Rowland: Revised Formula E format will still produce close racing

Oliver Rowland has backed Formula E’s decision to ditch its unpopular group qualifying format, saying the championship can continue to produce close racing and won't result in one team dominating.

Rowland: Revised Formula E format will still produce close racing

Formula E has moved to drop the format it has used since the 2018/19 season, which placed the top runners in the championship in the unfavoured first group when the track conditions are at their worst and regularly created topsy-turvy grids.

Following increasing widespread criticism during a 2021 campaign that lacked a clear narrative, the series organisers have responded with a Superleague Formula-style knockout qualifying format for 2022 that will remove the variable of track conditions and allow the fastest drivers to contend for pole.

New Mahindra Racing recruit Rowland felt his one-lap pace was masked by the previous qualifying format, as he could break inside the superpole only six times in his last season with Nissan.

The Briton has welcomed the new format, and believes that the FE grid is so competitive that there is no risk of a single team dominating the championship.

“The unpredictability was what they wanted but at some point it's a little too much when you're talking about a professional FIA championship,” Rowland told Autosport. 

“I always had good speed last year. In free practice I was pretty much always in the top five, but going [on track] in Q1 meant sometimes I was starting 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, which obviously wasn't ideal. 

“I think from a professional sports level it's the right thing to do. You want to be competing on a level playing field and we've already got extremely close cars and drivers, we just don't need a qualifying and race system that favours certain people in certain positions. 

“It needs to be as fair as possible and we have to be confident that the show that we will give will be interesting.

Oliver Rowland, Nissan e.Dams

Oliver Rowland, Nissan e.Dams

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“I think anyway Formula E is so competitive that you will never see someone dominate the whole season like you do in Formula 1, it just won't happen. 

“However, I do expect to see fewer winners. I think the championship will spread out. Instead of having 14 people at the last round that could win it, I expect you go with maybe two or three.”

The qualifying format isn’t the only major rule change for next season, with FE no longer deducting the usable amount of energy from cars after every Safety Car or Full Course Yellow Period.

Instead, for every one minute spent in neutralised conditions, 45 seconds will be added to the race time (45 minutes-plus-one lap for a standard race) - unless the SC or FCY is deployed after the 40th minute of the race.

Rowland expects this will add another strategic element to races next year, especially with maximum power allowed increased from 200kW to 220kW for the final season of Gen2 rules.

“Again, it's a good idea," he said. "We don't want to lose racing due to Full Course Yellow or safety cars, so it's a good thing. 

“Last year in Valencia there was a bit of a flaw [exposed] with the other system. 

“It will change a little bit the dynamics of the championship also because we have higher power modes this year, which are going to stress the rear tyres more.

“The management of the batteries will be more critical in terms of temperature management because you are producing more power and you'll be regenerating more. So, I think there is going to be a little more tactical side and intelligent thinking involved in this season.

“I'm looking forward to it, but as for the rules, I'm onboard. it's going to be 45 minutes of racing and then extra minutes if there is a full course yellow or a safety car.”

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