Interview: Jérôme D’Ambrosio
Paris is possibly one of the most beautiful backdrops for the FIA Formula E Paris ePrix, set on a street racing circuit around Les Invalides. The crowd love the sport too, which set a great atmosphere for a weekend of great weather and nail-biting racing.
On Friday I managed to catch up with Belgian driver Jérôme D’Ambrosio to talk about electric racing, driving techniques and advice for students who want to get involved in Formula E.
Jérôme, who came to Formula E from Formula Renault and Formula 1, was the only driver to complete every single race in the first season of Formula E. He is currently driving for Faraday Future Dragon Racing alongside Loic Duval, although this weekend Loic was replaced by Mike Conway as he was driving in DTM for Audi.
How does driving in an electric series compare to driving in Formula 1 or another traditional series?
JDA: The main difference when you come from Formula 1 to Formula E is the first time you sit in the car and you turn on the motor and obviously there is no noise, nothing. Well, actually there are subtle noises that you learn to identify later on, but you get out of the box and you don’t hear your engine. You have different references, which are all new, such as wind, gearbox, tyres. These are all things that you never heard in a Formula 1 car or in a conventional (combustion engine) racing car.
In the end you very quickly adapt. All these references become what you are used to- this is now what I am used to, so if I turn on a race car with a combustion engine it feels weird. So you get used to everything and it’s actually refreshing. You do a test day or a race and you don’t have this headache at the end of it because you’re in such a noisy environment, so that’s quite nice.
In terms of driving the car in itself, it’s a race car. Same with a road car, the electric car drives the same way as any other car. I would say that the electric motor response is much better than a combustion engine response because the power is always there.
So in qualifying you just push the car to its limits and then in the race you have to manage the energy. There are some concepts that you learn that you actually could apply to a combustion engine car, but you just never thought of it because it’s not so important, where for us it is. For example, watch out for your minimum speeds because if you lower your minimum speed in the corner you will consume more energy. Also naturally you want to delay power, because you feel like that will help you to consume less, but actually it’s the opposite of what you should be doing. So there are a couple of tricks like this that are not first nature, but for me, they have become that way after three years.
Are there any techniques you use driving a Formula E car that you would recommend for road car drivers?
JDA: Everything I have said also applies to road cars, such as understanding your energy consumption. It’s that balance that you have to find.
In a combustion car, fuel is energy- just a different type of energy- so make sure you are aware that every time you brake, energy is lost in the brake. Better to lift off and let the car roll. In the end ultimately, if you get to a red light for example, 100 metres from the red light you can lift off and let the car slow down and use the brakes a little bit at the end. Or you could leave it to the last 50 metres and just use your brakes. In terms of time it’s a red light, so time is exactly the same, but you consume much more if you brake at 50.
What would be your advice for students wanting to get involved in Formula E?
JDA: If a student wanted to get into motorsport or Formula E I would suggest for them to work in engineering, marketing, media, or the business side of the sport. Obviously if you want to be a driver you start when you’re seven or eight years old in a go-kart and move up the ladder. But there are plenty of engineers needed here.
It’s a new technology and it’s the future, so the development is quite an important aspect of it, so it’s important and exciting for engineers to be involved in.
Thanks to Jérôme D’Ambrosio and the team at Faraday Future Dragon Racing
Author: Beth Lily Georgiou