Formula E wrapped up its second season just a few weeks ago, but teams are already knee-deep in testing for season three, which starts this October in Hong Kong. Today they were at the Autodromo Riccardo Paletti in Italy, and the official Snapchat account of the all-electric racing series showed off some brief glimpses of a pretty big aesthetic change apparently coming to the cars next season: a totally futuristic-looking front wing.
In the first two seasons, Formula E cars had rather typical-looking front bodywork, with one wing close to the ground and aerodynamic fairings in front of each wheel. The new nose, which was seen today on one of the Renault team cars, is biplane style, meaning there’s a second wing on top. Judging from the photo on Snapchat, it also looks an awful lot like the front of the cars of Roborace, the autonomous racing series that is supposed to start racing alongside Formula E sometime next season.
Despite its radical look, the new wing won’t add any significant aerodynamic performance to the cars, according to reports from earlier this year. "It won’t really affect the aero," a source told Current E, a leading Formula E publication, back in May. "Organisers want the car to look a bit more different. They’re looking at those F1 concepts and thinking how we can make the car stand out more." Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag and FIA president Jean Todt also hinted at this to Autosport in March.
No aero benefit, but it certainly makes them look faster
But just because there might not be a performance benefit doesn’t mean it won’t affect the racing. The first two seasons of Formula E featured a lot of contact for an open-wheel series, mostly because the drivers are racing relatively similar cars on tight street circuits. A side effect of this was that the wheel fairings on the old front wing would often come loose or even get knocked all the way off.
In Berlin, race directors ordered Virgin driver Sam Bird to pit because his right front fairing got knocked loose, effectively ending his chance at a win and putting him out of reach of the drivers’ championship. The same thing nearly happened to Lucas di Grassi during the second-to-last race of the season in London. Di Grassi, then the championship leader, was fighting hard to keep his points lead when he broke the same right front fairing after making contact with another car. (He was allowed to continue racing because the piece came completely off a lap later.)
The new front wing looks like it would mitigate this problem for the next few seasons until the series adopts an entirely new chassis in season five.