The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship certainly has a unique schedule in the world of motorsport. Where most racing series are split over several days, this all-electric championship has most of its on-track action over the one day. Here’s all you need to know about how Formula E’s race format works.
All in a day’s work
Unlike other championships that spread themselves over three days, most of the Formula E schedule takes place on race day. There’s one half an hour practice on Friday evenings for teams, just to get a feel for the tracks we race on, but all the big moments happen on race day which is often a Saturday or Sunday.
You might think, that’s a lot to pack into one day, and you’d be right! A second practice session is slotted in for the morning, which is followed by qualifying and then the race. In between sessions, there are also various track activities, medical inspections as well as drivers having commitments like debriefs and autograph sessions for the fans. There’s no denying race day is a busy one, but if you’re on the ground at the race it means that there’s always something to see or do!
Practice makes perfect
Depending on how many races there are over a Formula E weekend, there will be two or three practice sessions. If there’s only one race, there will be two opportunities to practice; one the day before the E-Prix and one the day of the E-Prix. If the weekend consists of a double-header, another practice session will be added to the second race day before qualifying and race.
Each 30 minute practice session is timed, although the results of this don’t influence the running order of qualifying or the race. It’s just a chance for teams and drivers to see how their cars behave, familiarise themselves with the circuit and make any necessary set up changes ahead of the big events later.
At some tracks, there’s also an additional shakedown on the day before the race. This happens before any practice sessions, and sees drivers take to the track at reduced speeds. Here they can test the reliability of the car, as well as any electronic systems to make sure everything is working as planned.
For race days, FP2 is the first session in the morning and it can start pretty early! During last season’s Mexico City E-Prix, second practice began at 07:30 local time.
After practice, the next thing on the on-track agenda is qualifying. This lasts for just over an hour and follows a unique format which makes for some unbelievable action!
First comes the Groups stage, which sees the grid split into two groups of 11 based on their Drivers' World Championship position. Here they have to battle at 220kW to set lap times in a 10-minute session, with the four fastest from each group progressing into the Duels stage.
Those eight will then face off in the quarter-finals, competing against one another head to head in a knockout at 250kW. This quarter final lasts for 15 minutes, and sees the fastest four promoted into the semi finals. The same process is undertaken for the semi final, with the two quickest drivers on track making their way into the nail-biting final.
The winning driver of the final duel takes the Julius Baer Pole Position, while the runner-up lines up second. The semi-finalists will line up third and fourth, the quarter-finalists between fifth and eighth - according to their lap times.
The fifth to 12th-placed drivers who competed in the polesitter's group will fill the odd positions on the grid. The corresponding drivers from the other group will be classified in the even grid slots. So, if the polesitter comes from Group 1, the fifth placed driver in Group 1 will line up ninth on the starting grid and the fifth placed driver in Group 2 takes 10th and so on.
Since being introduced in Season 8, it’s provided us with so much entertainment! We love the Duels!
Ready for the race
Now for the best bit of race day - the race itself! Every E-Prix begins with a standing start, which means the cars are stationary until the lights go green. The Formula E grid line up on a dummy grid, which is a short distance behind the actual grid, before slowly filing into position to start the race.
The race lasts for a predetermined number of laps, but laps can be added for Safety Car and Full Course Yellow interruptions. The final number of added laps is announced three laps prior to the end of the E-Prix, so everyone knows what to expect. Around an hour is given for the race length, but red flags or Safety Cars could influence the time it takes to finish a race. In Season 9, Formula E witnessed its longest-ever race clocking in at 2hrs13m56.532s after crazy London weather created one intense season finale!
ATTACK MODE was also introduced for Season 5, which lets every driver pick up an extra hit of power at their own risk. To fire up ATTACK MODE, drivers need to drive off the racing line and through the special Activation Zone which is unique for each circuit. As a reward for taking a slower line through the corner, they collect an extra 50kW of power, taking them to 350kW for a limited time which is published by the FIA pre-race. Drivers can choose to secure the extra speed, helping them race harder and giving them the edge to stay ahead of the competition or make moves up the pack.
Formula E also follows a standard points system, used in other FIA-sanctioned series - awarding points to the top-10 finishers.
- 1st - 25pts
- 2nd - 18pts
- 3rd - 15pts
- 4th - 12pts
- 5th - 10pts
- 6th - 8pts
- 7th - 6pts
- 8th - 4pts
- 9th - 2pts
- 10th - 1pt
Points are also awarded for securing the Julius Baer Pole Position (three points) and clinching the Fastest Lap (one point) in the race.
After a race has come to an end, the top three drivers must make their way to the podium for some celebrations, as well as fulfil their media commitments.