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Formula E

Software update causes bizarre start to Formula E's Shanghai debut

by Sam Smith
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula E’s first track action at the Shanghai International Circuit was delayed in bizarre circumstances on Friday when five cars stopped on track early in practice one due to a suspected spec RESS battery software update issue.

Dan Ticktum, Pascal Wehrlein, Nyck de Vries, Antonio Felix da Costa and Sergio Sette Camara all pulled off the track after losing power on their cars just a few minutes into the 30-minute session on a truncated version of the Formula 1 circuit in China.

The issue, which triggered a 45-minute red flag period, is suspected to be related to a software update on all cars that was mandated between the last time the cars ran in Berlin two weeks ago and the first Shanghai session.

The specifics of the control’s software, some of which is integrated into the software packages run by teams themselves, are currently unknown but the updates were administered by the spec RESS supplier the Fortescue WAE company.

After the session was red flagged changes were made to the software on the cars and the session resumed for the full 25 minutes that was left with all cars running without issue.

It is unclear if the issues are related to measures that were put into place ahead of the brace of Berlin E-Prixs earlier this month. That was when the Attack Mode duration was cut back from eight minutes to six minutes for the first race and then just four minutes for the second.

This reduced the time cars were at the 350kW maximum output, which is the same conditions used in the qualifying duels. This was a precautionary measure to help protect the batteries through their duty cycle with four successive double-header races completing the present season from Berlin through to the London finale in mid-July.

For Shanghai this weekend both races still have a reduced six minutes of the 350kW boosted power in the race divided into two hits of either 2+4mins, 3+3mins or 4+2mins  denominations.

Andretti team principal Roger Griffiths reckoned that the updated software that was completed at the Shanghai track on Thursday was the likely cause of the session stopping problems.

“Given that the problem appears to affect multiple cars up and down the paddock, different manufacturers, we have to look at what are the common parts on the car,” Griffiths told Formula E’s own TV feed.

“It appears that all of the cars have stopped with some kind of battery or RESS issue. We do know that there was a software update between Berlin and coming here.

“When we arrived here, the WAE engineers were updating the cars. So I suspect that something's gone astray in that software update. Or maybe there's a bug in it.”

ERT driver Ticktum said that he suspected it was “some kind of WAE issue” and that he thought “other cars had it” as well as the five that came to a halt “but it wasn't critical to the point where they stopped”.

“But obviously, if we've got braking issues, or the car's not stopping, then it's dangerous, so they need to figure out what the issue is,” he added.

Jaguar’s Mitch Evans ended the disrupted session on top of the times, setting a 1m13.215s lap to head Andretti’s Norman Nato, DS Penske’s Jean-Eric Vergne, McLaren’s Jake Hughes and Nissan’s Oliver Rowland. The five were covered by just 0.072s.

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