Formula E drivers are bracing for thunderstorms at the championship’s half-indoor, half-outdoor London E-Prix venue but overtaking may still be “near mission impossible.”
The new London E-Prix venue at the ExCel Arena features a mix of indoor and outdoor sections and both races this weekend are at high risk of severe rain showers – something that would only hit half of the track.
The track has a unique, highly abrasive track surface comprised of emery with a polymer coating on top.
If it rains, water will be dragged into the indoor section of the track from the outside, and Vergne believes this could subvert the usual disadvantage of the drivers running in the first qualifying group – the top six drivers in the championship, including Vergne and his DS Techeetah team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa.
“The more we drive, the more we’ll bring the water from outside in, which might be a good thing for people in group one,” the two-time champion said.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever raced half-indoor, half-outdoor. It’s something really cool.
“The indoor section is really grippy, but the outside is way too tight, even for Formula E. We might see a bit of a train. It’s going to be near mission impossible to overtake.
“Probably going to be raining, so it will be half-dry, half-wet. First time in motorsport except Spa maybe.”
Venturi’s Norman Nato concurred with Vergne’s qualifying predictions, telling The Race that he’s “worried being in group four won’t be an advantage this time”.
The pitlane is situated inside the arena, as is the start line.
“It’s going to be really tricky,” 2016-17 Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi told The Race. “You don’t get the perception of how much it’s raining when you’re inside the circuit.
“You have to walk outside of the pits to see how much it’s raining.
“It’s going to be unique in the history of motorsport. A race start in the dry, and the third corner is wet. How your brain can cope with this, will be interesting.”
Formula E reduced the total available energy allowance by 4kWh prior to the weekend to curb fears the race would be flat-out, but the drivers believe that fear will come to fruition regardless.
Mahindra’s Alex Sims believes the race will definitely be flat-out if it rains and that’s a “bit of a shame”.
“If it rains it will just be a flat-out race, no energy saving at all,” Sims explained to The Race. “Fairly processional once those people who are genuinely fast or slow will move up and down.
“The purists will of course think a flat-out race is better, but it’s Formula E and energy-saving is everything in this championship in terms of making a difference.
“It’s a bit of a shame, we needed a few more longer straights or fewer slow corners but it’s how it is.”