Over the last three years, Formula E has brought a wealth of innovation to the racing world. The electric single-seater championship posed a serious challenge to the engineers and manufacturers. Andrea Perilli caught up with Audi Sport’s engineer Franco Chiocchetti to discuss how life is like as a Formula E engineer.
Formula E’s unique twist compared to every other motorsport event is that every session is completed in one day. Therefore, it is essential for the engineers and drivers to the get the car setup right in practice one. Otherwise, it will be a tough day for the team.
“Saturday, is flat out from beginning to end, so it’s important to have no problems”, explains Chiocchetti.
During race weekends, Chiocchetti is responsible for the technical team and being race engineer for reigning champion Lucas di Grassi’s. “My race engineer duties start for me on Saturday. Before that, it’s basically getting everyone up to speed.”
But Formula E races go beyond what happens on Saturdays. The days prior to the race event itself are crucial to design a plan ahead of the weekend. “We have a lot of meetings, getting everyone to have the same direction of thought, getting everyone to be in a good state of mind, to be able to attack the weekend in a methodical way.”
Season three saw Lucas di Grassi conquer the Drivers’ Championship. An achievement that was possible thanks to the Brazilian and his team’s hard work. In Montreal, Chiocchetti explains that the team had a specific plan to try and help Di Grassi throughout the day to help him push for the title.
“If you look at Montreal race one, we had a plan, which was an aggressive plan, and we stuck to that plan; we were immediately quick, and the day just flowed with no panic,” explained Chiocchetti.
Things flowed completely different for championship contender Sébastien Buemi, whose accident during a free practice session conditioned him for the rest of the weekend. “Compared to what happened to Buemi, he obviously came with a plan, his plan went wrong, and the thing in Formula E is that when your plan goes wrong, it’s so difficult to get back onto your plan because the sessions are so close to each other,” said Chiocchetti.
The ABT engineer is no stranger to all the challenges the series brings to everybody working in any of the ten teams. “Lots of people think that Formula E is quite easy, but it’s actually not, it’s a lot tougher than most championships I’ve worked in the past. It’s very complex on the technical side, not so much from the car’s set up, but from the energy management and all that type of stuff, energy and battery management. It’s a tough series,” explained Chiocchetti.
Chiocchetti enjoys the fact that Formula E takes racing to the people by racing in major cities around the world.
“What I like the most is the fact that we are in the city”, Chiocchetti highlights. “We are in a hotel in the city, mostly we walk to the track; and even when you’re at the track, you still see the city. So it keeps you a little bit more in reality, in the real world; that atmosphere on the event itself is for me completely different to other events”.
Formula E’s fourth season starts on the 2nd and 3rd of December in the streets of Hong Kong.