#FERaceOff Review: @SpannersReady… Set… Go!

@eRadioShow host and friend of FormulaeDiary.com @SpannersReady, headed off to Formula E’s first eSports event in London on Saturday – the Forza 6 #FERaceOff – to compete against a bunch of fans and a couple of world class racing drivers in Bruno Senna and Nico Prost. Let’s see how he got on…


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I don’t know what I was expecting but when I walked into the Vue cinema, it was set up like a TV studio. Below the main cinema screen were two booths each holding four gaming stations. There were two stations outside the booths with a steering wheel set up. So you could choose to qualify on those but I went straight for the controller. The booths were very hot. The sort of suffocating heat that made you want to stand up and walk out frankly. But as Vettel said in Singapore, “you can’t hide from the heat”. So I endured, but let’s back up a bit.

As an 80s kid I was probably among the first generation that grew up with half decent gaming systems.  I started with a Commodore 64, if that gives my age away, and loved it so much I rejected the early cartridge loaded consoles as a passing fad. I relented when the Super Nintendo ES was clearly superior and I wasted most of my GCSE revision time on Super Bomberman, F-Zero and Mario Kart among others. Back then, multiplayer involved actually inviting your mates over and them eating your best snacks.

By the time the vast world of online multiplayer gaming took off, the realities of life and family had started to become a major inconvenience as far my gaming career was concerned. It had become mainstream. No longer was it the preserve of the lonely nerds, arguing if Ryu was better than Ken. Online gaming has breached acceptable mainstream culture. I was born 10 years too late to fully embrace it but I was born just at the right time to appreciate how amazing it all is.

So here we are in 2016 about to go to a venue to play a video game that is being streamed live on the internet. The pressure was on. Apparently thousands of people tune into these events. I was told by twitter that a time in the 56’s was competitive so I loaded up the game at home and hit the long beach short track and instantly posted a time of 1 minute and 4 seconds. Bugger. I’m way off the pace with 4 days to go. What I really needed was a Rocky style 80’s movie montage. You know, the music fades in and you see lots of clips of me slowly improving despite initial frustration until I’m inexplicably an expert. Well I didn’t get that but I did manage to get down to 58.4 seconds. OK this could be embarrassing.

The staff on the ground did a tireless job ushering people around and sorting out the game stations. However they did make one error. They left the game settings with 24 computer controlled cars on track while we tried to set the first qualifying laps. The problem would be corrected in later attempts but this ended up working to my advantage. While the others complained about it being impossible to set a lap time, I stopped on track and allowed myself to be passed by all the cars. On the back straight I caught a long draft from an AI car and on the final corner I knew I couldn’t make a clean pass without losing time so I simply used the AI car as a brake and smashed into him at full speed bouncing kindly back onto the racing line. Boom. 57.2 seconds. Laughing to myself I sat back in my chair knowing I’d stolen over a second and that the setting was now being fixed. I would get a couple of other attempts that would serve only to highlight the advantage I had gained.

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The cinema filled up nicely and the competition between the drivers was friendly but clearly everyone wanted to do well. Two of the attendees said they played Forza 6 every single night. They posted times just over the 55 second mark. This worried me but it turns out these two were really the only two pro gamer level guys there and they would finish 1st and 2nd. The rest were a mix of decent casual gamers and interested Formula E fans. None the less, at my level it was touch and go to see if I would make the semi-finals that were being broadcast live on Twitch. The event had a lovely buzz about it as the qualifying drew to a close at 2pm. It is here that my only real criticism of the event comes to light. The Twitch broadcast started at 3pm so there was an hour’s gap. The FIA guys and the Gfinity guys were busy sorting out the driver interviews and getting the live broadcast sorted and the in house punters where left to stew for an hour wondering if anything was happening not sure what to do. It’s not a massive grumble. If we were extras in a TV production this is exactly what you’d expect. I would have liked someone to stand up and say, hey guys, nothing is happening until 3pm, go grab a brew. Alternatively there was a massive screen. I’m sure something could have been chucked up there for the guys in the cheap seats to watch. It’s an inaugural event and they needed the production to be a priority. I get that. We did get to watch some of GT academy winner Jann Mardenborough’s qualifying laps. Yes that’s right he was in the pool for the main qualifying as well. Gulp. The atmosphere did temporarily fall flat but that was short lived.

At 3pm it all went live. The magical and impossibly well put-together Nicki Shields presented from a make-shift studio with Bruno Senna and Nico Prost as her in-house experts. These two pros would face the best 6 from the two semi-finals. The first 8 were called forward and the lights went down. The Twitch feed then switched to Karun Chandook and gaming commentator Alan Brice who delivered some absolutely stunning commentary that added an air of legitimacy to what would prove to be a mixed field.

Race one set off and (somewhat predictably to anyone who has ever raced online) there was a 6 car pile-up in turn one. Eventual champion Zak skipped though the madness to secure an easy win. Jann was involved in two further pile-ups before showing his class and finishing 3rd to qualify for the final. The quality of the racing (if not lap times) was surprisingly good (after turn 1) and as a spectator I was on the edge of my seat. This was a real actual event worth watching.

Then semi-final 2 came and my name was on the board along-side Formula E addict’s Edward Hunter. Well for the pride of eRadio and formulaEdiary I knew that beating Hunter was a must. I lined up as number 5 on the grid. Looking at the qualifying times I knew I had no real business being there on pace alone. My only shot at the top was to try and use the few years of extra cunning I had on my younger adversaries. I told them that I was going to do everything in my power to cause a turn one collision. Then I did the opposite. I slowed down off the start and allowed myself to go last. Five cars crashed into turn one and I slid through into third place. PJ Tierney waltzed easily into the distance in 1st place and I never truly bothered 2nd place. With one lap to go I had spent two laps ruthlessly defending the last qualifying spot but was eventually out-classed by a much faster driver on the last lap. I left it all on track and made my car as wide as I could but ultimately justice prevailed and the 3 best racers qualified.

Then the grand final came. The two pro drivers never stood a chance. The expectation was that they would hold their own but it was never going to be. Controlling a video game car has to be different to control than a formulaE car… It just must be. They were playing guys who played this game night after night and understand the simulated physics to a level the pro drivers had no chance of getting to grips with after a few hours practice. But the real kicker was that they were allowed to use the steering wheel set up while the others used the controller. I tried both. The controllers were an order of magnitude easier. For the casual entrants like me the steering wheel was adding 10 seconds to the times. I’m no expert but the steering wheels seemed very sensitive and made the car impossible to keep in a straight line. All things, I’m sure, that would be shaken out for a follow up event. Poor Nico Prost could not keep that car pointing forward and I had every sympathy as I watched him spin constantly. Bruno Senna fared a little better but was eventually timed out of the race beating only Nico Prost. After the champion was crowned, the two pro drivers faced off in a head to head. Credit is due to Bruno Senna because as soon as he realised that he was the faster driver instead of streaking away, there were a few mysterious lapses in concentration that kept the racers close on track. However he soon abandoned the act and some ‘playa’ style showboating finished off the first #FERaceOff with Senna victorious.

Once the dust had settled I realised one thing. I’d had a great day out. Much like Formula E’s first season, they had proved it could work. A couple of things to shake out but this was a brave lunge into a new field. Formula E is showing an energy and vision that should embarrass Formula 1. What I’m seeing from FiaFormulaE is a total lack of fear and a genuine passion to entertain the fans. I can’t wait for the next event but I fear this will now attract the cream of the online gaming world especially if prize money becomes a factor. This may reduce me to the side-lines next time. But I’ll try.


You can catch Spanners Ready on the eRadio Show @eRadioShow @SpannersReady and on A Dads View Podcast @ADVpodcast

Thanks to the Mahindra Team for looking after Spanners who was frankly clueless in the art of live journalism.

NEW #ERadio Show… and this one even has a Competition!

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There may not have been a race for several weeks but it’s been an eventful month in the world of Formula E, and our ERadio team are hear to take you through all the latest news with light-hearted discussion…

On this weeks show:

  • We talk the recently announced Mexico City ePrix
  • After confirmation that the London ePrix will be returning to Battersea Park for two more years, we interview Laurence Percival from Save Battersea Park and Jonathan Cook from Wandsworth Council, to hear both sides of a conflict that refuses to die down.
  • And Formula E announces ROBORACE, the worlds first driverless race car series!

Plus, stay tuned until the end of the broadcast to hear how to enter our Competition, for your chance to win a signed Mahindra Team Cap.

And as always, please leave your comments below, or tweet us @FormulaEDiary to get involved in the discussion and let us know your thoughts!

#FormulaE set to electrify Mexico City

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Formula E to follow Formula 1 – and Bond – to Mexico City

Formula E looks set to finally fill the longstanding TBC slot on the season 2 calendar, with the announcement of a race taking place in Mexico, March 2016.

A modified version of the circuit Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in the heart of the sprawling capital, Mexico City – which welcomed F1 back less than a fortnight ago – will house the ePrix event. The venue will also join the Berlin ePrix as the only other Formula E track not to take place on city streets, but will instead utilise a street circuit like layout.

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All the signs were there from the beginning for Formula E’s latest venture. Mexico City was after all the venue for the World Motorsport Council’s meeting that approved the all-electric championships season 2 calendar. The TBC marker, already hovering tentatively in place…

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And it makes sense that Formula E should wait until the spotlight is away from Formula 1’s decent on the capital before making its own announcement. The two world championship races should compliment each other perfectly – taking place in March and October – providing the countries motorsport fans with the next big event to anticipate no sooner has one finished.

Last months Formula 1 Mexico Grand Prix was a huge success, drawing a sell-out crowd to the venue which put fans at the heart of the experience. In a departure from other grand prix events that use the pit lane complex to house the podium ceremony, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez instead utilised it’s arena section of track, creating a concert like atmosphere for the celebrations.

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Formula E will be looking to capitalise on this success and it’s arrival will cement a real motorsport revival for the country, which in itself is also embracing electric vehicles…

Mexico currently houses 291 EV charging stations, 122 of which are in Mexico City itself. The CFE (Comision Federal de Electrical – the organistaion responsible for supplying Mexico with electricity) is aiming to open 30 more of these in the months ahead, as the government plans to reduce the countries CO2 emissions by 51% http://www.bnamericas.com/en/news/electricpower/mexico-advances-electric-vehicle-charging-station-buildout. It’s unquestionably a big market for the sport, who’s core foundation is to promote the use of electric vehicles in city centres around the world.

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Somewhat ironically Formula E has just lost it’s Mexican poster boy, as Salvador Duran and Team Trulli part ways – at a time when questions and uncertainty surround the future of the team in the sport. However, that’s not to say Duran will not find a drive elsewhere before the ePrix rolls around; whether that be a return with the team, a takeover company, or one of the other FE teams on the grid (who are permitted up to two driver changes during the 2015/16 season).

Alongside Long Beach, Mexico would also deliver two races in the continent for a successive year, as Miami slips from this years calendar. It also delivers on the Latin America market, further diversifying Formula E’s vision for a truly global championship.

by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1

#ERadio FormulaEDiary.com’s new #FormulaE Show

FormulaEDiary.com has joined forces with Downforce-Radio.co.uk and Spanners Ready to bring you an exciting, new Formula E show… E Radio!

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In our first broadcast we round up all the news from what was undoubtedly one of the most exciting motor races this year and an instant Formula E classic: Round 2, the Putrajaya ePrix, Malaysia.

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Article: Enter the Dragons! @DragonRacing

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I’m not sure about you, but for me Dragon Racing are a team that have always flown somewhat under the radar.

Quite how this has happened from a team comprising over 150 years of racing experience in its crew – 275 race wins, 24 Indy 500 wins – but even more significantly, runners-up in the inaugural 2014/15 Formula E Constructors Championship – I’m not entirely sure.

But believe me, that radar of mine is now firing pings off in rapid succession and as Nick Heidfeld will no doubt tell you following the Beijing ePrix, when you’ve got a couple of hungry dragons breathing down your neck, you’d better sit up and take notice!…

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The Dragon Racing drivers hunting down third place man, Nick Heidfeld.

Sporting a new, eye-catching red and black livery for the 2015/16 season, Dragon Racing took summer testing in their stride. Again, rightly or wrongly they weren’t grabbing the headlines, but what they did manage to do was quietly amass an impressive 366 laps; the 4th highest team tally (by comparison, Renault e.Dams led the way with 426) and at the same time demonstrated consistent pace.

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And it’s that word, consistency, that could again prove effectual for the team in season 2. Last year, drivers Jerome D’Ambrosio and team mate Loic Duval were strong points scorers throughout the season and D’Ambrosio was right there to claim the race win in Berlin following Di Grassi’s exclusion. Dragon Racing were also the only team to have both drivers appear on the podium together, not once but twice. Rightly so the team have retained this highly effective driver pairing and both immediately proved this decision to be the correct choice in Beijing, where they provided some of the hungriest racing and exhilarating moments in the race.

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Two into one usually doesn’t go… the Dragon Racing boys just got away with it!

Something that has changed for the team this year however is the powertrain and in this regard the Beijing ePrix revealed a very interesting talking point. As you may know, for Season 2 the rules have been opened up to allow manufacturers to develop their own powertrain. Dragon Racing however has become the first customer team in Formula E and are in fact running the powertrain that the Venturi Formula E team has developed for their car. And yet in Beijing, Dragon Racing was able to comprehensively outperformed their supplier and thus closest rivals at this stage of the season. Duval and D’Ambrosio finished 4th and 5th respectively, whilst at Venturi, Stephane Sarrazin finished 9th, with Jacques Villeneuve a distant 14th; both with troubled races and regeneration issues.

Venturi Automobiles have some 15 years worth of experience designing, manufacturing and selling in the electric vehicle market. They also hold the EV land speed record – 240.320mph with the Venturi VBB3. It therefore stands to reason that they have likely built one of the most competitive electric powertrains out there. However of the two teams it is Dragon Racing who are – as their name won’t let you forget – those with the racing experience. And whilst the hardware the two teams share is the same, the software coding, race strategy, pit stop proficiency etc… is all down to the individual team personnel knowing how to extract the best out of the car. In that regard – just as last year – Dragon Racing seem to be doing an exceptional job!…

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The team and drivers managed their electric energy with great success during the Beijing ePrix to ensure they were devastatingly effective all race and perhaps if they had more clear track in front of them they might have been able to mix it with Renault e.Dams. They are of course the team that saw Dragon Racing finish the World Constructors Championship in second place last year and make no mistake about it, if the early signs are anything to go by, this team isn’t about to let them forget that!

Enter the Dragons.

by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1

#FormulaE Guide: Round 2 #PutrajayaEPrix

FIA Formula E Putrajaya ePrix 2015

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Location: Putrajaya, Malaysia
Date: 07th November 2015
Track Length: 2.5km / 1.55miles clockwise
Turns: 12
Distance: 32 laps

Last Race

Pole Position: 1:21:779 - Nico Prost - e.Dams Renault
Podium:
1st. Sam Bird (Virgin Racing)
2nd. Lucas Di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT)
3rd. Sebastien Buemi (e.Dams Renault)
Fastest Race Lap: 1:24:429 (lap 20) - Alguersuari - Virgin Racing

Overview

Taking place some 30km south of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, the city centre high-streets of Putrajaya lend themselves perfectly to creating an exciting and dynamic race track. The Formula E cars race past impressive architectural skyscrapers and some of the best examples of environmentally sustainable buildings in the world; this city encapsulates the green ethos of Formula E making it an ideal location for the series.

Considerably shorter in length than the Beijing ePrix, Putrajaya’s bumpy 2.5km circuit features a mixture of straights,  slow-medium speed corners, as well as a hairpin and some fantastic elevation change. An extremely tight turn 1 chicane (reminiscent of Formula 1’s Monza) sees drivers arriving at around 200kmph before experiencing a breaking force of almost 2G.

Key overtaking opportunities present themselves throughout Sector 1 at Turns 1, 3 and 4. A good exit out of Turn 12 is crucial to lining up a move into the first corner and carrying momentum throughout this part of the track.

The circuit layout remains unchanged from last year.

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Challenges

  • The heat and humidity are the first challenge that the drivers must overcome when racing in Malaysia. It is not only an issue for the drivers but for the cars themselves and teams will need to take precautions to prevent overheating issues with the powertrain and brakes.
  • The circuit is characterised by some especially bumpy sections of track, in particular when entering Turn 8, as well as the final Turn 12.
  • A hard braking zone for Turn 7 may cause problems for the cars especially in qualifying where the drivers push to get everything out of the car. Last year we saw plenty of lock-ups causing the cars to run straight on and miss the corner.

Weather

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Due to the weather in Malaysia often creating typhoon rain showers and possible thunderstorms in the afternoon (as seen at countless Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix over the years), the timetable for Putrajaya ePrix is altered. The race itself will start two hours earlier at 2:00pm and there will only be one practice session instead of the traditional two. This of course means the drivers are able to do less qualifying and race simulations, which should make things even that bit more exciting and unpredictable.

Event Timetable

07:45 - 09:00     Practice 1
10:00 - 10:06     Quali Group 1
10:10 - 10:16     Quali Group 2
10:20 - 10:26     Quali Group 3
10:30 - 10:36     Quali Group 4
10:45 - 11:00     Super Pole
12:04             Beijing ePrix (26 laps)

Coverage

(UK GMT) Channel: ITV4  05:00-07:30am

You can also live stream the Formula E Championship on the official website.

#FanBoost

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FanBoost voting is already open for you to give your favourite driver a boost in the Putrajaya ePrix. You can head over to the official website now to register your vote, or download the official FanBoost app.

This year you can also vote via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using hashtags. Simply post a message including the hashtag #FanBoost and a hashtag with the full name of the driver you want to vote for e.g. #SimonaDeSilvestro.


2014 Rewind Theatre

Last years Putrajaya ePrix saw Lucas Di Grassi and Sebastien Buemi come from 18th and 19th on the grid to finish 2nd and 3rd respectively. But it was Britain’s Sam Bird who took the top step of the podium, claiming victory for Virgin Racing


Be sure to join us for the Putrajaya ePrix on Twitter during the race, and stay tuned for the Post Race episode of our Podcast ‘Electric Racing’.

And in the meantime, why not listen back to our thoughts on the Beijing ePrix.

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Written by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1

Sam Bird looks back at Beijing

Sam Bird

Sam Bird battled hard throughout an action packed Beijing ePrix to take 7th place and score DS Virgin Racing their first points of the season.

In his latest blog post, the two time Formula E race winner reflects on what was a tricky first race for the team, but one lined with fantastic support from the fans!…


“Looking back to our first race of the season in Beijing, it was really one of mixed emotions…

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#ElectricRacing Podcast Ep 6! Cat on the Track #FormulaE

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Episode 6: Cat on the Track

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Formula E is back! and what a start to Season 2 it was.

The FormulaEDiary team round up all the news from the Beijing ePrix, discuss what we made of the race and rate driver and team performances.


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Interview: @NickiShields Pre-season Predictions! #FormulaE

With just days to go until the Formula E cars take to the streets of Beijing for Round 1 of the 2015/16 season, it’s time to talk pre-season predictions! And who better to ask than ITV’s own first on the scene, pit lane reporter… Nicki Shields!

I was lucky enough to catch up with Nicki and put my 10 prediction questions to her; as well as find out her standout moments from the first ever Formula E Championship.

We started off all in!…

So that’s Nicki’s predictions for Season 2, how about yours?…

  1. Who will win the 2015/16 Championship?
  2. Who will be the winner of Round 1 in Beijing?
  3. How many different winners will we have in Formula E this year?
  4. Will Team Trulli start the first race?
  5. Who will score more points at Mahindra, Bruno Senna or Nick Heidfeld?
  6. What will be the success story of the season?
  7. Will one team run away with the Constructors Championship, having got their powertrain spot on?
  8. How many times will Jacques Villeneuve out-qualify Stephane Sarrazin?
  9. Who will come out on top at DS Virgin Racing? Sam Bird or Jean-Eric Vergne?
  10. Will the 2015/16 Championship be decided at the final round in London?

Feel free to leave your answers to the above questions in the comments below, or send them to FormulaEDiary on twitter where you can also join us live for the Beijing ePrix this Saturday!

#BeijingePrix #FormulaE #DriveTheFuture

by Tom Clancy @Retro_F1