Sunday, October 1, 2023

How McLaren Racing prepares for Formula E’s Gen3 debut

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Rast explained that the McLaren duo had probably spent 10 days in the simulator until the end of November with more planned ahead of the Valencia test. “That’s more or less the only thing we can do to prepare for the car because the tests are very limited and the simulator is the closest we can get,” he said. Simulated running isn’t just for the drivers though, engineers and other parts of the team are also involved in those sessions. That will continue throughout the season as the simulator is worked on before and after each race.

The team is well aware that they are likely to face “a very steep learning curve” when they arrive next month at the first Season 9 E-Prix in Mexico City, according to James’ assessment. “I think it’s the teams that deal with that in the most efficient way, are the ones that come out on top,” he continued. James specifically mentioned the new front powertrain and added regenerative capabilities that will change energy management strategies, even for experienced members of the McLaren team. Aside from the updates that a more powerful Gen3 car brings, James said race format changes “will throw a few curveballs in there as well”.

Formula E announced changes to the races last month, removing Fan Boost and replacing Attack Mode with Attack Charge in some races. The new battery technology in the Gen3 cars will enable fast charging, but while Formula E planned to reduce pit stops for that purpose, the infrastructure required to do so is not quite race-ready yet. And on top of the series having to change things quite late in the game, the teams are still not entirely sure how the new race format will work, which partially explains the mock race.


“Obviously attack mode is still the most important ingredient for the race.” Rast said. “But we’ll see the rest once the season starts.”

James explained that the teams were able to provide input on the Gen3 sporting regulations as developed by the FIA ​​(Formula E’s governing body). He foresees more excitement in Season 9 due to the greater flexibility in strategy that the new format and new guidelines allow. So, despite the current unknowns, the McLaren team boss is optimistic that “racing this year will be closer than ever.”

“That’s going to make racing even more exciting,” he continued. “It will be more of a challenge for the engineers to work with the drivers to make sure we plan correctly for the race, but also to respond to changes and the different situations that may arise.”

And then there are the tires. Formula E is switching from a Michelin profiled tire to a Hankook custom compound for Gen3. Both the old and new tires are designed to run in both dry and wet conditions, although on some tracks the Michelin compound would wear down to the point where it would effectively be slippery by the end of the race. Hughes explained that the Hankook version “behaves very differently” and should be more durable.

McLaren Formula E
Rast in the driver’s seat.


Still, the prospect and challenge of Formula E is as exciting for drivers as ever. With Gen3, the series moved from changing cars during a race to go the distance to a car stopping to charge for 30 seconds. It can also hit 200 MPH with a 350 kW motor and is capable of regenerating 40 percent of its energy. It’s the opportunity to show the potential of electric cars to people around the world that excites Rast.

“It’s amazingly fast, it’s a real race car,” he explained. “We are trying to bring motorsport to the cities to make people aware of what is possible with electrification.”

Hughes agreed, noting that the potential for technology transfer from Formula E cars to electric road cars is something he is happy to be a part of. “We can, in fact, help shape the future for electric mobility,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a lot of things we’re developing for Gen3 on road cars within ten years. What we do will have a domino effect that we are not fully aware of even now.”

Despite the chaos of off-season preparation and limited testing, the work McLaren has done seems to be moving in the right direction. Hughes was second fastest in both sessions on the first day of testing in Valencialess than a tenth of a second behind Masterati’s Maximilian Guenther.

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