Formula E is moving towards a more open-wheel design for its new car for 2022 as part of the highly anticipated Gen3 technical package.
The series – now an official FIA world championship – currently races with a unique closed-wheel look utilising a one-piece section that covers the front wheels.
It has been criticised in many quarters because the robustness of the one-piece front bodywork is regarded as encouraging contact in racing.
The Race understands that uncovering the wheels is currently the favoured option for the Gen3 designers, who are presently finalising the bodywork concepts which will have final sign-off by the FIA in the coming weeks.
The abandoned Gen2 Evo facelift (pictured below) that was supposed to bridge the gap from Gen2 to Gen3. but was ultimately dropped before ever racing, also moved closer to an open-wheel look at the front.
While the final schematic for the new model is yet to be given to manufacturers that have signed up for Gen3, some initial architecture of the car and a small amount of data regarding the dimensions, weights and parameters of the design have been passed on at recent Technical Working Group meetings.
The actual renderings of the Gen3 aesthetic are currently being finalised via several outsourced designers under the control of the FIA.
These are expected to be seen publicly later this summer just before initial testing of the first Gen3 car begins in September, although the FIA’s Frederic Bertrand told The Race last month that the FIA is in no hurry to unveil it.
That is because with one and a half seasons of racing left in the Gen2 car, the FIA wants to issue visuals as late as it possibly can in an effort to keep focus on the current model.
Although he would not go into details about the specific look of the car, Bertrand did state that it was the FIA’s “intention is to do a very attractive car”.
The Gen3 car’s dimensions are expected to be smaller than the Gen2, to encourage good racing on the championship’s street tracks and as another step to reduce the amount of contact.
“I think the teams have one expectation which is the good visibility for their sponsors also,” Bertrand told The Race.
“So when you try to make all these together, it’s not necessarily easy, but from what I’ve seen up to now it is good.”
The Gen3 project is being led from a technical perspective by the FIA’s Alessandra Ciliberti, who chairs the Gen3-specific Technical Working Group meetings that are occurring with increasing frequency.
The FIA and Formula E are currently giving thought to the future sporting format of Gen3 races, which will include fast charging technology.
Bertrand said the FIA is looking at being “quite disruptive to a normal sporting format of a single-seater car or race format we all know.”
He added: “The things we are more thinking right now is that it’s super difficult to try to be respectful of motorsport standards, let’s say, and on the other side try to propose a show which will make people feel ‘OK, that’s Formula E, that’s very specific’.”
He emphasised that keeping Formula E different to other racing categories in a sporting rules sense was important “like we have done with attack mode” – which could continue in some guise alongside fast charging pitstops when the new rules arrive at the end of 2022.
He admitted it was “not easy” to balance all the goals and expectations of Formula E’s next era.
“To still make people from motorsports feel we are proposing a real sport is important because it’s sometimes painful when you hear that some drivers say ‘ahh it’s not proper motorsport,’” he said.
“We need to make it in those two worlds and find enough of their DNA so that it can be accepted [even if there is] comment or criticism.
“At least they can feel that this is real racing on one side, but also real entertainment on the other.”
Apart from Audi and BMW, who have already announced plans to withdraw, all of the present manufacturers are expected to stay on for Gen3.
Although Mercedes is officially not yet registered, it is expected to do so in the coming days.
Lucas di Grassi, the 2016/17 champion, would prefer to see the FIA and Formula E keep a form of closed wheel design.
He feels it is both more efficient and more in keeping with Formula E’s unique aesthetics it developed around the Gen2 car concept.
“If you have an open wheel [FE] car then you have a tiny tyre that looks like a Formula Ford car and doesn’t look like a fast car,” di Grassi told The Race.
“So all the fast cars you have in your mind have big tyres, a road car also has this with a lot of power. So for me going back to open wheel is a counter step in many ways.
“The cover of the wheel could maybe different, I would attach the cover of the wheel in the hub. So the cover of the wheel turns together.
“F1 had this half cover that was attached to the brake hub. So they turn together with the tyres.
“They could cover the wheel with something that turns around together with the wheel because this is the most efficient way of doing it, and also very different looking and feasible.”