Jean-Eric Vergne

Drivers attack innovation ahead of Ad Diriyah season opener

For existing fans of Formula E, as well as relative newcomers to the sport, the new season offers no shortage of excitement due to new regulations, new teams and faces.

Without doubt, one of the most eagerly anticipated innovations for the 2018/19 FE season is what has been dubbed ‘Attack Mode’. Inspired by the popular Mario Kart video games, Attack Mode enables drivers to access an additional 25kW of power to aid overtaking or defend position via a button on their steering wheel.

Much like DRS in Formula One, activation zones are positioned around the circuit and their offline positioning means that drivers lose time before getting to deploy the higher boost, making for exciting racing.

In theory, the system seems to be a great way of spicing up proceedings. Yet during Friday’s press conference, attended by Motorsport Tech ahead of the season opener, reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne was quick to point out some shortcomings.

In order to prevent detailed simulation planning, the length and number of Attack Mode activation zones are only be revealed hours before the race. And in Vergne’s view, the positioning of those zones in Ad Diriyah is not conducive to safe racing.

“I think it’s a great system, a very good idea, but the way it has been designed for this track is not good. I think it’s way too close to the corner,” commented Vergne. “You need to go down to 20kph it’s going to be dangerous for the drivers to stop the car (offline) and go close to the wall, because it’s so close to the wall and if you don’t go that close to the wall you don’t activate it. So, unless they can change it to further away in a straight line, we still lose a little bit of time to activate it, but right now we still lose at least three to four seconds to activate the attack mode.”

Acronis partner team NIO driver Tom Dillmann also expressed concern, highlighting a possible flaw in the new system.

“We are losing a lot of time going for it,” said Dillmann on Autosport. “I think many people will actually use it on the safety car to get rid of it. “You don’t gain that much when you are on more power, because you are still limited in energy, and also you still need to save [energy]. And it’s so tight that you lose maybe two seconds to get it. Just going for it you might lose two places, and then to gain back those places there’s not much more power. I don’t think it will be like we saw in the videos.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.