The grid is unchanged for the first time this season as teams start to focus on the 2015 FIA Formula E championship. This means drivers like Charles Pic who filled in with the China Racing team will be given another opportunity. While Loic Duval will remain with the Dragon Racing team after Oriol Servia moved to his new role as managing director.
Formula E is in America for the second time as the series lands in Long Beach. We’ve had 5 winners from the first 5 races, but as we go into the second half of the season we get to see which drivers and teams can take the initiative and who are the real championship contenders.
The Andretti Formula E outfit are definitely the team on form. With Jean-Eric Vergne having taken pole in 2 of the 3 races he has competed in and Scott Speed having come off the back of a 2nd place in Miami, meaning they have the momentum going into Long Beach. Speed also had the advantage of an early lead in the fanboost, with him and Vergne both in a good position. Also running well in the fanboost are championship contenders Nelson Piquet Jr. and Sam Bird.
Nico Prost now leads the championship on 67 points over the man who had lead the championship up until the previous round; Lucas di Grassi, on 60 points and Bird on 52. However; various drivers have proven their strength at different circuits.
While many of the circuits the drivers have raced at have been original designs, the Long Beach circuit has many of the corners of the existing street course. This, also means that one of the current drivers will have experience, with Nick Heidfeld having finished 2nd here in 2013, for the American Le Mans Series. Also 6 former Formula E drivers have had experience around the circuit, which include; Matthew Brabham, Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato, Antonio Garcia, Oriol Servia (who won the GTLM category of the United SportsCar championship race last year) and Katherine Legge (who won the Atlantic Championship race in 2005.)
Formula E is planning to race on a shorter 2.1km track with 7 corners. This will cut out much of the first sector of the current IndyCar design. The Formula E drivers ambassodor, Gil de Ferran mentioned how iconic the track was, saying: “Even though it’s shorter, the most spectacular features are still there, like Turn 5 at the end of the long straight which should provide plenty of opportunities for overtaking. We can certainly look forward to a great race.”
However; because of the layout of the circuit and the distance from the track to the charging area, the schedule has changed from 2 to 3 practice sessions on the Saturday. After the long delays we saw in Miami, many will be hoping for a smoother running of the weekend. Serge Grisin, manager of Michelin’s Formula E programme, stated; “We have fewer question marks concerning Long Beach than we did ahead of the recent Miami ePrix. The painted road markings are not as thick and there are no tram lines to take on board. That means less work for the people who have to get the track ready and fewer headaches for the teams.”
Long Beach also sees the continuation of the Formula E Schools series. 6 new schools will compete for victory around the famous street circuit. The series run by the charity Greenpower Education Trust who promote engineering to students and make accessible careers in green motorsport. Their CEO, Jeremy Way, said: “Unless we highlight engineering as a stimulating and cutting-edge career, the industry will find it difficult to maximise its potential, so the work we do with young people is very important for the world’s economy.”
The School Series has gained much attraction in recent weeks. Even the mayor of Long Beach took time out to see the schools at a ‘build day’ where the teams assemble their electric powered cars for the weekend. Each team is provided with a special electric race car kit which they use to construct their racers. Speaking at the event held at the Long Beach Convention Centre Mayor Robert Garcia said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for our Long Beach high schools to get direct experience with advanced technology. Everyone had fun putting the cars together today, and that means the future is in very good hands.”