Formula E is currently one of the fastest-growing motorsports series on TV. Fans are flocking to Formula E not only because it is carbon-neutral, but also because it takes place on street circuits in the world’s most populated cities, with entirely electric cars.
Formula E races are generally not measured in laps but instead against a time limit. Races are limited in this way to help drivers and race engineers better estimate how much battery is needed to finish a race competitively.
In this article, we’ll discuss how Formula E compares to Formula 1 in race distance, the range of the vehicles, and how racing teams strategize around the race format. Finally, we’ll talk about how the FIA manages Formula E teams to ensure a competitive racing series.
How Many Laps Is A Formula E Race?
Most racing fans are familiar with races that are limited by number of laps. Formula E, however, is limited by time. Because the batteries used in these cars can only provide enough energy for a certain amount of racing time, Formula E races are set to finish in a format considered “45 minutes plus one.”
This format means that the race will go for 45 minutes, and then for one more lap started by the leading car after that time limit. Because Formula E races are decided based on time, the number of laps accomplished in each race varies not only by the distance of each circuit but also by the speed of the cars during each race.
Generally, Formula-E cars travel between 33 and 46 laps in a race. This number of laps is far fewer than Formula 1 races, which can reach upwards of 87 laps in a race (as in the Sakhir Grand Prix) and be as few as 44 laps (as in the Belgian Grand Prix.)
What Are The Range Limits Of Formula E And Formula 1 Cars?
Distance vs Time
Every racetrack in Formula E is a street circuit between 2 and 3 kilometers in length. A Formula E Grand Prix is called an ePrix, and they often have components of famous racetracks, like the Long Beach Street Circuit in California or historic Monaco. After 45 minutes plus one lap, most Formula E races end up being 80 to 90 kilometers (49-55 miles) in length.
Formula 1 races have their race limits set at a total distance of 305 kilometers (189.5 miles). FIA officials estimate the laps per each circuit by taking “305” and dividing it by the length of a course, rounding up to a full lap. The only race that deviates from this rule is Monaco, which has a race distance of 260 kilometers (161.6 miles).
Going For Too Long
Despite the distance goal, it is essential to know that Formula 1 also has a firm time limit. Formula 1 races must end after two hours if the race has not yet come to a resolution. This limit is for two reasons, namely driver safety and fuel management. Formula 1 cars will use a lot of fuel even while idling, and they cannot reliably run for two hours without risk of running out of fuel.
While a Formula 1 Grand Prix is much longer than a Formula E race, these race distances push their cars to their absolute limit. Race engineers closely monitor the vehicles through a series of sensors to make sure that they can make it to the end of a race. Whether it’s fuel capacity, battery life, or tires, race engineers and strategists work with their drivers to build the best strategy for the race.
How Are Cars Maintained During A Race?
Formula E ePrix are long enough to have an exciting battle of a race, yet short enough to make sure that there is enough battery life left in the cars to get to the finish line. However, racing teams can utilize several performance battery modes to make the most of their available power.
Attack Mode & Fanboost
These cars can get an extra boost of horsepower by using Attack Mode or by winning a Fanboost. Attack Mode is a specific performance setting that makes 35 additional kW of power (roughly 46 horsepower) available during the race. Teams can only use Attack Modes at certain times during the race, much like how DRS is used in Formula 1.
Fanboost is an engine mode granted to drivers who win a popularity contest in the week before a Formula E ePrix. Winning the contest gives a driver a designated boost of power that equals 100 kilojoules, which drivers can only use in the second half of the race.
The big trouble with the Fanboost and Attack Mode is that it uses up the car’s battery faster, limiting its ability to perform at the end of the race. Race engineers will closely monitor the battery sensors to ensure that there is enough juice at the end of the race to cross the line.
Formula 1 cars do not refuel during races, which means that race engineers are closely monitoring fuel levels, just like their Formula E counterparts. What makes this scenario all the more sensitive is that the FIA requires all cars to have at least a liter of fuel left in every race car’s gas tank for testing. If there is not enough fuel left over from the race, a car can be penalized or disqualified.
Different engine modes and systems can cause a car to be more or less fuel-efficient. Formula 1 race engineers also have to manage things like tire wear as this can also have a significant impact on fuel usage.
The length of a Formula 1 race requires a lot more planning and strategizing than a Formula E race. This is especially true for racing functions that are evident in a Formula 1 race that are absent in Formula E, like pit stops.
What Is The Race Format?
Because Formula E races are much shorter than Formula 1 races, they also have different race formats.
Changes In Recent Years
In the past, Formula E races had one mandatory pit stop roughly halfway through the race. The FIA required this pit stop to occur because, at the time, batteries in the cars weren’t able to last for an entire race. This pit stop involved a full car change, where drivers drove into the pits, left their old car, and got into a new vehicle with a fully charged battery and new tires.
Now that Formula E cars have batteries that last the full duration of a race, the pit stop is not mandatory. Further, the vehicles have specialized tires made by Michelin that last until the end of the race. Formula E races still allow for pit stops, but they are only necessary for tire changes or for repairing damage to the car.
Pit stops are a regular part of the race strategy for Formula 1. Unlike other federations, Formula 1 cars don’t need refueling during a race. However, they do require tire changes and sometimes repairs. Formula 1 cars must have at least one pit stop during the race, if not more, so pit stop strategy becomes a critical part of the race engineer’s job.
What Are The Differences Between Cars In Each Series?
Every car in Formula E is essentially the same car, featuring a standardized body and battery made by Spark. Formula E restricts all the vehicles to have a maximum power output of 250 kW (174 horsepower).
To maintain parity in the racing series, the FIA limits how much a single manufacturer can invest in their powertrain. By limiting this investment to €250,000, Formula E ensures that no single power unit manufacturer can outspend its competitors.
This spending cap forces races to be much more competitive and somewhat standardizes Formula E cars. This standardization benefits Formula E in a few ways. By keeping cars closely related, it helps races stay tighter and more exciting for fans. It also keeps the racing field tighter together, preventing it from spreading out over the fairly short racetracks, leading to lots of lapped cars.
One Team Dominates
This setup is very different from Formula 1, which features several distinct manufacturers, each creating their own car. This unfettered spending has resulted in a loss of equality in the racing series, allowing a few manufacturers to dominate while others are fighting for fourth place.
Formula E races are not measured in laps, but instead by time. The races are set to be 45 minutes plus one lap long. By putting a time limit on the race, the FIA minimizes the risk of cars running out of power during a race. The result is a competitive and exciting motorsports discipline that anyone can get into and enjoy.