until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E

Porsche 'launch control' probe prompts Formula E change

by Sam Smith
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The FIA has issued a clarification and update on regulations surrounding the homologated throttle pedal map for Formula E teams after Porsche was suspected to have found a loophole within them after winning the Mexico City E-Prix earlier this month.

The Race can reveal that new directives have been adapted to the throttle pedal map regulation for the Diriyah E-Prixs onwards to ensure that no automated launches can be possible away from the start line.

It is suspected that Porsche found a loophole in the regulations governing the application of power and initiated an instant non-driver-applied launch away from the starting grid. An absolute explicit definition of this was not included in the regulations.

The detail of it is complex but effectively alludes to the off-throttle control of the Gen3 cars. Now, after Mexico City, added clarity includes more detailed rules about the torque that is delivered at the rear axle in the homologated throttle pedal map which must be 0Nm (Newton meters).

Also added to the updated regulation is the maximum power on ‘off throttle control’ which must be ‘0kW at any time.’

Article 3 of the 2023-24 FIA Formula E regulations, which covers the homologation procedure, outlines the primary throttle map and two distinct maps.

One is the ‘primary’ which dictates the torque from the rear wheels, while the secondary one relates to the application of power from the Rechargeable Energy Storage System (RESS).

It is the ‘off throttle’ control element of the maps that has been the flashpoint in the Porsche investigations in Mexico City.

Asked by The Race for his reaction to the amendments, Porsche's director of motorsport for Formula E, Florian Modlinger, said that he “didn’t know what an advantage is and what is not because I don’t know what the others are doing.

“I only can say that we are reading the regulations carefully and we act according to the regulations. This was also proved by the stewards."

Porsche effectively lost two members of staff during the Mexico City E-Prix as they were asked to discuss data found by the FIA which triggered a visit from recently appointed FIA Technical Cross-Disciplinary supervisor Thomas Chevaucher, who previously held positions at DS Performance and Stellantis Motorsport.

“You can imagine that during a race a topic comes up and it's always time-consuming and you need to make sure that you deal with both topics,” added Modlinger.

“This means one thing is that the FIA puts you under investigation which you need to sort out and the other thing is you are racing.

“Clearly our team is focused on a race during racing and then we had to do a compromise because I had to send people away also to sort the FIA (investigation) topic.

“I had to cover two more people in person during the race and that’s clearly a challenge, but we adapted as best as possible, but it was restricted in capacity but it was handled well.

“I have to say it was handled from both sides very well and was achieved, discussions were on both sides and it was handled well and fair.”

Rival team principals are known to have asked for additional clarity on the investigations, after concerns that Porsche had not only found a loophole in the primary throttle map regulations but had also benefited significantly from their strong launches in a race that saw little overtaking.

Envision Racing’s Sylvain Filippi told The Race in Diriyah this week that “it looks like they (Porsche) had a launch system that made things a bit more automated and therefore the new regulations should stop them from doing that.

“So hopefully, that's it. You can debate whether they should have kept the win or not but ultimately at least they shouldn't be able to do it again. That's the point.

“Only the FIA sees everything right. So, we don't know, only they see the whole picture and then they can address (it), so we just trust that whatever they clarified stops them from doing it.”

Filippi also discussed the case against Sebastien Buemi’s own investigation regarding an offence at the 2023 Hyderabad E-Prix.

Although this was different in principle to Porsche’s investigation, as it penalised Buemi for a power overspike, Filippi was clearly annoyed that what he and his team believed was no actual increase in power for competitive benefit, had resulted in Buemi losing third position on the road.

“I'm still reeling from India last year, where it was just a decision that I found insanely harsh,” said Filippi.

“Getting us for being overpower when we are 100 kilowatts under power.

“Am I happy? No. But ultimately, there's no point spending energy on it. It’s an FIA decision. They know better they hold the data and we do what they say.

Jaguar’s James Barclay believed that the clarification and amendment by the FIA is needed to ensure that greyer areas than most in the regulations are identified and treated.

“Our expectation is that the FIA make a decision on how they judge it as a matter of fact, at that point in time,” Barclay told The Race.

“Obviously this took a lot of consideration, and when you have that big consideration, it does create a question from our point of view as to why. Ideally, you want to have a regulation where it's really kind of clear - black or white.”

“I genuinely think the FIA are moving in the right direction to make sure that is the case, it is a really complex topic, but one which as far as we're concerned is clear what you can and can't do at launch.”

The Race contacted the FIA for comment on the investigation and the subsequent amendments to the throttle map regulations but didn't receive a response.

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