Amidst the global and ongoing Covid-19 lock-down, which has given a huge setback to motorsport, the all-electric Formula E street-racing championship has been seeing some action. . . on computer screens.
In order to keep audiences engaged, the organisers, on April 15, had taken a unique approach by announcing the use of technology to conduct virtual races over nine consecutive weekends until June 13, and also partnering with UNICEF to make the exercise act as a fundraiser campaign.
While the first race of the online event christened ABB Formula E Race-At-Home Challenge was held on April 18, the third round culminated yesterday with participation of all 24 regular Formula E Championship drivers racing from their homes on simulators.
Indian Formula E team Mahindra Racing snatched victory in the latest round, when its driver Pascal Wehrlein dominated proceedings by taking the pole position and then finishing off with a commanding lights-to-flag race victory. Wehrlein also set the fastest lap to extract maximum points from the event.
Mahindra’s ace driver, who impressed in the first two rounds, was able to raise funds of 1,000 euros in donation to UNICEF from Julius Baer, which will go towards helping support children affected by the coronavirus crisis around the world. The team says he went on to take a dominating win, unpressured by competitors behind.
Software and simulation special
The challenge which is featuring Formula E drivers as well as top gamers and influencers from the online world is seeing participants use the 'rFactor 2' simulation software.
The software includes the latest-generation Formula E car, up-to-date liveries of all the teams and iconic streets tracks such as Hong Kong and Monaco.
The ABB FIA Formula E Championship drivers will also race against one another remotely using the same software, in a simulator provided by Playseat, wheels and pedals from Fanatec and the latest gaming PCs, monitors, headphones and other peripherals by Asus.
Each driver and gamer will be under extreme pressure to deliver when it counts with a one-lap qualifying system to determine the order of the grid. The online events will use a 'Race Royale' format that is specific to gaming, where the last-placed driver at the end of each lap is eliminated.
The process of elimination will continue until only 10 drivers remain, leaving a single lap sprint to the finish line to decide the points-scoring positions.
Both drivers and gamers will carry over their points to the following weekend, with the top-three simulator racers automatically qualifying for the next event.
Pascal Wehrlein scored maximum points out of yesterday’s event; 25 points for the win, 1 point for the Julius Baer Pole Position and a further point for the DHL Fastest Lap. Other simulator series frontrunners Stoffel Vandoorne and Maxi Günther finished alongside Wehrlein on the podium.
According to Pascal Wehrlein: “The start was very important and I am not sure what happened behind but I saw there was a crash. After that I had a small gap and I just worked to keep the pace. In the end, I was a bit quicker but for me it was quite a straightforward race. It’s nice to take the win for Mahindra Racing in Monaco and get a full point’s haul."
According to Dilbagh Gill, CEO and Team Principal, Mahindra Racing Formula E Team: "It is fantastic to say Mahindra Racing won today in Monaco! I am very happy that as a team, we are supporting Formula E's Race-At-Home Challenge in support of UNICEF and are putting on a show for the fans at home that are currently missing out on their sporting action."
"The afternoon started well with Mahindra Racing’s simulator driver Lucas Muller finishing on the podium in second in the challenge race, then it got even better. Pascal has looked strong the last couple of weeks and now he has had the perfect day, scoring maximum points. The race for the championship is on," Gill added.
Given the complexity of the current situation regarding Covid-19, it would be tough to say when motorsport aficionados around the world would be able to see some real action on the ground.
While the Formula E calendar for 2019-20 has already red-flagged races for the months of May and June, July is still under consideration. Hope, normalcy returns sooner rather than later.