Two days of Gen3 Formula E testing were completed at Varano in Italy earlier this week, as the FIA and manufacturers continue trying to iron out a serious issue relating to the battery hardware of the championship’s ambitious new car.
The group test was offered by Porsche, which originally booked the circuit, to all other manufacturers and the FIA. This is a crucial period for the Gen3 cars to be developed ahead of homologation in early November.
The test was held behind closed doors and amid tight security at the 1.46-mile Autodromo Riccardo Paletti circuit. No images were issued, so this article is illustrated with indicative shots from other Gen3 tests. It was the first such occasion that all manufacturers have run their Gen3 cars together and comes at a time when a specific problem with the battery of the car needs to be addressed for the full potential of the design to be exploited.
Several manufacturers have encountered problems in private testing over recent weeks. These curtailed or compromised their tests and The Race understands that it was a specific issue relating to the pouch cells within the spec rechargeable energy storage system (RESS) provided by Williams Advanced Engineering.
Several sources at the manufacturers have told The Race that their RESS components had been affected via vibrations, including kerb strikes.
As a result, some of the running at Varano was conducted with traffic cones covering some of the traditional circuit kerbing to ensure the same issues did not arise. The Race has contacted the FIA for comment on the teething problems.
Porsche is known to have been one of those manufacturers to have had its testing days disrupted by issues relating to the battery recently.
The latest of these incidents came two weeks ago when a run at the little known Grosser-Dölln proving ground near Berlin had to be curtailed.
That was originally meant to be new signing Antonio Felix da Costa’s first for Porsche with the Gen3 car. However, he was told not to travel for the run after the test was shortened.
Porsche’s director of factory motorsport for Formula E, Florian Modlinger, told The Race from Varano that “the FIA is working hard with the common part supplier to find solutions for the topics which need to be sorted before the first race”.
“This is an ongoing process. From the current test we are putting a lot of mileage on the car with obviously some compromises in running the car for the above mentioned reasons,” added Modlinger.
Additionally, while not addressing the issue directly or in detail, Nissan’s global motorsport and Formula E managing director, Tommaso Volpe, told The Race that the problem had been “discussed with all teams and of course with the FIA, and at the moment we are confident that they will supply us with the level of service agreed”.
Champions Vandoorne, da Costa run with new teams
The two-day test ran across Tuesday and Thursday with each of the six registered manufacturers – DS Automobiles, Jaguar, Mahindra, Nissan, NIO 333 and Porsche attending the specially arranged sessions that ran for 12 hours each.
Stoffel Vandoorne and da Costa both sampled the Gen3 car with their new manufacturer employers, DS and Porsche respectively, for the first time.
Vandoorne is set to soon be confirmed as team-mate to Jean-Eric Vergne – who drove on Thursday at Varano – at the new DS/Penske alliance, while da Costa has already been announced as Pascal Wehrlein’s team-mate at the Porsche team.
As well as Vandoorne and da Costa, a host of other drivers also got acquainted with new manufacturers that they will be racing for in 2023 and beyond.
“It’s been a long time coming and finally, it’s been my first time in the car and working properly on track with the whole Porsche engineering team,” da Costa told The Race after his test.
“It’s a way of working that I’ve seen before from my Formula 1 days and with BMW, so this is German professionalism.
“Porsche being a reference of other manufacturers and winning in every series they get into, I was not disappointed. It was a very high level of operating that I was happy to see and adapt myself to again.”
Talking specifically of his first experience of the Gen3 car, da Costa said it was “a very different car to drive compared to the Gen2, obviously having the motor in the front and being a more efficient car in general”.
“There are a lot of things to adapt to as a driver, so we were just getting to grips with the car, with the team, and it was a very positive first day.”
Sebastien Buemi drove the Jaguar development car on Tuesday as part of his preparation for working with Envision Racing, which will run Jaguar cars next season as a customer team.
The 2015/16 champion will be announced alongside Nick Cassidy at the team next month. Already-confirmed 2023 Jaguar drivers Mitch Evans and Sam Bird were in attendance at the track on Thursday but only Evans is believed to have driven.
New Nissan drivers Norman Nato and Sacha Fenestraz drove the Japanese manufacturer’s test car for a day each, with Volpe saying that both “integrated very well with the team and felt comfortable with the car since the first laps”.
“Of course, there is still a lot of work to do for both the team and the drivers to prepare ahead of the Valencia test, but it was definitely a good start for us so far,” he added.
Sergio Sette Camara got mileage with the NIO 333 organisation for which he was confirmed as a 2023 driver on Wednesday morning.
The Brazilian is believed to have been the only driver run by the Chinese manufacturer during the week.
Mahindra also attended the test, its second run since Oliver Rowland’s substantial accident at Mallory Park in July. Both Rowland and new arrival Lucas di Grassi were on hand at Varano. Outgoing team principal Dilbagh Gill attended the test in his last appearance with the squad.
Abt had a staff presence at Varano although the team’s drivers Robin Frijns and Nico Mueller will not get their first miles in a Gen3 car until next month at a private test.
Senior personnel from the new McLaren squad were in attendance at the test, including team principal Ian James. Rene Rast is set to get his first experience of the Gen3 car in late October.
Envision managing director Sylvain Filippi was also present to see his future driver Buemi, who flew directly from winning the Fuji World Endurance Championship race on Sunday, drive the Jaguar on Tuesday. Cassidy, who is staying with the team for a third season, drove the Jaguar briefly back in June.
The fast-charging infrastructure that is expected to hasten pitstops returning to Formula E from next season was used in the test by several manufacturers. The capability is being provided by the championship’s title partner, ABB.
The sporting structure for the 2023 season is expected to be made public at the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting on October 19.
Manufacturer/driver run list – Varano test
Jaguar: Sebastien Buemi
DS: Stoffel Vandoorne
Mahindra: Lucas Di Grassi
Porsche: Pascal Wehrlein
Nissan: Sacha Fenestraz
NIO 333: Sergio Sette Camara
Jaguar: Mitch Evans
DS: Jean-Eric Vergne
Mahindra: Oliver Rowland
Porsche: Antonio Felix da Costa
Nissan: Norman Nato
NIO 333: Sergio Sette Camara