Mitch Evans is concerned about the quality of fairness of the current qualifying format for Formula E.
The 27-year-old from Auckland, New Zealand has enjoyed a strong season to date with three podiums through nine races. As it stands, he sits fifth in the championship — 12 points behind leader Eduardo Mortara — with only six races remaining in the 2020/21 calendar.
However, the Jaguar Racing driver remains frustrated that he has yet to stand on the top step of the podium, a box he hopes to check at this weekend’s doubleheader races in the New York City E-Prix.
“Yeah, It’s been a strong season so far, but it’s been difficult at the same time because with the qualifying format, it makes it tricky to start in a good position,” Evans told RACER. “To have three podiums so far is satisfying, but I really need a win. To do that while in Group 1 is very difficult.”
The qualifying format separates the 24-car field, with the top six in the championship going out in Group 1, followed by the next six for Group 2, then 13-18 for Group 3 and then finally, 19-24 for Group 4.
“What we’ve found over the last year is there is a big disadvantage being in Group 1 because from the last practice session to qualifying, there is a few hours between and in that space, you have stuff getting on the track,” said Evans, who has two wins and nine podiums in 57 career starts in the all-electric series. “In New York, we have a lot of dust from a lot of factories and such around here. Some other tracks there’s a lot of leaves and dust. Basically, that first group is almost like a vacuum cleaner for the rest of the groups to clean up the racing line. From track to track it changes.”
The drivers going out in Group 1 could potentially lose anywhere between 0.2s to 1.5s compared to those in other groups. Simply put, it could be the difference between a good starting spot, or even a chance at Super Pole shootout — the one-lap run that features only the overall top six drivers from the group qualifying bout.
“Sometimes you lose maybe two or three tenths (of a second), but that’s enough to not make it through to the Super Pole or a good starting position,” Evans said. “Sometimes it’s more like 1 to 1.5s. It does very much vary, but it makes it very tough if you’re in the first group to advance through the Super Pole or at least start in a good position. So, a lot of the times the guys in the top six in the championship are starting at least mid-pack, maybe towards the rear of the field because of the structure. And it’s done like that purposefully to keep the championship much tighter and give people in the back of the championship a chance to start well and try and get good results in the race.
“Since I’ve been in Group 1 for the last two seasons, basically, it’s made getting race wins quite difficult because I’m always trying to recover from a compromised starting position. It’s a big talking point at the moment to maybe change the format for coming seasons, but for the time being, it is what it is and we have to try and obviously maximize it.”
So what’s the solution for a more level playing field?
“There’s been a few ideas out there that have floated around, something that’s a little more fair,” Evans said. “But, it’s a bit tricky because we qualify on a higher power (level) than what we race on, so we only get one lap. So, to get a format that works with every track and a bit different to what we’ve got right now, it’s quite difficult. Hopefully in the next few months, we’ll start to see some changes. I don’t really mind what the format is as long as it’s fair for the guys at the front of the championship.”