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FormulaNerds spoke with DS Penske drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Jean-Eric Vergne about the new Gen3 cars and their approach to racing.
The new Gen3 cars have many unknowns with the season kicking off in January. Some concerns have been raised over crashes that took place during private testing. The FIA approved a secondary braking system which will help drivers to control the car should things get out of their hands.
Meanwhile, there have also been some changes made to the attack mode. This change can see teams come up with different strategies, however, energy management is still a tough challenge they face.
When speaking with Formula E Champions Stoffel Vandoorne and Jean-Eric Vergne, we asked them about the DS Penske project and the Gen3 cars. These EVs are faster, and more efficient and may bring new dynamics to the series. There are plenty of other changes in Formula E ahead of Season 9. Namely, Mercedes-EQ became McLaren and Penske confirmed their partnership with DS, marking another milestone in their Formula E history.
They have two title holders lined up and a brand-new car with new technology and a new powertrain. FormulaNerds got some insight into what’s so good about this partnership, how the drivers will be approaching racing in the Gen3 cars, and what concerns they might have.
Why was Stoffel Vandoorne attracted to DS Penske?
Stoffel Vandoorne was crowned Formula E Champion in 2022 after a dramatic end to the year in Seoul. The Belgian only won one race throughout the season, in Monaco. However, as mentioned, Mercedes-EQ decided to exit the series and their spot was filled in by McLaren. This cultivated many questions surrounding Vandoorne’s future.
Having raced for McLaren in Formula 1 before, many thought that maybe he would rejoin them upon their entry. But instead, he decided to join DS Penske and drive alongside another Formula E legend, Jean-Eric Vergne.
When asked about what attracted him to the project, at first Vandoorne joked that he wanted to be with JEV. He said, “it was to be together with JEV. I really wanted to be together with JEV.”
Vandoorne added, “I mean, obviously, you know, after Mercedes decided to leave the championship, I was looking into the best possible team that was going to give me opportunities to fight for victories and for championships again.
“And, you know, there was no doubt from my side, that, yes, Penske alliance was going to be the best choice. I think the track record speaks for itself with what they’ve achieved in the past and I think that’s very important. So, together with JEV, we bring a lot of experience to the team as well. With Gen3 it’s still a little bit of an unknown. So, it’s a new car global to fight at the front.”
What’s the approach to racing Gen3 cars?
The new Gen3 cars have different systems and as such, come with a number of unknowns. Some of which may require novel approaches and new ways to play with strategy. FormulaNerds asked both drivers whether they will also be changing their approach to racing.
The drivers admitted that the new cars will not really change how they approach wheel-to-wheel action and on-track tactics. There might be new elements, but when it comes to overtaking, however, it will pretty much remain the same.
JEV said, “No, I think it’s not going to change anything. We’re going faster, but you know, not that much faster. So it’s so going to be exactly the same as the previous years. The only thing that I’m unsure about is this energy management.
“We don’t have the experience yet or how it’s going to play out in the race if there are going to be more than one strategy, winning strategy. So, therefore, we may see some different ones and different kind of overtakes throughout the race.
“We don’t know if we’re going to have the quick charger as well or not during the season. This is also going to probably change a bit the approach of racing and what it may do. I don’t know yet what is going to do. But in terms of pure driving, what changes is, of course, the tyres. You have to drive the car quite a little bit different to the Gen2, and yeah, that’s it.”
Vandoorne agrees with JEV, however, he too is concerned about energy management.
He said, “I don’t think so, to be honest. I mean, you know, cars are faster, but that will not really change the approach in racing. You know, racing is you try and be the best, you try and make overtakes. And I don’t think because of the speed that any of the approaches will really change, to be honest.
“I think it will depend a little bit on how the energy management will be during the season. I think it’s something we’ll have to figure out. I think at the end of Gen2, everyone was kind of up to speed with how you were racing in Formula E. And maybe, you know, it will be a little bit different but I hope it will still provide good racing.”
Why are teams concerned about energy management?
Energy management in Formula E is one of the most important aspects. If teams fail to prepare how to distribute the energy from their battery throughout the race, they might end up losing places and points.
Formula E are introducing changes to Attack Mode. Normally teams would have eight minutes of extra boost which makes them faster and gives them an advantage over other drivers. The amount of Attack Mode available has traditionally varied from race to race.
In Season 9, however, teams will have four minutes of Attack Mode which can be distributed with a different strategy. Teams can split the attack modes, for example into one minute and three minutes. Or even one minute, another minute and then two minutes.
The Gen3 cars are also faster this year, which means that they use up even more energy. The 30-second pit stop which re-energises the car might come in later in the season. Hence, the drivers have even more pressure on how to maintain energy and last a whole race without slowing down.
Featured Image provided by DS Penske via CSM Sport & Entertainment (PR for Formula E)