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Has Formula E got a problem with racing?

Formula E's high emphasis on slipstreaming to save energy has caused lots of talk in the paddock after two fascinating races in Berlin

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The 2023 Berlin E-Prix underlined Formula E‘s new style of slipstream racing which has divided opinion across the paddock, with the consensus which nobody wants to lead the race.

Mitch Evans won a chaotic race on Saturday, which featured a record-breaking 190 overtakes and 23 lead changes, then Nick Cassidy was victorious on Sunday in another tactical E-Prix.

Due to the amount of energy you save by being in the slipstream, nobody wanted to lead either race until the final stages to save energy, which led to a cycling-esque peloton.

A similar situation happened in Sao Paulo and it’s become a major talking point in Formula E. Total-Motorsport.com asked several drivers in Berlin their thoughts on the situation.

Super boring and too much saving

Pascal Wehrlein was one of the most vocal drivers about the new style of racing, despite a solid weekend in Berlin where he retained his championship lead.

“It was super boring,” Wehrlein told Total-Motorsport.com. “No one wants to lead, you are not fighting at all. You are just coasting on the straight, hoping that someone is overtaking you and takes the lead so you can stay in the slipstream.

“The important point is the mid to end of the race and when to pick up pace, when to stop progressing and clearly we missed that point. This race and last [Sao Paulo] were a bit extreme.

Pascal Wehrlein at the front at the Berlin E-Prix | Formula E

“The first 20 laps was not really racing, it was just waiting and we even managed to lead a couple of laps even though we didn’t want to lead.”

A mixture of the length of the race, the kWh usage and track characteristics are the main factors behind the racing in Formula E.

The Gen3 car is also very draggy, so circuits with long straights seem to exacerbate the amount of lift and coast that’s required.

Jake Dennis was a victim of the slow pace in Sao Paulo to an extent, when he was hit by Dan Ticktum and thinks the last three rounds have gone too far.

“Right now it seems a bit too much I think with the energy production it creates no one wants to lead which is what’s happening right now,” said Dennis.

“So everyone starts to drive really slowly and it creates this really bad like effective of stopping, starting, stopping, starting – like what you get in a traffic jam. It can become quite dangerous with hitting cars.

“If the race was one lap shorter, it would have helped but ultimately I understand why the FIA do it. It makes sense to a certain extent because we want to see plenty of overtaking and excitement.

“We just haven’t found right balance yet. Sao Paulo and here was the same [lots of slipstream games] but then India and Saudi was almost flat out. So we just need to find the right balance.”

Fans come first in Formula E

Reaction on social media has also been split with arguments saying Formula E has the most exciting racing in the world, whilst others think it’s not proper racing.

Sam Bird and Antonio Felix da Costa both agree that it’s up to the fans to decide whether changes need to be made in order to stop the slipstreaming games.

“We are an entertainment,” said Bird. “We are here to entertain people and give exciting racing as a world championship. If people think it’s exciting, that’s incredible.

“I enjoy elements of it. There are times when it’s unbelievable and super fun, super cool. There are times when it’s a little bit over the limit but as long as the people out there are watching it and enjoy it, that’s the main thing.”

Nick Cassidy at the front at the Berlin E-Prix | Formula E

Da Costa added: “Everything will depend on how much the fans enjoy it. If they enjoy it, then I’m happy. We’re here to produce a show. I think we did that.

“If they don’t, Formula E, like always, we are mega at reacting and making racing better every time, so I’m sure we will keep on improving it.

“It’s something we are all still learning about it. We are all still trying to understand how to cope with all the slipstream game.

“It’s track dependent. It has been a coincidence that the last three tracks have been very, very, slipstream effective. I think once we go to places like maybe Rome or London it will be a lot less.”

Maximilian Guenther was on the podium on Saturday and says “it’s still racing” whilst Andre Lotterer revealed he enjoys the racing when he can go through the field but not when he is a “victim” of it.

Lucas di Grassi also pointed out other motorsport categories such as IndyCar on ovals or Moto3 see plenty of slipstream games and thinks the tracks should be adapted, rather than the cars.

Nigel Chiu
Nigel Chiuhttps://total-motorsport.com/author/nigel-chiu/
Nigel Chiu is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who worked at Total-Motorsport for 18 months until May 2023. He has been following F1 since 2007 and hasn’t missed a Grand Prix weekend since. Nigel’s worked with several motorsport websites, plus Eurosport and subsequently went on to work with Sky Sports F1 where he travels to multiple F1 races each season.
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