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Is Formula E ‘crazy’ peloton-style racing too dangerous?

Antonio Felix da Costa came out on top in a crazy first ever Formula E race at Misano but was the racing entertaining or even seen as dangerous?

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If you turned on the TV and watched the first 2024 Misano E-Prix, you would have seen Formula E cars going five or six-wide into several corners. It’s something everyone expected to happen due to the combination of a low energy allowance and a conventional race track.

Antonio Felix da Costa drove a stunning race to win his first event of the season on a week where his future at Porsche was questioned. However, the big question in the paddock on Saturday evening was about the so-called peloton style of racing which has evolved in Formula E.

In simple terms, the current Gen3 car is very draggy and on some circuits, you save a lot of energy when in the slipstream of a car in front, meaning nobody wants to lead until the latter stages of the race.

“I don’t know if you watched the Daytona 500, the NASCAR race, but it’s exactly that,” Da Costa told the press in Misano. “The leader is not flat out for the first 60 or 70 percent of the race. So it’s a little bit similar.

“If the fans are at home and here going crazy and they enjoy it, I have got nothing to say.”

Da Costa held off Nissan‘s Oliver Rowland by just 0.410s at the chequered flag as the British driver recorded his fourth consecutive podium.

Rowland didn’t compete in the 2023 Portland E-Prix, the race which many drivers compared the Misano E-Prix to, and was also largely positive about the racing.

“The first six, seven laps of surviving, sitting, staying out of trouble is not really racing,” Rowland told the press in Misano.

“But then I think the strategy that comes in the middle of that. I think positioning yourself, being in the right place, saying out of trouble for us as drivers is actually very interesting and I guess for the spectators it’s just maybe the first 10 laps are a bit too much.

“I think it’s exciting… where did you start today [asking Da Costa and Jake Dennis] 14th and 17th, and they’re on the podium. That doesn’t happen often in motorsports. So, I think it’s quite cool. It needs refining a little bit, but I think it’s not too bad.”

Crazy racing leaves Bird unhappy

McLaren‘s Sam Bird towards the front of the lead bunch until he was hit with 10 laps to go and limped back to the pit lane with a puncture, which ended his race.

At one point in the race, Bird went from first to 10th, such was the amount of lift and coast he needed to do in order to achieve a strong result.

“That racing is just another level,” Bird exclusively told Total-Motorsport.com. “It might look great on the TV and people might enjoy it. But as a driver it’s not particularly enjoyable.

“That level of moving, lifting and craziness – having to always just, last minute, get out of people’s way because you’re going to crash. It’s crazy, absolutely crazy.

“It’s racing but it’s so different to what we are all accustomed to. That’s too much. It was too much, for me.”

Sam Bird is one of the most experienced drivers in the championship | Formula E

Bird‘s McLaren teammate Jake Hughes was asked if the racing was to dangerous and told Total-Motorsport.com: “I mean, potentially, I think there’s an argument for that. Yes, some in some ways. I had the t-cam above my head, now damaged from bodywork flying. So, that isn’t great.”

Artificial racing becoming a game show?

Amid the chaos, Dan Ticktum had his best ever Formula E result with fifth place on Saturday in Misano and he thinks even a podium was possible for ERT.

Like most drivers on the grid, Ticktum has spent years racing in junior single-seaters where the racing is flat out but the British driver understands Formula E‘s different style.

“I’ve always used the phrase ‘racing shouldn’t be unorganic’,” Ticktum told Total-Motorsport.com. “But at the end of the day, we are here to be entertaining and we are here to make a point – Formula E is about efficiency and that’s the championship’s goal.

“As a traditional racing driver, I like driving flat out on the edge of everything, but I have to say, if I was in a car that was efficient, I think I’d enjoy it a lot more. I think it does provide good racing and allows us to overtake on the tracks that normally we wouldn’t be able to, like Monaco for example, whereas the same can’t be said for ‘the other championship’.

Ticktum‘s teammate Sergio Sette Camara had crossed the line in seventh but was given a 50-second time penalty for overusage of energy on the last lap, which dropped him out of the points to 16th.

Before finding out about the penalty, Camara was still negative about the peloton racing from a driver’s perspective, even after a good result.

“It doesn’t feel that rewarding,” Camara exclusively told Total-Motorsport.com. “A points result is a win for us but strangely, seventh here doesn’t feel as good as ninth in Tokyo.

“It feels like I just took part in a game show and I did very well. It depends if you choose the right line and you could get lucky or there’s a pile up on the other side.

“You could save in the beginning and then it turns out to be great for you or there could be a Safety Car you saved for no reason because everyone’s energy went up. It just puts luck as such a big factor. It’s too much. Luck is more of a factor than the sporting side.”

John Smith
John Smithhttps://total-motorsport.com
Editor at Total-Motorsport.com and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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