The key trait needed to win in Formula E

It helps to be smart and strategic, while being fast goes without saying. But the closeness of the field in Formula E means that consistency is the key word cited by those who’ve lifted the crown

The key trait needed to win in Formula E

Within the realms of conventional motorsport, the fastest car will usually win races, so long as it has the requisite reliability to finish. There are still various parameters, such as mechanical set-up, worth considering to flex that advantage further, but having the overall pace in the car is most of the battle won.

In Formula E, that’s not necessarily the case, since the gaps between teams in raw performance is so small. That makes it much more difficult to find a clear advantage over your competition, and even harder to do so on a consistent basis. Therefore, winning a championship in Formula E requires a considerable amount of work to set in motion – and, to a certain degree, a good helping of luck.

“I think every season required a slightly different execution to become champions,” explains reigning Formula E champion Nyck de Vries.

“Last year, what we’d seen was that the qualifying format was spicing things up a lot. It was very important to take the big points when you had the opportunity, because there was no real way to be consistently scoring. This year, that has changed with the new format. It’s very important to be consistent and scoring good points.”

De Vries believes that the closeness of the field has also changed the dynamic, opening the door to more teams to pose a threat in the fight for victory.

“A couple of seasons back, there were a few teams that had a little bit of an edge over the years; I think it was not as compressed as it is now,” reckons the Mercedes driver. “As we do more and more seasons with Gen2, the whole field is just compressed. According to our statistics, the whole field is within 0.3%, and that is extremely, extremely tight. So, consistency is key.

“But obviously, you need to manage the race. It’s not only in your hands, because you’re also a little bit dependent on the people around you and when you take certain calls, but the consistency is key in anything, minimising the mistakes, being there all the time.”

PLUS: Why Formula E title success felt so different to F2

De Vries began his title defence as he ended the 2021 season, by winning in Diriyah

De Vries began his title defence as he ended the 2021 season, by winning in Diriyah

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Antonio Felix da Costa agrees that, with the closeness of the field, the margin between each driver is coming down to the “last detail”. Owing to the relative parity of cars, the DS Techeetah driver explains that on-track technique can be a particularly heavy factor in deciding a race, and how a driver uses the other cars on track to save energy.

Keeping a slight energy advantage in hand at the end of the race can pay off, especially when other cars struggle with consumption. Managing your energy across an E-Prix is key.

“A lot of the races that I’ve won, I’ve used the other cars to help me achieve the speed that I needed to achieve,” points out da Costa.

"The one that wins is not the one that did everything perfect, but is the one that makes the least mistakes, because it’s extremely difficult to have a clean weekend. It’s difficult to have a clean championship" Sebastien Buemi

“There are a lot of games and strategies that you can do with other cars, a little bit like NASCAR almost! There’s a big strategy in doing that, and maybe sometimes leading the whole race is not the way to win the race. So I have to be smart about it.

“When you have the pace, like for example Mitch [Evans] had in Rome, you can just lead the whole way through. But to be honest, we haven’t had that advantage since 2019-20. So the races I’ve won since, it’s been more on trying to be smart and strategic.”

Nissan e.dams’ Sebastien Buemi won the second Formula E championship season, and was one of the clear frontrunners in the early days of the championship. He echoes de Vries’s assessment that consistency is the key behind a title run, and says that, in Formula E, any eventual race winner or champion is the one who has made the fewest errors on the path to victory.

Insight: The 'unsexy' way to win a title

“It’s a very tight and close championship, so it’s important to score many points all the time,” says Buemi.

Da Costa says it's important to be smart, and that leading races from the front isn't necessarily the best way to win

Da Costa says it's important to be smart, and that leading races from the front isn't necessarily the best way to win

Photo by: Andreas Beil

“Not necessarily to win, but to score as many points as possible. We often say that in Formula E, the one that wins is not the one that did everything perfect, but is the one that makes the least mistakes, because it’s extremely difficult to have a clean weekend. It’s difficult to have a clean championship.

“It’s totally different to Formula 1 where you have to optimise all the time; here it’s more difficult to optimise.”

PLUS: Why Nissan's e.dams buyout signifies its Formula E victory intent

And after winning one title, it’s a lot more difficult to win two in Formula E. Only one driver has managed that feat. Jean-Eric Vergne ended Gen1 and kicked off the current Gen2 era with back-to-back title wins, and he’s got a very simple mantra of how to get there: “Just score more points than the other guys.”

So, that’s settled then.

Buemi's Nissan e.dams team has had mixed fortunes in the Gen2 era, and he believes its much harder to optimise than in F1

Buemi's Nissan e.dams team has had mixed fortunes in the Gen2 era, and he believes its much harder to optimise than in F1

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

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