System E enters a brand new period with its Gen2 automotive, and one facet of the know-how modifications is inflicting unease amongst drivers and groups forward of pre-season testing. Is FE about to turn out to be too simple?
One of many hallmarks of System E motion throughout its Gen1 period was the problem the vehicles offered to the drivers.
Heavy equipment, low-downforce ranges, part-treaded/part-grooved all-weather tyres and delicate brakes. Plus brake biases needed to be finessed constantly as battery temperatures fluctuated and regenerative braking methods kicked in. All of that wanted to be managed on bumpy low-grip avenue circuits carefully lined with partitions. That’s a variety of issues to go unsuitable.
Errors had been frequent up and down the grid, which added to the unpredictability FE trades on.
For the 2018/19 season, the beginning of FE’s Gen2 period, including an aggressively-styled however chunkier-looking automotive to the slim confines of city-centre racing would possibly seem to be including even spicier substances to the recipe. However the brand new vehicles have technological options – frequent in electrical highway vehicles – that will remove a few of the stress.
One of many most important new additions to the Gen2 automotive is the brake-by-wire system that has been fitted to the rear of the automotive. With braking electronically managed on the rear, the vehicles ought to be simpler to handle, notably with much less have to constantly change brake bias settings to battle battery temperatures or to adapt to totally different corners – or so the speculation goes.
On the New York season 4 finale, which befell after the preliminary non-public producer Gen2 testing programmes had kicked off, there was a slight air of pessimism suggesting that FE racing was about to vary – and never for the higher.
“It’ll make issues much less driver related,” stated Audi’s Lucas di Grassi. “It’s a part of the evolution, [but] we’ve to search out different methods to make the present higher.”
Andretti BMW driver Antonio Felix da Costa additionally warned that “we’ve to discover a option to make races actually entertaining subsequent 12 months”, explaining that he felt this fashion as a result of “the automotive might be simpler to drive”.
With one other of its racing hallmarks – the mid-race automotive swaps – gone for season 5 due to the higher vary of the Gen2 automotive’s battery, FE has needed to take steps to make sure the motion will stay fascinating.
The system previously generally known as Hyperboost, now extra forcefully referred to as ‘assault mode’, is meant hold the flavour within the motion by shaking up the facility modes drivers can run in at sure instances of the race, that are activated by working over Mario Kart-style zones at particular elements of the monitor.
A “full take a look at of all of the methods” is because of happen at official pre-season testing in Valencia, which will get underneath approach on Tuesday, in response to FE CEO Alejandro Agag.
Photograph by: BMW AG
However the suggestions from many drivers popping out of FE’s season 5 launch interval in current weeks instructed that the complexities of the brake-by-wire methods means mistake-heavy races, and the leisure they add to the spectacle, is probably not about to vanish fully – as might need been feared.
“It’s not exhausting for us, it’s exhausting for the engineers,” explains reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne. “Besides with our suggestions and what we would like, it’s as much as the engineers that do the software program to present us the perfect system in order that the brake-by-wire turns into invisible to us.
“Clearly on the day if there’s a drawback within the system, and you find yourself locking massively the rears or massively the entrance – you would possibly find yourself within the wall.”
There are just a few totally different causes that the drivers would possibly wrestle with brake-by-wire – at the least within the early days of Gen2 racing. The chassis and aerodynamics could also be locked down by the laws, as will the assorted powertrain approaches as soon as they’ve been homologated by the FIA, however the software program wanted to run the vehicles is open for growth all year long.
So, whereas any teething issues could finally be ironed out by the mighty factories that now compete for FE glory, the squads that conquer the problems early and are capable of adapt their methods greatest from monitor to trace are prone to discover time underneath braking.
“Hopefully we get on high of it earlier than others,” says DS Techeetah workforce boss Mark Preston. “I’m certain there might be discussions over a race weekend as as to whether individuals have gotten on high of brake-by-wire at a special circuit. It’s one other large parameter to get optimised – particularly over one-day racing.”
When the lights exit firstly of the races within the coming season, it has been instructed that drivers received’t have their regen methods – which gradual the automotive down underneath braking when activated – obtainable. This implies the brake-by-wire electronics should steadiness optimum braking on the rear of the automotive with the traditional methods on the entrance finish, after which adapt additional because the power harvesting methods turn out to be lively as soon as the vehicles are absolutely on top of things. The complexities of this association, explains Vergne, are among the many points seen in non-public testing.
Daniel Abt, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler Audi e-tron FE05
Photograph by: Audi Communications Motorsport
“When you’ve got some sensor points or no matter [then] the system would possibly perceive one thing unsuitable and perhaps the whole unsuitable braking system [occurs] and also you would possibly find yourself going straight,” he says. “And a few drivers have had that in testing, from what I’ve heard. So we’ll see the way it goes within the first race.”
One other challenge for the lively braking methods to navigate is bodily variations within the they’re working. For the Gen2 automotive, chassis-builder Spark chosen Brembo as the only real brake provider, and this implies the entire mechanical braking system – together with the rotors and carbon pads. The issue isn’t with the standard of kit equipped however the temperature-sensitive nature of carbon brakes.
“Within the automotive, you may’t do a lot – if the brake-by-wire is unsuitable, it’s unsuitable and also you’re going to crash and you are able to do nothing,” explains lately introduced NIO driver Tom Dillmann.
“Miscalculations [are the problem] – it’s very difficult as a result of we’ve carbon brakes. With carbon brakes to know the precise friction they’ve at a set temperature may be very tough. They’re additionally very unpredictable – it’s not like you may have this quantity of friction or this quantity of temperature – it’s all the time shifting after which you may have a brake that’s hotter than the opposite one on the opposite facet.
“The regen may be very predictable – you know the way a lot it’s going to gradual the automotive. However the braking, with the carbon brakes, because it’s influenced by the temperature of them, there may be some selection. The issue is that you just exit on monitor [in practice], it’s all good, you cease after which go to qualifying, after which there may be one capricious brake. It’s very unpredictable sadly.”
For the reason that braking methods are locked into the axles, it’s not doable to regulate issues to heat up a immediately underperforming brake on one facet.
“It is going to be when it’s one motor per wheel,” says Dillmann. However all-wheel drive – which Lucas di Grassi lately proposed in his Autosport Engineering column ought to be adopted for FE’s Gen3 vehicles – is one thing the championship organiser is thought to be vehemently towards at this stage. It’s because it might solely additional enhance the know-how ranges within the vehicles and would possible militate towards the motive force making a distinction in efficiency.
FE desires to maintain its unpredictable nature. And for the reason that know-how many individuals anticipated to scale back that attribute is appears to be throwing up issues within the early phases of its growth, these fears could but show unfounded.
“You’ve seen [the Gen1] races – everybody’s locking tyres on a regular basis,” says Jaguar racer and inaugural FE drivers’ champion Nelson Piquet Jr. “I believe you’re going to see it much more this 12 months as a result of the brakes are a little bit bit extra inconsistent.
“Everytime you put carbon brakes and haven’t any grip, no downforce and don’t have slick tyres, it’s very tough to generate temperature into the brakes. Whenever you [do] handle to generate temperature [and] you may have a spot of 50 levels [between brakes], one thing like this, you’re going to start out locking one facet or the opposite.
“That’s one thing that we’re studying – we’re going to finish up getting round it however you’re going to see lots of people struggling on this matter, I’d say.”
DS Techeetah DS E-TENSE FE19
Photograph by: Techeetah
As is so usually the way in which in motorsport, and notably with main producers concerned, the groups are prone to get on high of the brake-by-wire teething issues. As soon as drivers are capable of push persistently with full confidence within the braking methods, issues will cool down.
However FE’s distinctive setting may nonetheless assist it retain unpredictability by way of driver errors.
“It’s going to be the identical,” says Vergne with regards to the variety of errors and lock-ups FE races are prone to produce within the 2018/19 season. “As a result of even when braking is less complicated, due to this fact we’re going to push extra to the bounds on the braking.
“We’re all the time going to battle with the bounds – both we’re at low velocity and preventing limits or excessive velocity, all the time looking for 100%. And if you attempt to hit the restrict, then you definitely would possibly make errors.
“I’m not an enormous fan of brake-by-wire. I don’t thoughts it, I’m not towards, I’m not for it. However what I actually like about System E is it’s a championship for the drivers and now with the brake-by-wire they provide a chance to the engineers to make the distinction.
“That’s what System E ought to actually attempt to hold – that it’s not the engineer that makes the distinction, however the driver contained in the automotive.”
Energetic braking and regen methods are an integral a part of electrical highway automotive know-how – “It’s most likely vital to have it to be able to present the know-how for the highway,” says Preston – so their use in FE is sensible. The issue is preserving the steadiness between entertaining racing and engineering-driven excellence that makes issues predictable.
The groups have already begun exploring the bounds of their new packages towards one another for the primary time in official testing on Tuesday. Getting the brake-by-wire methods optimised might be an integral a part of their programmes, however the early growth points they’ve already demonstrated suggests smoke-filled lock-ups, spectacular errors and unpredictable racing isn’t off the FE agenda at this stage.