Formula E, by its very nature, is a championship that has captured the world’s imagination not just with its technological brilliance, but also its incredible racing standards every season. It’s these epic battles that the series is looking to be emulate in the 2021 Formula E: Accelerate season – a celebration of Formula E in sim racing guise, complete with all the official teams and some of the best talent that esports has to offer.
From Team Redline’s Kevin Siggy Rebernak to the always smiling Jaroslav ‘Jardier’ Honzik, the grid is packed with personality. Twenty-one competitors were personally invited by an official FE panel to compete in the rFactor 2-based competition. The final three drivers earned a spot through open qualifying. Those three were excited at the prospect to join sim racing royalty in a fight, not just for a share of the (minimum) €100,000 prize pool, but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive a Gen2 Formula E car.
Accelerate’s qualifying structure lends heavily from its real-life counterpart, seeing multiple groups taking turns to set one hot lap. This do-or-don’t style of making the grid has proven incredibly popular with fans and drivers, allowing those in the racing seat to demonstrate their talent whilst under the pressure of knowing that one mistake could cost them hugely.
Group 1 saw an early disappointment as winner of the Open Qualifier, Frederick Rasmussen, turned in a poor first sector to find himself on the backfoot and in P4 at best. Drama lay at the centre of Group 2 as the Techeetah of Arthur Lehouck spun into Turn 1 forcing the ambitious Peyo Peev into avoiding action. This cost the Bulgarian precious tenths that would see him end up P20 by the end of the session.
Not so impeded was Manuel Biancolilla who roped in top spot with a 1:09.839; just preventing Graham Carroll from achieving early bragging rights by a hundredth. The eventual pole time would fall to Erhan Jajovski however, Macedonia’s best pipping the Spaniard to the post by nine-thousands of a second.
The depth of the field was proven; from Jajovski to Siggy separated by 0.026 whilst one second back from P1 would take you to P21. With the grid set, the first round of the season could begin.
Where Accelerate most deviates from on-track Formula E is its race format. The ‘weekend’ structure is done away with in favour of a 25-minute race to complete a succinct broadcast schedule. As lights went out for the virtual New York ePrix, it was Biancolilla who got the stronger start off the front row forcing Jajovski immediately onto the defensive. Behind, Carroll was able to fend off Siggy whilst Estonian Risto Kappet manoeuvred his NIO machine up into 6th.
The second phase of the race largely revolved around the early usage of Attack Mode from a number of the front runners. This aggressive strategy saw Siggy not only pass Carroll, but Biancolilla also. It wouldn’t get any better in the short-term for the Audi Abt driver as he soon saw Carroll and Huis get themselves through and away. Despite this, there was clear evidence that the Spaniard was conserving energy and Attack Mode usage for later in the race.
Things settled down around the half-way mark as attention focused back up toward the tantalising battle between Carroll and the man who had usurped him, Siggy. With the largest energy loss across the field from such a relentless opening stint, it was always inevitable that the Slovenian would have to conserve energy and perform some damage limitation. Carroll was soon through but a tougher defence was mounted for Mercedes’ Bono Huis.
It took what many deemed to be the move of the race to finally break the deadlock, as Huis swept around the outside of T11 onto the inside of the slow T12. A podium was on the cards for barely 150 seconds before Biancolilla showed his hand on the final lap of the race. With one final attack mode, he forced Siggy to attack Huis on the inside of T6, thus putting the Dutchman out of sorts. With one down, the Spaniard then wrestled back third for himself as he used the last of his energy boost to blast past Siggy on the back straight.
However, aside from the first lap, nobody could touch Erhan Jajovski who ensured that the first Accelerate 2021 season victory would be his and by 6.793 seconds at that. His domination was cemented by just how little the broadcast team chose to focus on him.
Jajovski missed out on a clean sweep, but with 28 out of a possible 29 points accrued, he won’t have any trouble sleeping for the moment. Kevin Siggy’s all-out race saw him pickpocket the championship leader for the Fastest Lap. It was a wonderful sight to see all but three teams score in New York, Jajovski’s efforts alone seeing Venturi establish themselves at the top of the table. Mahindra, Tacheetah and Jaguar all await entrance onto the board.
Hong Kong will be the series’ next destination as the drivers prepare to do battle in a week’s time for Round 2. We’ll certainly be keen to see how the story develops on February 4th.
Formula E: Accelerate round one results
- Erhan Jajovski
- Manuel Biancolilla
- Kevin Siggy
- Bono Huis
- Marius Golombeck
- Jarno Opmeer
- Marc Gassner
- Risto Kappet