Race Report: Putrajaya ePrix
Join TE's Rich Harmer as he experiences the second race of the Formula E season in Malaysia at the Putrajaya ePrix and witnesses our team's first podium finish.
Preparing for Raceday
At the beginning of November, I traveled to Putrajaya, Malaysia with the team for the second race of the 2015 / 2016 Formula E season. The race followed a downtown route around government buildings and a hair pin by the impressive Seri Wawasan Bridge.
As in Beijing, we gained access to the paddock area on Wednesday around lunchtime, and the afternoon was occupied by the garage setup and unpacking. The whole operation ran much smoother since it was our second race. Everyone clearly had learned and adapted from the routine established in Beijing.
On Thursday it was once again my responsibility to ensure that the FIA Technical Passports were completed with all the updated information that had been recorded. I also assisted one of the engineers in overhauling the IT systems. We emptied the IT box and rebuilt it in a more logical order, carefully labelling and organizing each component to ensure any future modifications could be easily and quickly completed. We used new Wi-Fi antennas and cables to replace those damaged items. The IT box was a source of much frustration for the team, as the original configuration was unreliable. With the ongoing upgrades, it will now be able to provide a more stable connection to the internet and local severs for data.
On Friday morning, I had accompanied one of the cars to the FIA Technical Garage where it was weighed and inspected to ensure it met the basic dimensional criteria necessary to compete. The scales found in the garage were used to decide whether, post-race, a car is above the minimum weight. Therefore it is important to bring the car along during setup and ensure that no extra ballast needs to be added. For each session the race engineers completed detailed setup sheets to accurately tell the mechanics how to setup the car for the sessions.
TE ran a Tech Day for local employees and guests. The morning sessions took place off site and comprised short presentations and product workshops. Once complete, the guests visited the garage where I showed them around and hosted a session explaining some of the technology found in the cars. Both drivers were also on hand to meet the guests, pose for photos and answer some questions.
We had another long Saturday, arriving at the track just before 6:30 am. Pre-race, I once again joined the cars out on the very hot and humid grid. Weather reports put the track temperature at 46°C (115°F) and the humidity level at 97%! Definitely not the typical UK weather I’m accustomed to in November. It was critical to try and keep the cars and drivers as cool as possible.
On the grid itself, both drivers were provided with plenty of shade and cool fluids prior to the race. The cars were filled with dry ice and fans were running continuously to keep the battery temperature as low as possible. This race proved to be far more dramatic and entertaining than Beijing for this reason. It was a constant battle for both drivers to try and control the temperatures of their cars. As soon as the cars went over certain temperature thresholds, the heat would cause the performance to decrease and prevent the battery’s ability to recuperate energy.
Getting to the Podium
The temperatures proved to be a struggle for Simona and the No. 28 car. Unable to keep the car cool enough for the difficult conditions, she was forced to lower her pace to stay in the race. This is the kind of challenge that Formula E drivers have to face with the added component of temperature and battery performance.
On the other hand, Robin was able to capitalize on the tough conditions and move from eighth to third place. . He drove a very smart race, saving his battery energy to run an extra lap before pitting, and then pushing harder in his second car, passing other drivers. It was nail-biting to be in the garage and see him crash with three laps to go, but it did not prove too costly as he was still able to bring in a podium finish, crossing the finish with only three properly functioning wheels.
After the race I joined Robin’s race team at the podium area to see him receive his trophy from Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Following the celebrations it was then time to pack up the garage and cars for the next round in Punta del Este, Uruguay, which takes place in late December.
The shop is closed for the week of Thanksgiving. It will be nice to have some down time and recharge my own batteries before getting ready for Punta del Este.