selects which drivers will run in each session for qualifying, the option of four groups which five drivers in each. Although the lottery makes it a random and entertaining way of organising qualifying groups, it has received negative reviews from drivers. It has become clear that being part of the fourth and final qualifying group is the best and preferred option, whereas several tracks on the calendar cause a disadvantage those who run in the first group.
There had been plans to scrap the lottery for the 2017/18 season, but it will still go ahead as planned.
Qualifying gets underway, with each session lasting around six minutes. The fastest five racers will then find themselves in Super Pole, where pole position and the top five will be decided.
Finally time to eat lunch, but what does a racing driver eat on race day?
“I wish I could have a McDonald’s breakfast,” Evans starts, “but I normally have some eggs.
“I don’t really eat much over a race day which is not good but I just don’t like being too bloated and full. I normally just grab some cereal or one to two eggs and that is it. It is quite simple but I try and have what I normally have in the week or when I am not at the races so it is not restless in my stomach.
“Then for lunch it will just be some chicken and pasta and veggies – no Big Mac. That is as exciting as it gets. The food is exactly the same for us every race because it is made by the same catering and it gets brought to the garage for us by catering. It is always pasta and chicken and we chose a sauce.”
The drivers start their drivers’ parade before returning to the pits and preparing themselves for lights out in around an hour.
“I might just have a few snacks before I race or something if I am feeling a bit peckish. Maybe have a banana or a muesli bar or something through the day or before lunch. I don’t eat much to be honest.”
The 20 all-electric cars and their drivers are lined up on the grid and shortly the lights go green and the racing begins.
A standard Formula E ePrix will last around an hour, including a mid-race car swap for the driver when their car’s battery runs low and they jump into a second identical race car to complete the race distance – developments in battery technology meaning this will be thing of the past come season five.
As seen in all motor racing championships, post-race activities will include a podium ceremony and a press conference with the top three drivers. The media pen follows.
Race day comes to a close. The media are working around the clock in the media centre, trying to piece together highlights from the day’s on-track action. Evans, on the other hand, is back with the team, analysing data from the past 10 hours: “after the race there is normally a big debrief.”
It is a bonkers day, cramming so much into such little time. With the plan to introduce several support series in the near future, race day looks to become even busier, with drivers like Antonio Felix da Costa calling for longer race weekends.
Although last season was disappointing for both Evans and Panasonic Jaguar Racing, the first year of involvement in the all-electric championship for both parties, the 2017/18 season looks to be much more promising. A new powertrain and a new team-mate in Season One Formula E Champion Nelson Piquet Jr mean Jaguar hope to go from strength to strength in their Formula E journey.
To read more about Evans and his thoughts on this upcoming season of Formula E, stay tuned for an exclusive interview coming to katyfairman.com on Monday 27th November.
Season Four or the FIA Formula E Championship kickstarts in Hong Kong with back-to-back races on Saturday 2nd December and Sunday 3rd December.