There will no longer be a minimum pitstop time for driver car swaps in Formula E starting from the Marrakesh ePrix on January 13.
Since the inception of FE in 2014, each race has featured a car swap approximately halfway through the race. This is due to the fact that the batteries used by the teams are unable to last a full race and thus the quickest way to change batteries is by using two cars for the race.
Due to concerns over safety, a minimum pitstop time has been in place to ensure the drivers are securely in their cars. However as teams have learnt how to complete the driver changes faster, the minimum time has been constantly reduced.
As a result the FIA has removed the regulation in order to allow teams to have the most efficient pitstops. However, with the change coming just three days before this weekend’s Marrakesh ePrix, some drivers have some concerns over the change.
Reigning FE champion Lucas Di Grassi told Autosport that he disagreed with the change happening at this point but believed the change was “positive”.
“I’m in favour of the concept but if they do such a change they should do it before the beginning of the season, if you do it before the season you have chance to optimise everything. A change like this will be a gamble for everyone.”
He also said that the seatbelts used in FE could cause an issue.
“The current belts are standard single-seater belts that are not designed for a quick change, in LMP or GT you have a different buckle system, it’s much more simple and effective. I’m sure I will never risk not having the belts done up properly.
“But because the belts are not made to go this way, if the mechanic does not do it properly or tries to do it too quickly under pressure, it could take 15 or 20 seconds to do it all over again. It’s part of the game, but it should not be part of losing the race.”
2017 Hong Kong ePrix Race 1 winner Sam Bird raised more concerns on the safety of the new changes.
“However from a safety aspect, for me, it’s not ideal,” said Bird. “There’s nothing stopping drivers not doing the bottom belts up in order to gain time, and then that becomes extremely dangerous.
“If things like this start to be ignored then it’s not the right thing to do.”
There have been numerous pitlane incidents in FE due to the tense nature of the car changes. Most recently, Sam Bird crashed into his team’s pit garage when entering whilst going on to win the first race of the 2017 Hong Kong ePrix.