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, Éric Bellegarde to find out. 

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

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