- Oct 27, 2014
Indeed, in moving from Eastern to Western United States, Long Beach represents easily Formula E’s most prestigious venue yet, the waterfront track having hosted top single-seater racing such as F1 and Indycars for almost forty years now. But like what was announced for the series’ visit to Monaco in May, the circuit will be shorter to reduce the strain on precious battery power. Where the Indycars speed down to the left-hander at Aquarium Way, the Formula Es will take a chicane halfway down the start/finish straight, in an opening run similar to that of Putrajaya, before turning right onto the usual circuit at what would normally be turn 6. The first lap should see an inevitable bottleneck at the chicane, but past that a lap of just seven corners should prevent racing getting too tight and scrappy. With fewer corners to accelerate out of drivers should also have more energy available to push and pursue opponents; that bodes well for the quality of racing on Saturday.
Not that Formula E’s needed great circuits recently to have good racing, and it’s fitting that in a season of discovering unknowns we’ve had five winners from five races so far. e-Dams’ Nicolas Prost was the latest in Miami, taking the championship lead by seven points as his teammate Sébastien Buemi was strangely off the frontrunning pace, slipping to 5th in the standings. Prost must rue his brash move on Heidfeld at the end of Beijing, otherwise he could have been even further ahead, but having finally redeemed himself at Biscayne Bay he will aim simply to keep winning, while Buemi must bounce back or risk losing ground to the main contenders.
Prost’s win was overshadowed by the star arrival of Speed in the Andretti Autosport, confidently passing others on track and harrying the Frenchman right at the end. It’s almost fortunate for us that Marco Andretti’s ongoing Indycar commitments mean Speed continues alongside Jean-Eric Vergne, who let’s not forget made a similar debut in Punta del Este and was at the front in Miami before a slow pitstop. Much is expected of both for Saturday’s race.
Moving on to the other championship contenders, both former leader Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT) and Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird have had middling results despite much promise. di Grassi’s suspension failed while leading in Buenos Aires, while in Miami Bird missed his pit window: the Briton later blamed radio failure and not conserving enough power from chasing and passing then-leader Vergne. di Grassi’s teammate Daniel Abt broke his own run of terrible luck by finishing 3rd in the sunshine state, and the German will hope this brighter spot in his season continues having signed with Rebellion for the WEC this year.
Of the top five, only China Racing’s Nelson Piquet Jr. hasn’t won yet, but with talks of moving to Virgin for 2015-16 the Brazilian’s form is clearly impressing the paddock, just missing out on a podium hat-trick with 5th in Miami, and there shouldn’t be any reason why he can’t keep it up at Long Beach. Contrary to April fool’s jokes, Buenos Aires winner Antonio Felix da Costa will also be hoping to build on a promising 6th and 10th for the Amlin Aguri team.
The embattled Mahindra team had a joke yesterday as well, claiming next season’s cars and helmets would feature solar panels to provide power. It’s good they can still joke given the constant adversity they’ve faced this season; Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok’s pace is not reflected in the single 5th and 6th place finishes each driver has, but unless their fortunes drastically change in this second half of races a championship run looks out of the question.
Dragon Racing meanwhile have managed great consistency almost unnoticed; Jerome d’Ambrosio achieved his best result yet (4th) in Miami, whilst debutant Loïc Duval overcame a poor qualifying to come 7th, and with more immediate experience of the Formula E car and weekend the Le Mans winner could do even better at Long Beach.
Formula E's constantly changing at the moment, the series having announced the named manufacturers can develop suspension for next season, Paris and Montreal on the verge of joining the calendar and the possibility of six different winners from six races. Could Abt build on his first podium and win? What about compatriot Nick Heidfeld, desperately deserving a better result in his Venturi, or one of the Mahindras? Will it be Scott Speed for a home win, or can Prost start a breakthrough run in the championship? It’s still so unpredictable, except that the Californian beachside will probably be hot and sunny, and will probably produce at least a decent race.
Qualifying is at 7pm UTC this Saturday, which you can follow here on RaceDepartment through Formula E’s live online stream. It’s also available for the race or you can watch ITV4’s coverage from 11pm with the race starting at 12am.
Will you be watching the ePrix on Saturday? Do you like the look of the circuit? Who do you think will win? Comment below!