Formula E's Sudden Monaco Track Change Is A Reminder Of How Weird Modern Racing Has Become

Illustration for article titled Formula E's Sudden Monaco Track Change Is A Reminder Of How Weird Modern Racing Has Become
Photo: FIA ABB Formula-E (Getty Images)

This weekend’s Formula E Monaco event will mark the first time the all-electric open-wheel series will run the very same track Formula 1 does, after employing a shortened version in previous years. But teams and drivers learned today they’ll need to adjust their preparation for the race now that the organizers have relocated the track’s Attack Mode activation zone.

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A bit of background for those unfamiliar with what Attack Mode is and how it works: It’s a 35 kW (46 horsepower) boost that lasts a few laps but can only be activated once a car has driven through a specified part of the track, usually off the racing line. Originally, this zone was placed along the outside of the Grand Hotel hairpin, which wasn’t a part of the route Formula E was using before this year. Now it’s been moved to the left side of the Casino right-hander, following the long rise up Massenet.

The Attack Mode activation zone will now reside at Casino, labeled on this map as Turn 4.
The Attack Mode activation zone will now reside at Casino, labeled on this map as Turn 4.
Graphic: FIA ABB Formula-E

The new activation zone is expected to add a bit more time to drivers’ laps than the old hairpin arrangement would have, because the hairpin is already so slow as it is.

This wouldn’t seem like a massive change from the outside looking in, but the reality is drivers spend days ahead of on-track practice testing in their simulators. Figuring out where and how Attack Mode fits into race strategy is a significant part of that preparation.

Norman Mayersohn, who had the unenviable duty of editing my gibberish until this week (miss ya already, Norman!) and used to work with Formula E, told me “The FIA sends out the track spec data to teams two weeks before the race. Teams use that for the simulator work. Especially important on the street tracks, where there’s no chance to test.”

And so, some of the conclusions the drivers and teams thought they came to in their simulations over the past week are now moot. They’ll have to give it another go or several with the updated circuit data, though as The Race notes, some Formula E drivers that also participated in last weekend’s 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps weren’t able to practice for Monaco until this week, anyway.

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The predicament of changing an aspect of a racetrack, prompting organizers to update the digital version of that track so competitors have the latest available information for their testing — for an all-electric series, no less! — is an extremely 2021 headache to have. Then again, modern problems do require modern solutions.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. 2017 Fiesta ST. Wishes NASCAR was more like Daytona USA.

DISCUSSION

reverenddexter
Ratchet when he's all hopped up on synthetic energon

What if they kept the activation zone hidden until the day of the race? Or even better, identified multiple possible zones, then randomly picked one at race start?  Hell, set up some sort of way of indicating where the zone is, and have it change lap to lap.