London’s ePrix track is no walk in the park

It’s a grand racing finale in the heart of London which is set to draw the crowds throughout the weekend

The eagerly anticipated Formula E finale takes place over two days in London this weekend, marking the end of a 40-year hiatus for motor racing in the city.

The race is being staged alongside the Thames in Battersea Park, in the shadow of the iconic Battersea Power Station and just a short walk from the designer shops of stylish Sloane Square. More than 40,000 people are expected to attend over the two days.

Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag says: “Ticket sales have gone through the roof – it means thousands of people are looking forward to this great event.”

A tour of the Formula E race track
Journalists are led around London’s Formula E track on electric bicycles

Given the challenges drivers will face on this unique track, mastering it will be no walk in the park. But winning the London ePrix is a top prize. Dragon Racing driver and Berlin ePrix winner Belgian Jérôme D’Ambrosio recently led journalists through Battersea Park on state-of-the-art electric bicycles for the official unveiling of the track.

Here’s D’Ambrosio and Mahindra Racing driver Karun Chandhok’s turn-by-turn view of the circuit designed by Simon Gibbons:

TURN 1

The start-finish straight of the 17-turn 2.922km anti-clockwise circuit runs parallel to the River Thames, zipping past the Buddhist Peace Pagoda. A major feature of the first turn, and indeed most of the circuit, is the severe camber – the difference in height between the two sides of the road.

Buddhist Peace Pagoda, Battersea Park
The first turn of London’s Formula E track passes the Buddhist Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park

D’Ambrosio says: “The camber is going to be a big challenge for sure. It is the most severe camber I’ve seen on any track so far this season, so it will be interesting to see how we all maintain stability in the cars. We will run the cars higher than usual to stop the floor touching the road and to make sure that, when we hit the brakes, all four wheels are on the ground. Also, I think there could be a lot of safety cars.”

The park’s lanes will be very narrow once crash barriers are installed, making overtaking on many parts of the track difficult if not impossible. A good qualifying run to ensure a high starting position is therefore critical.

Formula E’s qualifying format involves four sessions with five drivers in each group. “I hope I’m not in the first qualifying group as I think there are going to be a lot of leaves on the track,” D’Ambrosio says. “And I think we’ll need to use our clear visors because of the shade caused by the trees.”

TURNS 2-3

A slight kink to the left takes us through turn 2 before we encounter turn 3, a 90-degree left-hander leading into a straight running parallel to Albert Bridge Road. “I think turn 3 could be a good overtaking spot,” says D’Ambrosio, although this depends how the chicanes are laid out. This corner is home to the Prince Albert, a traditional pub and a local landmark.

TURNS 4-7

Turns 4-5 and turns 6-7 are a series of quick left-right and right-left turns with a short narrow straight between them. “You have to judge the braking zone correctly to avoid losing momentum through these corners,” says Chandhok. “The area to the left of the track could actually be a good spot to watch the race from as it is slightly raised.”

TURN 8

This is a 90-degree left turn around a roundabout. There is hardly any shade from trees at this corner so drivers will be happy to have a clear view as they exit this corner. Not far from this part of the park is London’s only licensed Heliport which provides a vertical gateway to London for VIP race goers this weekend.

TURNS 9-12

Exiting turn 8 leads to another straight broken up by another pair of quick right-left and left-right turns. This back straight runs parallel to exclusive Victorian apartment blocks on Prince of Wales Drive, where a three-bedroom flat was recently on sale for £1.5 million. “Residents of these apartments will have a great view of the track,” says Chandhok.

TURN 13

This is a long, sweeping left-hand turn which drivers are likely to be taking flat out. The chimneys of Battersea Power Station come into their view as they approach turn 14.

TURNS 14-16

“Another overtaking opportunity will be at turns 14 to 15 before going into the pits,” D’Ambrosio says. With limited chances to pass during the course of a lap, these three turns may be the most important of the season and could decide the result of the championship.

TURN 17

A short straight leads out of turn 16 down to the final left-hander to complete the circuit and return on to the start-finish straight.

The weather could also play a big role in the race. “Don’t mention rain – we’ve not had a single drop of rain at any of the ePrix so far,” D’Ambrosio says.

TIMETABLE

Saturday June 27

7.00 Gates open

8.15 Practice 1

9.30 Formula E School Series – Practice/Qualifying

10.30 Practice 2

12.00 Qualifying Session Group 1

12.15 Qualifying Session Group 2

12.30 Qualifying Session Group 3

12.45 Qualifying Session Group 4

14.10 Formula E School Series – Race

15.23 Pit lane opens

15.50 FanBoost

16.00 Race 1 (29 laps)

18.00 Gates close

Sunday June 28

7.00 Gates open

8.15 Practice 3

10.30 Practice 2

12.00 Qualifying Session Group 1

12.15 Qualifying Session Group 2

12.30 Qualifying Session Group 3

12.45 Qualifying Session Group 4

15.23 Pit lane opens

16.00 Race 2 (29 laps)

18.00 Gates close

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