Renault Leads The Way As Motorsport Enters A New Era


September 11, 2014 By Mike Lee
Last updated on August 6, 2015

On 13th September, motorsport will enter a new era with the first ever FIA Formula-e race, staged in China on the streets of Beijing. Contested in 200kW (270hp) electric single-seater race cars, this championship is set to provide an important framework for research and development into “zero-emissions” vehicles. Highly committed to electric vehicles with its Z.E. range, Renault provided its expertise in the design of the Spark-Renault SRT_01E, the car that will be used by the ten teams competing in the championship. Renault is equally the title partner of the e.dams team set up by Alain Prost and Jean-Paul Driot. Sébastien Buemi and Nicolas Prost are the drivers tasked with competing on behalf of e.dams-Renault during the ten rounds of the inaugural season of the FIA Formula-e championship. 

THREE QUESTIONS FOR… PATRICE RATTI

MANAGING DIRECTOR OF RENAULT SPORT TECHNOLOGIES 

From Formula 1 to the World Series by Renault, Renault is already heavily involved in motorsport. What persuaded you to invest in this FIA Formula-e championship?

“The fact that we are already involved many different competitions is the very reason we are interested in Formula-e. For Renault, it was obvious that we had to be a part of this new venture. This is a unique and highly innovative experience, which is set to give motorsport a totally new look. This new direction is entirely in keeping with the development of the all-electric Renault Z.E. range, which already features four models.” 

How did the engineers from Renaultsport and the other entities involved in designing the race car work together?

“I think it’s fair to say that Spark-Renault SRT_01E was a joint effort. Renault, Dallara, McLaren, Williams and Michelin: it’s very significant that so many big names from the world of motorsport have all worked together on a project that is most definitely geared towards the future. All the engineers and technicians were very enthusiastic and excited during the creation of the car. Everybody strived, in their specialist area, to improve the slightest detail in order to provide the teams with reliable and quick race cars for the very first race. However, our work is not yet done: we will be on hand at all of the races to provide the teams and drivers with the same kind of technical assistance we offer at the championships we organise.” 

Renault is one of the five founding partners and is the technical partner of the Formula-e championship, but it is also the title partner for the e.dams-Renault team…

“Yes, we wanted to show our commitment to the new championship and benefit from some additional media coverage. Once again, it seemed obvious that we should join forces with Alain Prost and Jean-Paul Driot’s team. Alain Prost has a long, shared history with Renault and is also ambassador for the Brand. The competitive records of these two greats speak for themselves, and we know that they will do everything in their power to ensure e.dams-Renault does well. The performances of Sébastien Buemi and Nicolas Prost during recent tests were also very encouraging.” 

01
FIA FORMULA-E CHAMPIONSHIP:
VENTURING INTO A NEW WORLD

02
SPARK-RENAULT SRT_01E: A SINGLE-SEATER
DESIGNED WITH RENAULTSPORT EXPERTISE

03
E.DAMS-RENAULT FORMULA-E TEAM:
RENAULT ENTERS THE COMPETITION!

04
TIMELINE 

01

FIA FORMULA-E CHAMPIONSHIP: VENTURING INTO A NEW WORLD

In all areas, the FIA Formula-e championship breaks new ground. Race cars, teams, circuits and sporting format: everything is new in this competition, which is based on three core values: Energy, Environment and Entertainment.

Formula E 4

AN INNOVATIVE, REVOLUTIONARY PROJECT 

As early as 2011, the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) stated its desire to see a fully-electric racing series. In line with the challenges facing the motor industry, the championship is expected to serve as a framework for research, whilst also driving interest among the general public in electric cars and promoting sustainability.

Combining engineering, technology, sport, science, music and entertainment, the plans of Alejandro Agag – the Spanish businessman already involved in motorsport – were approved by the FIA on 27th August 2012. The championship promoter then entrusted Spark Racing Technology with the job of designing and building the first forty Formula E single-seater race cars. Among the technical partners involved in this venture, Renault played a central role in becoming the architect of the electric powertrain (see part 2).

AN URBAN, GLOBAL RACE CALENDAR 

The vast majority of electric vehicles are currently driven in cities. The same will apply to Formula-e races, which will be held at ten city-centre circuits, on the streets of some of the planet’s greatest cities. Starting in September and concluding in June of the following year, the race calendar complements that of F1 and the World Series by Renault. 

13/09/2014 Beijing China
22/11/2014 Putrajaya Malaysia
13/12/2014 Punta del Este Uruguay
10/01/2015 Buenos Aires Argentina
14/02/2014 To be announced
14/03/2015 Miami USA
04/04/2015 Los Angeles USA
09/05/2015 Monaco Principality of Monaco
30/05/2015 Berlin Germany
27/06/2015 London United Kingdom

10 TEAMS, 20 DRIVERS AND 40 RACE CARS

The FIA Formula-e championship is open to ten teams, each with two cars. A very high quality field is set to contest the inaugural season, since ten of the ten of the confirmed drivers have already competed in Formula 1 at some stage of their career. At the meetings, the drivers will all have two single-seater race cars that they may use as they see fit. The races will feature one mandatory change of car. 

AN INNOVATIVE RACE FORMAT

Each meeting will use the same organisation. All rounds will be one-day events, ensuring disruption is limited for the host city and local residents, whilst also keeping running costs down for the teams. There will be no shortage of action for fans, and the low noise levels of the cars means that it will even be possible to organise concerts during the races!

In the morning, two practice sessions will give the drivers and teams time to familiarise themselves with the layout of the circuit and to fine-tune their set-ups. Just after midday, qualifying will be split into four ten-minute sessions, with five cars challenging for pole position in each group.

The race – or ePrix – will last around an hour, with a mandatory pit stop to change cars for each driver. Unlike practice and qualifying, where full power will be available (200kW – 270hp), power will be restricted in the races to 150kW (202hp). The three most popular drivers with online fans will be rewarded with a FanBoost (180kW for five seconds).

Points will be awarded to the top ten finishers using the standard FIA scale (25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 and 1 points). The driver that takes pole position will be given three bonus points and the driver that sets the fastest race lap will earn two points. The title of Drivers’ World Champion will be awarded to whoever has the most points at the end of the season, with drivers able to discard their poorest result. The Constructors’ World Championship will be decided by counting all results for both cars. 

02

SPARK-RENAULT SRT_01E: A SINGLE-SEATER DESIGNED WITH RENAULT SPORT EXPERTISE 

Specifically developed for the FIA Formula E championship, the Spark-Renault SRT_01E is packed with the technical expertise of some of the greatest names in motorsport. The car’s electric powertrain architecture, its systems integration, powertrain electrical safety and performance optimisation have all been provided by Renaultsport engineers. 

Formula E 1

A CLEAR-CUT CHOICE FOR RENAULT 

Officially confirmed on 15th May 2013, the partnership between Renault, Formula E Holdings and Spark Racing Technologies was a real ‘no brainer’ for the manufacturer, a market leader in the field of zero-emissions cars. With a range of three Z.E. vehicles already on sale, Renault grabbed the opportunity to demonstrate the excellence and reliability of its solutions.  The FIA Formula E championship also serves as a unique technological laboratory.

PROJECT ARCHITECT ROLE 

With its experience of working in the design, development and marketing of sports and racing cars, Renaultsport was the partner most suited to taking on the job of managing the project. The team formed for the design phase featured experts from Renaultsport. Since KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) first appeared in the F1 world championship in 2009, and then with the switch to the 2014 Power Unit, Renault has acquired unique know-how in energy recovery and usage systems. The teams based at Viry-Châtillon also have suitable measurement, analysis and simulation equipment.

Like all vehicles designed for single-seater racing, the Spark-Renault SRT_01E features components chosen for their performance level, cost and coherence. Throughout the development phase, the architect must therefore make sure the initial specifications are complied with. 

“The development of the Spark-Renault SRT_01E was very much a question of technological exploration. For the time being, there are very few experts in the field of high-performance electric engines. Furthermore, there were other essential issues to contend with, such as safety, weight, and cost. The battery illustrates the complexity involved very clearly: this seemingly ordinary product is actually made up of over 4,000 parts! The overall unit is incredibly dense, since only 2% of the 300-litre volume is air. This very sensitive component nonetheless had to be perfectly protected in the event of an accident. This challenge, like all the others we faced, was met. As one of Formula-e’s Founding Partners, Renault provided its know-how and is already reaping the rewards from a technological perspective, benefits that will one day be seen on vehicles in the Z.E. range.”

Christophe Chapelain, Renault Sport Technologies Technical Manager 

SOME OF THE GREATEST NAMES IN MOTORSPORT WORKING TOGETHER 

As the development of a totally new kind of single-seater represented a major technological challenge, Formula-E Holdings and Spark Racing Technologies joined forces with some of the greatest names in motorsport for the project:

–      Spark Racing Technology – The company founded by Frédéric Vasseur managed the mechanical design (suspension and aerodynamics) and assembly of the 40 cars.

–      Dallara – The Italian firm provided the monocoque carbon-fibre and honeycomb chassis compliant with the FIA’s F1 2014 safety standards.

–      Renaultsport – Architect of the electric powertrain, the manufacturer also managed systems integration, powertrain electrical safety and performance optimisation for the car.

–      McLaren Electronic Systems – Coupled with a Hewland five-speed paddle shift sequential gearbox, the electric motor and inverter are derived from the supercar P1.

–      Williams Advanced Engineering – The engineering subsidiary of Williams Group designed and built the batteries, as well as their electronic management system.

–      Michelin – The tyre manufacturer developed bespoke 18’’ treaded tyres for use on both wet and dry tracks. 

SAFETY AS THE PRIORITY 

Given that the series will be held on street circuits, Formula-e must push back the boundaries in terms of safety. For example, the bodywork has been designed to avoid the cars from being lifted up if the wheels get tangled.

Renault’s road safety experts also provided their knowledge in dealing with extreme situations, such as battery immersion or fire. This highly advanced information will enable the training of officials and stewards to be adapted to the requirements of this new form of motorsport.  

TECHNICAL SUPPORT FOR THE COMPETING TEAMS 

In addition to its role in the design and development of the race car, Renault Sport Technologies will be supporting the teams in running their Spark-Renault SRT_01Es. The engineer Roberto Dlacic will be at all of the FIA Formula-e test sessions and meetings, compiling and summarising technical data for the competitors, with a view to continuous improvement. 

03

E.DAMS-RENAULT FORMULA-E TEAM: RENAULT ENTERS THE COMPETITION 

Longstanding motorsport enthusiasts, the Renaultsport teams were not content to just count the points! Renault therefore decided to join forces with one of the ten teams taking part and enter the competition. With Sébastien Buemi and Nicolas Prost as drivers, the e.dams-Renault team looks set to be one of the leading contenders in the 2014-2015 season! 

Formula E 5

THE ONLY FRENCH TEAM COMPETING IN THE FIA FORMULA E CHAMPIONSHIP 

Jean-Paul Driot and Alain Prost announced they were joining forces to form e.dams on 24th October 2013. Created specifically for the FIA Formula-e championship, this new team is supported by the logistics and technical facilities of the Dams, the outfit founded by Jean-Paul Driot and René Arnoux in 1988 and holder of some eleven international single-seater titles.

In June of last year, Renault took another step in its involvement in the championship by becoming title partner for the only French team competing in the competition. This investment enables the Brand to be involved in the competition itself and to accumulate precious experience in tandem with one of the championship’s standout teams.

“The partnership with the e.dams-Renault team will enable Renaultsport to become even more involved in the Formula-e championship. This will be a unique experience and is set to give motorsport a totally new look. Renault is proud to be one of the pioneers in this new venture and to set itself a new challenge. The experience and track record of Alain and Jean-Paul make them very high-quality partners, who we also know very well. The partnership with e.dams-Renault is central to our commitment and development in Formula-e.

We are also very pleased with the work done with Spark on the Spark-Renault race car that will be used by all of the teams in this inaugural season and we will continue to help Spark to ensure we provide the teams with the best possible technical support.”
Patrice Ratti, Managing Director of Renault Sport Technologies 

“We are very pleased to join forces with Renault on this new venture. Choosing Renault as a lead partner was perfectly logical for e.dams, given the Brand’s exceptional competitive record in motorsport, as well as its unique expertise in electric vehicles. On a personal level, I am especially enthusiastic about the idea of working with Renault again on such a major, ambitious sporting project and writing a new chapter in our shared history. It is going to be a considerable challenge, because it’s a totally new championship, both in terms of the technology of the single-seaters and actual race format. It’s very exciting!”
Alain Prost, Renault Ambassador and co-founder of e.dams 

“Renault was clearly the ideal partner for us to compete alongside in this brand new championship and therefore combine our expertise. The Dams team, given the exceptional competitive record it has built up since it was formed 26 years ago, can support a partner that has more than proven itself in the world of motorsport and in the field of electric vehicles. It is worth remembering that Dams is also competing in the World Series By Renault; our shared history continues with the creation of the e.dams Renault team.”
Jean-Paul Driot, co-founder of e.dams 

A TEAM READY FOR THE OPENING ROUND OF THE SEASON! 

Organised throughout July and August, five test days enabled the drivers, engineers and mechanics to get used to their cars. The test sessions were held at the Donington racetrack, close to the facilities dedicated to Formula-e Holdings and the ten teams competing.

The e.dams-Renault has already caused a sensation, since Sébastien Buemi set the fastest time on four of the five days. On 19th August, the final session before the single-seaters make their competitive debut in China, Buemi and Nicolas Prost even recorded a one-two! 

NICOLAS PROST 

Although he is the son of the four-time Formula 1 world champion, Nicolas Prost was only allowed to start competing in motorsport events once he had finished his studies! Without going into karting, he swapped playing golf for Formula Renault Campus in 2003. His pursued his single-seater career in Formula Renault 2.0, Formula Renault 3.5 Series, Spanish F3, Euroseries 3000 – that he won in 2008 – and A1GP. In 2009, he switched to endurance racing, becoming a key member of the Rebellion Racing team. In 2012 and 2014, he finished fourth overall in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He is also a development driver for the Lotus F1 Team.

Nicolas Prost will equally remain the first winner of a zero-emissions championship, as he won the first two editions of the electric Andros Trophy! 

–      Born on 18/08/1981 in Saint-Chamond, France

–      Lives in Fechy, Switzerland 

–      2014: currently 3rd in the World Endurance Championship

–      2013: 6th in the World Endurance Championship

–      2012: 4th in the World Endurance Championship

–      2011: 1st in the Le Mans Series and 1st in the Electric Andros Trophy

–      2010: 5th in the FIA GT1 championship and 1st in the Electric Andros Trophy

–      2009: 5th in the A1GP and 5thin the Le Mans Series

–      2008: 1st in the Euroseries 3000

–      2007: 3rd in the Spanish F3 championship

–      2006: 4th in the Spanish F3 championship

–      2005: 10th in the French Formula Renault Championship

–      2004: 18th in the French Formula Renault Championship

–      2003: 10th in the French Formula Renault Campus Championship

SÉBASTIEN BUEMI 

Sébastien Buemi moved into single-seater racing after a brilliant career in karting. His rivals at the time included a certain Sebastian Vettel. After an initial test in F1 at just 15 years old, he cut his teeth in Formula Renault 2.0 and F3 Euro Series, as well as in GP2. Guided by the Red Bull Junior Team, he made his F1 debut in 2009. In the Toro Rosso, he scored his first points in his first ever Grand Prix! After three seasons at the top of the sport, he remained a part of the Red Bull family by becoming their reserve driver.

He has been developing his turn of speed in Endurance since 2013. Runner-up at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his first appearance, Sébastien Buemi is the current leader of the FIA WEC. 

–      Born on 31/10/1988 in Aigle, Switzerland

–      Lives in Monaco 

–      2014: currently 1st in the World Endurance Championship

–      2013: 3rd in the World Endurance Championship

–      2012: Red Bull Racing reserve driver

–      2011: 15th in the Formula 1 World Championship

–      2010: 16th in the Formula 1 World Championship

–      2009: 16th in the Formula 1 World Championship

–      2008: 6th in the GP2 Series and 2nd in the GP2 Asia

–      2007: 2nd in the F3 Euro Series

–      2006: 12th in the F3 Euro Series

–      2005: 2nd in the Formula BMW ADAC

–      2004: 3rd in the Formula BMW ADAC

04

TIMELINE 

July 2011 The FIA launch an application process to organise an electric race car championship
7th December 2011 Formula E championship officially confirmed
27th August 2012 Agreement signed between the FIA and Formula-e Holdings
November 2012 Agreement signed between Formula-e Holdings and Spark Racing Technology
15th May 2013 Partnership signed between Formula-e Holdings, Spark and Renault
10h September 2013 The Spark-Renault SRT_01E is unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show (Germany)
24th October 2013 Creation of the team e.dams
20h November 2013 Initial tests of the Spark-Renault SRT_01E at La Ferté Gaucher (France)
6th January 2014 Public demonstration of the Spark-Renault SRT01_E in Las Vegas (USA)
16th May 2014 Delivery of the first ten race cars to the teams
30th June 2014  Presentation of the e.dams-Renault team
3-4th July 2014 Collective testing at Donington (United Kingdom)
9-10th July 2014 Collective testing at Donington
22nd July 2014 Delivery of the final ten race cars to the teams
19th August 2014 Collective testing at Donington
13th September 2014 Opening round of the FIA Formula-e championship in Beijing (China)