Copying the F1 rule for 2023 leads to more friction in Formula E.

Formula E has followed Formula 1 in announcing a start-up initiative whereby every team must run a driver who has never competed in an E-Prix in a practice session at least twice in the 2023 season.

It’s a plan full of good intentions but it has left some teams in the championship cutting yet another stick to beat the FIA ​​and Formula E.

Mainly because these teams see it as an example of ignoring their own desires or ignoring other issues.

This came after months of issues and setbacks with the Gen3 car, some of which have yet to be resolved. It spans across FE’s technical, athletic, and business departments.

The Race understands that the rookie/freestyle question was put to a vote at a team principals meeting earlier this year and the score was a resounding 9-1 against the idea.

But if the plan is set in the bylaws, only a unanimous electronic vote can change it.

F1 has a well-established culture of experimenting with rookie drivers in practice sessions.

The third cars were used for this in their initial mid-2000s form, but since the 2010 reintroduction the rookie driver has had to commandeer one of the two race cars.

This year it became mandatory for every rookie team to run in at least two practice sessions.

Now, the same starters at two sessions per season have made it to Formula E. While that sounds like minimal effort, in the context of 2023 Formula E it’s not hard to see why many teams are generally unhappy with it.

It remains to be seen exactly what the teams are like at the moment with their Gen3 cars but the combination of issues with the RESS battery, sluggish parts supply and what will likely be a very limited spare parts quota for the upcoming Valencia test and the first glut of racing makes the teams understandably nervous.

Six races in nine weeks makes for a heavy calendar from mid-January to the end of March. The cars would go on a magical, mysterious tour around four continents in that time with room for repairs or indeed any other work limited to about 48 hours before each race.

Manufacturers have testing provisions to fill but as the calendar spreads from Mexico City to Riyadh to Hyderabad to Cape Town and then Sao Paulo, resources will be stretched narrower than the gaps in any given Formula E qualifying session.

For added context, while F1 offers three hours of free practice time at the weekend, Formula E has 75 minutes. Her calendar is entirely street tracks with the exception of Mexico City and Berlin-Tempelhof, and at least three of these street tracks will be entirely anonymous next year.

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Mexico would be an obvious choice to take on a rookie, but it’s the start of the season. With every lap being vital with the new Gen3 cars, it is unlikely that any team would be willing to hold off a race driver this weekend.

Berlin Tempelhof will also be tempting as there is not much to hit in the vast airport. But with the crooked surface and slightly earlier race date (April as opposed to the last slots in late May or mid-August), the engineers will want every available scrap of consistent data from that weekend.

So why not do what has been done before with a detailed six-hour day of running where teams can properly assess their rookie drivers throughout the day instead of a busy and lively half hour of a weekend race?

This question is asked by most teams. Also, when consulted, some have been known to reluctantly agree to a compromise of having something rather than nothing as a rookie this season (the old rookie test days were off the calendar in 2021 and 2022), and that’s where it all kicks in. This controversy. Thread started.

Had the Berlin event in April remained a singles race instead of expanding into a doubleheader last month, it would have provided the perfect opportunity to host a rookie day much in the vein of the previous races held in Marrakech from 2018-20.

That was when several drivers shone with performances that helped their final upgrades to Formula E race seats, among them Nyck de Vries, Nico Muller, Max Guenther and Sergio Sete Camara.

They had a full day of running to engage in it. Now, beginners will get 90 minutes at most and will probably get through things quite easily.

Abt driver Robin Frijns told The Race newspaper he was “unhappy” with the new rule.

Formula E New York City E Prix 2022

“Why not let the beginners do a rookie day after race day or plan a Friday FP1 race for beginners only?” question.

“Tracking time is really limited, especially in Formula E when everything is so tight together in terms of timing.”

Sebastien Buemi broadly agreed with the driver he replaced at Envision, saying he would “try to get the most out of this role” but in the end at least “it will be the same for everyone” even if the drivers are unhappy about it. lose runtime.

“It is true that it is not easy to know that you will lose half an hour of training when you only have very little,” Buemi told The Race.

“Sounds like it would have been nice to have an extra session for beginners or a longer session. But that’s the way it seems to be and we have to deal with it.”

Driving through the rookie regulation, seen as hostile by many in the paddock, will add a multitude of additional hassles and costs to teams as they juggle numbers in the new financial cost cap realm, as they are hit with spare parts prices and additional engineering costs via Gen3 technology suppliers. neo.

Will there be a reaction from the teams regarding this condition? Many were essentially forced into compulsory participation although the vast majority communicated a clear “no” to the FIA ​​and the promoters.

But perhaps this is where the problem lies. From the outside it appears the teams are not on board with the subject and are actually costing themselves some bargaining when they complained publicly about proposed rookie tests in 2021 and 2022.

The race understands that one such test was set for last year’s Tempelhof track, but teams fought back on the basis of the drain it would bring their staff an extra day of running after a double whammy.

Formula E Berlin ePrix 2021

On one level, you can sympathize with that because the doubleheaders are brutal enough to almost everyone in the paddock especially the mechanics and engineers.

But it seems plausible that teams who rejected the prospect of a rookie test last year would have launched the alternative of the current free practice rule, which has generally proved unpopular.

There is another element where teams might blame themselves here.

At the Bern E-Prix in June 2019 a big sports strategy session took place. One of the topics for discussion was the high cost of salaries for Formula E drivers. They were pushed by the hustle to sign only experienced drivers, which of course ensured higher payouts to the grateful drivers and their managers.

Almost everyone at that meeting was 100% behind on more rookie testing in the future because it would cut costs for the teams in the long run by increasing the pool of drivers available and offering some cheaper options.

From an overall point of view, Formula E then, as it needs now, needed a reliable ladder of talent.

Sacha Venestraz will be the only rookie in the tournament this year, while last year there were three players in Dan Ticktum, Antonio Giovinazzi and Oliver Askew. Only Ticktum remains.

But balancing some free practice sessions (essentially copy-and-paste the F1 rule) against what’s more beneficial to potential future Formula E stars is really the crux of the matter here.

It’s very hard to see how 90 minutes of beginner running spread over two events is going to help the overall situation going forward.

However, there are fairly balanced and positive voices about the 2023 rookie rule.

Maserati Team Principal James Rossiter, while agreeing that “yes, it does take a few free practice sessions that are very short indeed” believes getting past this is the fact that it is “key to bringing fresh, new talent to the series”.

Rossiter is the only Formula E team manager to take part in a free practice session through the role he was playing at the time (Sporting Director) at Techeetah.

This came in March 2020 when he deputized for an ailing Jean-Eric Vergne in Marrakech. This appearance in turn ruled him out of the ability to run in the rookie test that followed the E-Prix, forcing the team to draft Nicolas Lapierre on short notice.

Formula E Marrakech E Prix 2020

“I think it’s also important for beginners to understand the pressure of that moment in a Formula E race weekend,” Rossiter told The Race.

“Something that is probably not widely appreciated is that the pressure on a Formula E driver is extraordinarily high.

“So, to be able to see a rookie perform that will also show their talents, giving them this opportunity [of getting realistic experience]. ”

As the only person to have held a similar role as the 2023 rookies will face, Rossiter makes fair and interesting points. Curiously, he doesn’t think dropping a rookie will destabilize the teams’ preparations for the E-Prix.

“After I did one free practice session and then handed the car over to the race driver, not much I can say stopped us,” he said.

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“JEV is still 3rd this weekend. As a team, we came out 1st and 3rd.

“I can see both perspectives. But for me to be very clear, the first priority is to give a great opportunity to showcase new talent.”

However, Formula E is far from a happy camp at the moment. Conflicting voices multiply by the day, and enforcement of the rookie test rule in the regulations, against the wishes of the teams, may worsen next season.

The “one for all and all for one” mentality that has been a staple in the ring for many seasons and eroded in some quarters is being tested.

What could help things is a bit of complacency for the competitors, some of whom are, for now, feeling less positive about some of the directions the championship is headed.

They are after all key stakeholders in striving to build this tournament beyond what it says is a clichéd status as a significant, progressive and sustainable sporting entity.

Surely this is something everyone will vote for?

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