Why Formula-E Technology Requires Old-Fashioned Driver’s Intuition

We’ve all seen it.  We watch racing on TV and see banks of monitors spewing terabytes of performance data on both car and driver.  If you’re a Formula-1 geek, you already know how much control the chief engineer has over the car via in-race adjustments.

You’d think that with the advent of Formula-E, this new racing series ever would feature that all of that technology and even more.

You’d be wrong.

Formula-E also features no live telemetry.  No. Live. Telemetry.  No banks of real-time data flowing back to the engineers.  No ability to make seriously informed adjustment decisions.

Instead, our intrepid Formula-E drivers will have to rely more on the computer between their ears than the ones in their car.  Which makes things kind of interesting, and a throwback to the days of Mario, James, Emerson, A.J., Graham and Jackie. Bruno Senna, nephew of the late F1 great Aryton Senna, talks about it in the video above.  In an interview with Autocar India, his Mahindra Racing teammate Karun Chadnok put it like this:

Unlike in F1 or LMP1 cars, we don’t have the electronics to help with the rear wheel energy recovery and brake balance, so you have to work it all out yourself on track and constantly adjust it.

Mahindra Racing driver Karun Chadnok

He goes on:

 The demands on the driver really come not from the speed, but from trying to extract the maximum performance from the car in the most efficient way. Honestly, the mental challenge in terms of working out the energy usage strategy is huge because don’t forget, we don’t have live telemetry, so can’t rely on the team for information like in F1.

If you’ve watched any race, but especially an F1 race, you’ve seen and heard the pit communicating with the driver “based on our calculations, you need to conserve.”  In Formula-E, that will now done by the driver, on the fly.  If a driver is on the wrong side of acceleration/power regeneration, then his or her car becomes an instant paperweight. Or if they stay too conservative, they lose.

I like Senna’s quote toward the end of the video.  When asked what his uncle would have made of Formula-E, he says that he wouldn’t mind the lack of engine noise because he loved the pure racing, and that his passion was to go as fast as possible in a car.



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Sebastian James


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