Driver’s view: Why Formula E has got it wrong on the minimum pitstop time rule
By now you probably know that Formula E is pretty good at creating amazing racing and some interesting stories off the track too.
At the last race in Punta del Este, Uruguay, our new pitstop format got headlines when Daniel Abt, one of the drivers at the Audi team, had to pit from third because his seatbelt came completely unbuckled in the car during the race.
In case you don’t know, since the start of Formule E we have had a minimum pitstop time at each race for the car changeover to ensure driver and team safety. At the Santiago race in January this year the rules were changed, eliminating the minimum pitstop time and making it a race in the pits to change cars, get re-buckled and get out on track again.
At Panasonic Jaguar Racing, the team has done a lot of work to ensure that the new rules don’t negatively impact on the driver and mechanic safety and we all work hard at every race in pitstop practice to make sure we are competitive and safe.
My personal opinion is that I can see the reasons why they’ve done it and to an extent agree but, looking at the picture overall, I believe it’s an unnecessary change.
Previously, we were seeing very few mistakes in the pitstops. By removing the pitstop time, it has created another variable to contribute towards race results that will look to be optimised by teams. It’s another item that you have to get right and do better than everyone else. We are all here to be competitive so it’s an interesting element.
On the downside, there are a lot of grey areas and they are trying to control something that is very hard to control. What that means, inevitably, is some people are taking advantage of that. It’s difficult to ask people to follow the rules when it’s already difficult to control.
The Formula E cars are not made to do quick pitstops, so this means that there is an added risk for half a season and people are going out with loose belts, which isn’t great. As a championship we also try to be efficient all around and teams have had to buy equipment and develop pitstop solutions for just half a season.
As we move ever closer to the use of the Gen2 Formula E car for season 5, which will see one car last the whole race distance, personally I just feel it’s all a bit unnecessary for half a season.