Battersea Park track walk: Chandhok’s first impressions

Current E circuit map Battersea Park London 2014-15

Changing camber, narrow chicanes and long straights will make Battersea Park a real challenge, says Karun Chandhok after walking the track as part of an FIA inspection this week.

“The circuit is a perimeter road with roundabouts, which means there will be lots of straights and chicanes, with no real fast corner as such. In that regard, the track will be a bit Beijing-spec. I don’t think anyone was really happy with the Beijing chicanes, but Malaysia was really good, and the same guy that designed that track is doing Battersea (Simon Gibbons).

We’ll have four chicanes – six, if you count either end of the bus stop! We’re trying to make the profile of each different. Every corner will have off camber exits. That’s going to make it quite tricky.

The start-finish straight will be pretty damned quick. I think it’s around 400m long. On turns one and two, there’s quite a bit of camber and you have to cross the crown in the road . Those turns are relatively high speed. In quali, those will be proper corners, and that will be the trickiest section of the track for the drivers.

You can definitely overtake into turn two. Elsewhere, I think it’ll be quite tricky to find an overtaking spot. I don’t think it’s wide enough for two going into each of those chicanes, so it will be hard to pass unless someone makes a monumental cock-up coming out of a corner.

I did suggest we remove one of the chicanes to get a bit more speed down the straight and a bigger braking area, which would be good for overtaking. But there isn’t enough run off area and safety is a priority. Plus, the edge of the park is the edge of the park, so there’s no way to gain extra space. I don’t see trees being an issue for safety. That’s why you have catch fencing.

Everyone wants the tracks to be fun for racing. I was recently in Geneva for the FIA drivers’ commission meeting. That’s where we talk about issues across all the FIA championships, across the world. I think every championship should have two drivers’ reps, like we do in Formula E with Oriol Servia and I. It gives you the chance to communicate any issues. You don’t have this situation in any other championship. The FIA likes it, and they’re happy to plan track inspections around us.

Managing energy could be tricky at Battersea Park. You’ve got to accelerate out of all those chicanes and that takes energy. The twistier tracks, like Malaysia, are easier for us for energy. Long straights add drag. In Beijing and Argentina you had to be careful down the straights to make sure you hit your energy targets, whereas in Putrajaya we were flat out. The safety car periods really help save energy. At Battersea, it all depends on how many laps the race is.

Two of the chicanes involve using car park areas, which Formula E is paying to resurface. Five days after the race, the park has to be exactly as they found it – bar the two new car parks. Formula E is adding value.

Sunday will be a full copy and paste of Saturday. I really hope they do a reasonably priced walkabout ticket. It might be hard to see from the grandstands because of the trees. But there are lots of places you can get quite close to the cars on the infield and there are plenty of pedestrian bridges. There’s also a Boris bikes stand right outside the park so you can cycle to the event.”

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