Friday 10 March 2023

The Cape Town E-Prix "fulfilled it’s mission to be a top three race".

PHOTO CREDIT: ABB FIA Formula E World Championship
AUTHOR: Junaid Samodien

The eagerly anticipated Cape Town E-Prix has now come and gone, and according to event promoter Iain Banner “it was a big success.”

Banner, who played an instrumental role in bringing the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship to the city, said: “Part of what we are doing with the race was to focus on making a difference, creating jobs and yes, all in the renewable sector, in the green economy.”

The E-Prix “fulfilled it’s mission to be a top three race”, Banner said, who also added that the race was a complete sell-out with 25,983 tickets sold. 

“It was really heartened by Nelson Piquet Jr, one of the Formula E commentators saying: This is the best Formula E race I have ever been to.’ Now, I take those sort of comments with humility.”

Banner also mentioned that he always had confidence that the inaugural Cape Town E-Prix would be a sell, despite the other doubting him, and has set a new target for 2024. “My target for next year is 40,000. I believe quite easily that we will sell 40,000 and that will be sold out,” he said.

Despite the successes of the Africa’s first Formula E race, event promoters E-Movement will look into ways of improving for the future. 

“There are adjustments that are required. For example, we need to improve. We had sufficient food and beverages in our fan areas. We had sufficient quantities, but we didn't have enough distribution points. So we need more local vendors and we want to support local business and I'm looking forward to us expanding on the hospitality offering. It's a full days experience. There's all these things going on that make for an incredible value day so that we will be focusing on,” Banner said. 

The 2.921 kilometer circuit provided quite challenging for the drivers, not only due to the challenging turns 9 and 10, the fast nature of the track, but the bumpy nature of the circuit was a big talking point, which the event promoter aims to address for next year. 

“There are two areas that we'd like to improve on, and that is the bumpy areas on the track, particularly down Beach Road (7, 8 and 9) and turning into Fritz Sonnenberg (turn 10), there were two heavy bumpy areas. Those will be those will be dealt with to create a smoother surface.”

“I don't have the absolute fact, but one of the reasons that Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) had an overpower penalty, was because they showed that he had too much power when the car bounced upwards, the inverter somehow showed a higher power delivery because there was no resistance from the road,” Banner said.

Teams, drivers and international media were left quite impressed with the inaugural E-Prix, and are quite hopeful of a return next season, but Banner quickly to addressed the topic, saying: “We signed a five year contract with the five year extension. It was dependent on the outcome of year one. We had to prove our ability to put on a world class race that stands up with the best, and we've done that. Now it's a case of putting the funding together for years two and beyond, which is something I'm immediately focusing my mind on. I know we can make Africa proud. Never mind the Cape or South Africa. We can make Africa proud. Let's do that. Let's do that. Not for the next 5 or 10 years, but for the next 20 years. That's my commitment. I believe that we are well entrenched with the Formula E decision makers.”

With planning well underway for next year, the provisional 2023/24 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is expected to be published around mid-May, whilst the final dates are confirmed at the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting in October. 

“I'm very optimistic that we will find Cape Town for the first time on the provisional calendar [for Season 10] because last year we were not,” he said. 

Wednesday 8 March 2023

FEATURE STORY: How Maserati MSG Racing designed its striking Formula E Livery

PHOTO CREDIT: Maserati MSG Racing. 
AUTHOR: Junaid Samodien

Elegance, craftsmanship, performance and pedigree, are but a few descriptive words that one could associate with the iconic Italian automotive brand, Maserati. 

With over 100-years of history, Maserati expanded from a family-run tuning business which rapidly expanded into vehicle and race car manufacturing. And, in 1926, an historic moment happened when they rolled out their first car out of the shop, named “Tipo 26”, which was later raced to victory at the Targa Florio by Alfieri Maserati. 

Soon after their early racing success, the Maserati brothers began to build customer cars to help fund their racing programme. They then decided the company required a new direction, whilst they focused on the engineering side of the company. Adolfo Orsi, an Italian entrepreneur was brought in to oversee the business, but later purchased Maserati, and moved it to Modena.

In the post-war era, Maserati moved to Formula One, which certainly was a challenge at first when going up against a strong Alfa Romeo team, as well as Talbot-Logo, and an emerging force, Ferrari. But, as the years progressed and challenges continued, Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio joined the team, and he took them to two drivers’ championships, 9 Grand Prix and 9 pole positions. The Italian brand remained in F1 until 1969. 

As life evolved, so did the Maserati brand, when the Fiat Group acquired the company in 1993, and through the years, the business began to grow in all spheres, where it then began to compete against other high performance brands, namely: Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW.  

PHOTO CREDIT: Maserati MSG Racing
The biggest surprise came in 2022, when Maserati took a major step forward in solidifying its future in the automotive fraternity, announcing a return to racing after 60-long years, but not in usual combustion engine championships. Instead, the iconic Trident brand will race in the all-electric ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

And, whilst the announcement raised quite a few questions, including: why, what and when? In the ever-evolving world, and its technology, Formula E is the natural choice for big automotive manufacturers these days. 

“Maserati chose Formula E because it's a natural choice. We were born on track and it was great to come back to the racing circuit, but also because we have a strong mission in E-mobility and our future is electric with the Folgore range,” Giovanni Sgro, Head of Maserati Corse, said. 

“By 2025, every single one of our range, we'll have an electric version, and by 2030 Maserati is only going to produce electric vehicles. So Formula E is a great place for us to showcase our competitiveness and also focus on technology transfer from track to road.” 

The iconic “Tipo” designation returns in 2023, with Maserati’s first electric racing car. The Maserati Tipo Folgore (Type Thunderbolt) was revealed late last year, and features a timeless and iconic blue tone, synonymous with Maserati. 

But something that set’s the Italian automotive brand apart is the distinct livery, which defines the cars character, shape and show casing its history. 

And, whilst a racing livery seems more of a decorative feature in motorsport, sets race cars apart and gives partners more exposure. Just how does a team design their livery, choice the colour, and decide on the branding locations? We investigate this with the help of Giovanni Sgro, the Head of Maserati Corse. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Maserati MSG Racing
From various angles, the Maserati Tipo Folgore (Gen 3 car) captures the imagination of motorsport fans, with it’s elegant livery lines and logo placements, but why has the team actually chosen blue, as they return to racing?

“Blue is our Maserati colour, so we wanted to have that be reflected on the car strongly,” Giovanni Sgro said. 

He goes on further to explain that “the trident is the symbol competitiveness and the white line across the border, you know, this year's shape of the car is triangular, it's very flat and this line really accentuates the colour blue. The contrast is perfect. And then obviously we have the trident on the back of the car has the Italian flag in the centre. We have a couple of things that a represent Maserati on this car, which is obviously the blue, the trident and the Italian flag, we're the only Italian manufacturer in Formula E.”

The visible LGBTQIA+ rainbow colours on the front wing endplates.
PHOTO CREDIT: Maserati MSG Racing
We currently live in a world that that is very decisive, and lacks inclusion, but something that sets the Maserati MSG Racing’s livery apart is their aim to send a message worldwide about equality, diversity and inclusion, and this has been done with the inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ rainbow on the front wing endplate. 

“It's a strong message that the Maserati MSG Racing team wants to continue to, to push forward equality, diversity and inclusion. So, that is why the flag was put on the front wing endplates. It seems like a relevant positioning for that kind of visibility,” he explained. 

When conceptualizing the design of a racing cars livery, elegance, uniqueness and brand visibility are all important elements that need to be taken into account, but how much work actually goes into the design process – months, weeks or days? 

PHOTO CREDIT: Maserati MSG Racing
The Head of Maserati Course, explains the process: “Well, the car was designed by Maserati's Centro Stile, and I don't remember exactly how many weeks we took to design it, but there is a lot of back and forth. There's a lot of concepts, there's a lot of brainstorming, there's a lot of ideas that we want to put forward. You want to change small tweaks, big tweaks, a lot of different things. And so I think that it does take some time, but it's worth it because then when you put the car on track, you also have to design the car based on the visibility that it has on the track. You want to really accentuate not only the base colours, but you also want to accentuate the partners who are part of the team.”

Together with the design of a livery, comes the important placement of partner/sponsor logo’s. These logo placements allow the for more brand awareness and exposure, which helps grow a brands popularity, and funds the team(s). But, just how does a team decide on these placements? 

“That's also part of a design because you don't want to just put them anywhere. You want to make sure that there's a good flow to the car. And that's why the car looks the way it does. I'm biased, but obviously I think the car looks beautiful,” Sgro said. “The simplicity of it is the beauty of this car. And, I personally think that less is more. We did a really great job of making the car look luxurious.”

Slipstream SA would like to thank Elza Smit (Maserati South Africa) and Giovanni Sgro (Head of Maserati Corse) for their assistance in the compilation of this special feature story. 

Wednesday 1 March 2023

The FIA say “once duly validated” only then will new Gen3 mirrors get introduced to improve rear-view visibility.

PHOTO CREDIT: ABB FIA Formula E World Championship
AUTHOR: Junaid Samodien

Season nine of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship has seen the arrival of a new-era, Gen3. The new Generation 3 car is a totally new concept, with more power, it's lightweight and uses new Hankook tires, but despite it being a state of the art racing machine there are of course of some issues that need to be addressed. One such issue, is the rear-view mirror visibility, which has become a talking point since the season’s pre-season test in Valencia last December (2022). 

The visibility issue(s) has been a talking point, but recently reared it’s head at the Cape Town E-Prix last week, when two-time Formula E Champion Jean-Eric Vergne (JEV) said he could not see Antonio Felix da Costa fighting from behind for race victory. 

The on-track battle between Vergne and former team-mate, now rival, Da Costa was an electrifying affair. Whilst leading the TAG Heuer Porsche driver missed a strategic Attack Mode sensor, which saw him drop behind JEV. But, with just two laps remaining Da Costa saw his opportunity and pounced. 

The Portuguese driver pulled off a ballsy over-under overtake, which meant he initially placed the car on the outside of Vergne before quickly switching direction to the left, and forcing he’s way alongside to claim the race lead. He then hung on to win the race, and whilst it was pure joy and elation for him. Vergne on the other hand was disappointed and frustrated because he couldn’t see his rival behind. 

“I am just a bit frustrated because I genuinely didn’t see him [Antonio Felix Da Costa] coming. I think it’s been four or five races that we have been complaining about these mirrors, but nothing has changed or been done, and we simply can’t see anything. So, I really hope that they can introduce new mirrors very soon because it’s very dangerous. In Free Practice, you can impede a lot of drivers because you don’t see them, and it’s the same situation in the race,” Vergne said. 

Note the rear-view mirrors of the Antonio Felix Da Costa's TAG Heuer Porsche.
PHOTO CREDIT: Slipstream SA/Junaid Samodien 
And, whilst Vergne was disappointed about the visibility issues when fighting for the race victory, the FIA Technical Regulations (for 2022-23) under Safety Equipment states that a “driver shall be required to identify any letter or number, 150 mm high and 100 mm wide, placed anywhere on boards behind the car, the positions of which are detailed has below: Height: From 400 mm to 1100 mm from the ground. Width: 2000 mm either side of the centre line of the car. Position: 10 m behind the rear axle line of the car.”

This intern means that the initial idea around the rear-view mirror visibility is correct, however, the actual design could be the issue. 

The FIA adds in their technical regulations that teams are allowed to place cameras in the mirrors, with a rear-view display on the steering wheels (teams are yet to adopt this approach).

But the question remains, can the drivers' expect a reaction from the FIA regarding the visibility issues, and is there a solution in the works? Slipstream SA caught up with the FIA’s Formula E media delegate, √Čric Bellegarde to find out. 

“This [the mirrors] is something we are working on and updated mirrors will be introduced once duly validated,” Bellegarde said.