Smooth operators

Current E Beijing 2014 130914 Virgin in quali

It was a mixed outing for Virgin Racing in Beijing. Sam Bird picked up third place after starting P12, but Jaime Alguersuari went backwards from P7 to finish in P11. Sylvain Filippi, the team’s technical maestro, talks pit stops, mechanical woes and fighting for podiums.

1. “The cars are all the same, so you must train the drivers properly, have slick operations in the garage and get good data. You need time to analyse the information. It’s one thing to collect the data, but if you can’t analyse it properly between the sessions, it is no use. You hope FP1 validates all your assumptions. If you find it’s not what you thought it would be, it will be a long day.”

2. “The batteries are all the same; no battery is better than another. But there are a lot of mechanical things – motors, gearboxes, differentials, tyres – where there can be very small differences between one car and another, which can make a car quicker or more efficient, but the FIA is only measuring energy and power output. Jaime’s car was using a lot more energy than others. From the beginning, we could see that it was not on course to finish the stint at the levels we wanted him to do. We knew the race was over for him; we were gathering data. Sam’s car was fine. He even did an extra lap. On Sam’s side of the garage we were pushing like mad.”

3. “You have to have the smoothest of operations in the garage to make the most of the data. It’s a really busy schedule. One tiny mistake can ruin a session. We have to maximise every minute on track. To do that, your operations in the garage have to be very good. We have some people from WEC, from GP2, and we have a deal with Lotus F1. We made a big mess at the pit stops. We had a system based on the timings; in theory, it was perfect, as precise as it could be. Then the screens went black two minutes before the pit stop. We had to do it completely blind. We did surprisingly well with Sam. Jaime’s stop was disastrous – something like 17 seconds too long. There are improvements to make here.”

4. “There was a lot of variation between the first session in quali and the last one. Normally, the track gets better session after session. Sam did an okay lap but we thought he would be destroyed by those coming later. The tyres are such a hard compound – they’re basically road tyres – they don’t leave nearly as much rubber on the circuit as you would expect. Even in GP2, there’s a huge amount of rubber on the track after an hour of running. All the teams that have run simulators, we’ve all found that we were running five seconds per lap slower in Beijing. It’s a mix of things – less grip, tighter chicanes. We don’t know the surfaces before we get to the race. We have two extremely good drivers. If we can sort out Jaime’s mechanical issues, there’s no reason why they both shouldn’t be fighting for podiums.”

“To measure the pit stop time, we use the time keeping system (transponder in the car and loops in the circuit). We then know precisely when they enter the pit and when they exit it. Teams have then to calculate the time the driver must stay in the garage taking into account the maximum and minimum speed allowed in the pit lane for their pit-in and pit-out phases.” Benoit Dupont, sporting manager, Formula E

Current E Beijing 2014 030914 Sam Bird podium celebrations

“Beijing was really good fun. The circuit was fantastic. It had a good feel to it and it was challenging. Our pace over the weekend was pretty strong. I only got two flying laps in quali – one was under yellow and the other one I made a mistake on. It all happens so quickly. Qualifying twelfth in this kind of championship is not going to cut it. If you want to win, you need to be on the front two rows of the grid. In the race, I really looked after the energy management; from the first lap I was conserving, doing as little as possible with the throttle application. On that extra lap in the first stint, I had 0.1kWh left. That was a bit terrifying. Conserving energy was a bit easier in Beijing than at testing at Donington. There were fewer long straights and high speed corners, and the track was shorter. Everything on my car ran perfectly. The guys at Virgin did a super job and the car was super reliable. We learned a lot and I expect us to be much more competitive next race.”
Sam Bird
Virgin Racing

Grid P12
Race result P3


This feature is extracted from the Current E Beijing 2014 magazine. Coming soon.

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