Formula E

Reality testing di Grassi’s crazy Formula E masterplan

by Matt Beer
5 min read

On Saturday The Race revealed 2016/17 Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi’s “avant garde” and “crazy” blueprint for the series’ future.

But how much of di Grassi’s vision of colour-changing cars that move like animals and start with blasts of jet thrust is actually feasible?

We set our Formula E technical expert Peter McCool on the task of assessing just that.

Here’s his reply to di Grassi:

Dear Lucas,

I completely agree with your sentiments and points that you discussed – namely that Formula E is at the cutting edge, it’s new and it is futuristic, therefore it should stay innovative and it must lead in this innovation and ‘other worldliness’.

I also agree with you that the Gen2 EVO is an ‘old fashioned’ step.

But it was trying to solve a specific problem, which was the ‘tactical contact’ situation and hence it had a slightly short-sighted goal in my opinion.

The Gen3 car being smaller and lighter should also be much more innovative. Because Formula E is essentially a one-make series, it is very sensible to push the boundaries and make the car look futuristic. Like you say Lucas, the goal should be “to make kids go ‘whoahhhh!’”.

Lucas di Grassi

The Gen2 model that is racing now was universally well received and it was indeed different to anything else racing in other series. The same kind of step – or a bigger one – could be and should be made for Gen3.

Taking the main points of your specific ideas, here is what could be done practically from a design and implementation point of view.

Having a visually different halo

Yes. A really good idea. There are lots of options that could be explored visually.


No Lucas! Are you mad? My first reaction was just the needless weight.

But what if the drivers could talk to each other? Now that would be cool. Or even to the crowd? What if when a car had attack mode the driver’s voice was broadcast as a kind of jingle? Perhaps this would engage the fans?

Sam Bird Lucas di Grassi Antonio Felix da Costa

Transparent bodywork with more lights

Yeah Lucas, I like this one!

Great idea and lots of possibilities here to communicate with the audience more clearly. A tonne of options to consider all at very little cost if built into the design at the start.

For instance the shark fin could change colour when in attack mode or when the battery level is declining. For instance 3% – yellow, sub 2% – orange, 1% – flashing red!

Or what about if a car has more energy than the car in front its nose glows green? So could the front side of the chassis or the wheel covers, rear bodywork, rear wing endplates etc – there are lots of surfaces that could be used to indicate what is happening visually.

The sponsors would get extra coverage on the bodywork too and imagine how sensational it would all look at a night race.

Vibrating car

Not quite. This does not sound like a great idea to me. Perhaps I don’t fully understand it, though. But small vibrations will only be noticed by the driver and there is no point to this in the bigger picture.

Large vibrations caused by bodywork flapping or something is probably a bit too difficult to achieve and not be crazily gimmicky.

Moveable bodywork

Good call Lucas and this is a great idea. It can be used to improve the racing (better cornering and less drag on the straights) if it was either under the driver’s control or it was ‘activated’ like the attack mode.

It’s quite complicated to achieve and this idea would need a bit more planning and discussion. But it’s not a bad idea at all and the fans would certainly be able to spot it so it is relevant from that point of view.

Cold jet thrust

I beg your pardon, champ? Lucas, I know what you mean but this is just not practical and not visible to the fans really either! Technically this just would not work!

The thrust is proportional to the mass and the speed of the air that the ‘jet’ thrust exerts. You would have to store a lot of air (and it is not heavy!) and eject it very quickly. Simply not practical to include I’m afraid.

Formula E

In summary

What you have done here Lucas is start a conversation with Sam Smith and then indirectly with the fans via The Race and I think that is really important, so bravo for that.

There is another great opportunity with the Gen3 car and what Lucas is really saying is ‘don’t waste that opportunity’.

I could not agree with him more. I know not all of his ideas are sensible (to me anyway). But it is exactly the sort of thinking that needs discussing before the spec of the Gen3 car is released. Yes, RFQ for the tenders has already been released. But these ideas can still be incorporated.

Formula E should now, after five and a half years, be very confident in its cutting edge ‘new’ approach to motor racing.

Lucas di Grassi

It should keep on setting the agenda and doing things differently. The fans will continue to appreciate it and manufacturers will get extra column inches and impress their future consumers.

A last wacky thought from me.

What about a feature that all the drivers can use once in a race: when a driver presses a button the car in front will eject a puff of smoke, from the rollhoop let’s say, and lose power for one second!

It makes it a bit like a video game but the fans will understand this!

There could be many more ideas as wacky and as simple as these that could be discussed, rated, costed and introduced. Formula E is the only championship that can do this sort of thing and long may that continue.

In keeping with the ethos of Formula E perhaps even the fans could be asked what they would want to see? But maybe we’ve just done that!

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