Formula E Malaysia : Rain rain go away; race car drivers wanna play

As if the uncertainties of an inaugural race season and developmental electric-race car technology is not enough, the threat of rain looms over the Putrajaya ePrix as the second race is set to take place tomorrow, during a time when thunderstorms are besetting the country’s capital. Not only has heavy rain prompted the organisers to reschedule the race to 2pm instead of in the evening, the drivers have to cope with hot and humid weather in between the deluges.

Lucas De Grassi

“Driving in dry weather with the car is difficult enough,” said Lucas de Grassi, winner of the Beijing race, during the pre-race media conference. The specially designed all-weather tyres by Michelin will be put through trial by fire (or is that flood) if the heavens decides to open the floodgates during the race tomorrow afternoon. The Putrajaya track is decidedly more challenging than the Beijing one, with more sharp corners and painted pavements, which might affect the cars especially when wet.

Of course, everyone is eager to see if any animosity remained between Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld after the fantastic crash in Beijing, which occurred after Prost bumped Heidfeld, sending the Venturi car into a crash barrier. Prost, who had been able to review the incident since, said, “I understand it was my mistake and I have apologised.” As a result of his mishap, he was slapped with a 10-place grid penalty for tomorrow.

Heidfeld also said that he hopes to “move on” from the incident. Although he was close to winning the last race and fans are expecting him to be able to realise victory in Putrajaya, even he was cautious in managing expectations. Race officials are still fine-tuning the rules, which makes the circumstances of every race different. For instance, there is now a new rule that limits the amount of energy that can be recuperated, which Heidfeld says could affect Venturi’s performance.

CEO of Formula E – Alejandro Agag

There has also been issues surrounding the Fan Boost, which gives three drivers who receive the highest fan votes a five-second power boost, from 150kw to 180kw. Although “hundreds of thousands of fans voted”, according to the series’ CEO, Alejandro Agag, the fan favourites – namely, Di Grassi, Katherine Legge and Bruno Senna – ended up not using it due to technical issues. Agag said, “Trust me, this time they are going to use it.”

Although it is unusual for fans to have a direct influence on any sporting event’s outcome, much less via this à la American Idol voting gimmick, Agag explained that Formula E was designed specially for the young, and “millennials have a very different way of interacting with the world”. In fact, we can expect to see thousands of juvenile faces in the stands tomorrow, as the FIA had apparently given out tickets to local school children. Well, get them while they are young and they will be fans forever…hopefully fans of environmentally-friendly cars as well.

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