Radio Ga Ga: mechanical madness adds to the Formula E drama at Hong Kong E-Prix
Drivers left shouting into silent team radios as faulty signals and technical teething issues further liven up a fun first race of the season
As he wove through the narrow Central Harbourfront streets looking to claw his way up the leader board, Audi’s Daniel Abt was supposed to benefit from a special advantage.
But things did not quite go to plan.
“I got the FanBoost but as I didn’t have a radio, I was not aware I had it, so didn’t use it,” said a frustrated Abt.
A unique system where fans vote for their favourite driver on the Formula E website or mobile app, ‘FanBoost’ rewards the three most popular drivers in an online poll with a five-second speed burst of 20 per cent more power during the race.
German Abt would have happily swapped his boost for a functioning radio, however.
“It was really bad; I couldn’t say one word to my engineer and he couldn’t say a word to me – it was like going back to [junior racing series] Formula 4 style.
“In Formula E, you have stuff that you need to communicate but everyone was on their own. I think in a championship like this it should be possible to have a working radio.”
The faulty signals, which race winner Sam Bird put down to the tall buildings of the Central skyline, were among several recurring problems for other racers.
Nelson Piquet Jnr of Jaguar managed to climb from 10th on the grid to fourth and may feel he could have finished even higher were it not for his technical issues.
“We had no communication whatsoever,” the Brazilian said. “Drivers were shouting left and right. It was crazy. I didn’t know if they were getting my messages and this just went on and on.”
Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne started on pole but had to settle for second after struggling with his pace.
“This was by far our most difficult race,” said Vergne. “I was struggling a lot. We had no radio, my brakes were not working, I had no regen.
“If somebody told me this morning I were to have these issues, I would have taken [this result].”
The Frenchman was hopeful that Sunday’s race, the second of a season-opening double header, would be less of a technical “nightmare”.
“I honestly did not understand anything about that race,” said Vergne. He added: “When we fix the issu es tonight, tomorrow we should be much stronger.”
That would certainly bring FanBoost back into play – though Abt warned fans not to expect something like Mario Kart.
“It’s not a huge advantage,” said the German. “To have a little gimmick like this is nothing bad. It’s something that can help, and in general I think it’s unique and cool to engage people.
“As long as it’s fair and works correctly. I think it was not always fair in the past.”