(Pocket-lint) - This weekend sees the return of Formula E to London after five years away. The ePrix will take place around the Excel exhibition centre in London's docklands and, quite incredibly, will go inside and outside of the centre. If you're in the UK, you can watch the two races live on Channel 4 and All4.
"This circuit especially poses a unique challenge that we're obviously going inside and then outside via a bit of a ramp," says Nissan e.dams Formula E driver Oliver Rowland during a roundtable with Pocket-lint.
"One of the most interesting things is the huge challenge to put everything together. It's quite bumpy [and] very tight, you know there's a lot of technical areas and as a driver, you're going to have to have confidence because the walls aren't far away and there are some slightly quicker bits of the circuit.
"Obviously it's inside and outside and this weekend we expect rain which creates something that we've never experienced before. We're going to be in the wet track on the outside and coming inside to dry tarmac, so it's going to be something quite strange."
"The track will dry and there'll be less standing water once the cars have run through it, but on the contrary, for the first time, you're going to get a track that - especially in the last sector and going into across the start line - will start to get wetter throughout qualifying. It's a completely brand new experience, we don't really know."
An unusual circuit
As a Brit, this is a home ePrix for Rowland who is looking forward to the challenge. "Obviously it'd be a dream to win here, but I'm not thinking about that too much at the moment because there's a lot of fast guys in Formula E and you can never take anything for granted.
"But I'm really looking forward to it. I think the circuit is unusual but very interesting and I don't think you'll find anything like this anywhere else in the world. So I'm up for the challenge and hopefully, we can have a good fun weekend in front of a good crowd as well."
Fellow driver Sebastien Buemi says that qualifying will be extremely important but that battery power will go to the wire. "The energy saving in the race will be close to zero. Even so, the FIA (motorsport's governing body) knowing that decided to remove four kilowatts [from the cars] instead of starting with 52 kilowatts like we normally start.
"It's the first time in Formula E history that we will start with 48 kilowatts. So it's completely different to what we are normally used to.
"We want to be efficient as this is what makes you fast. And also that's what enables overtaking but by not having to lift [off the throttle]. So the qualifying will be even more important."
Dealing with changes
The FIA has also made some recent changes to the circuit which the teams have had to roll with late on, as Buemi explains: "They have reduced the number of corners which means they increase the average speed of the cars around the track, which obviously makes you save more energy because we have a 45 minute plus one lap pace.
"The faster the average lap is the more saving you have to do so. So by removing the corner, there's a little bit more saving for the race. And I think it's because of the feedback of the teams."
Looking forward to Gen 3 in 2022
Formula E is Nissan's longest motorsport commitment outside Japan and it has committed to being part of Formula E for the next phase – Gen 3 – which will see a new car design debut with higher power available to the drivers.
"The decision [to stay] came quite natural to me," says Nissan Head of Motosport Tommaso Volpe. "We entered Formula E three seasons ago to demonstrate our high expertise on electrification. We are one of the pioneer brands in electrification… so this is why we entered Formula E to demonstrate our expertise with these technologies.
"But in the meantime, our plans for electrification became even more ambitious, We just announced that by 2030, all of our portfolio in the key markets will be electrified and by 2050 we will be full carbon neutral.
"So being in Formula E came as a natural decision to keep on demonstrating worldwide our commitment to electrification and sustainability in general and Formula E is a perfect platform."
Why Formula E is useful for carmakers
Volpe adds that racing in Formula E has distinct challenges but that it is useful for carmakers developing next-gen electric vehicles.
"It's unpredictable for many reasons. The way the energy management affects performance, the fact the track [is often] utilised by regular traffic until the day before.
"We have data [on the track] but most of the time it is really not reliable. We even found that the geometry of the truck often is not enough, because once they come to the city and [build] the truck they realise that there is a hole on the tarmac [so they have] to move the wall a little bit and 10 centimetres makes a huge difference.
"So these are extra challenges that make everything more unpredictable, but these contribute to making the sport more valuable for automakers, because when we develop an electric vehicle… we have to develop the power train and energy management software, able to adapt to any kind of driving any kind of circumstances and to adapt to, basically, 5 million customers every year."
Nissan has also launched a program looking at how brain function impacts driving style using advanced brain imaging and analysis. The aim is to develop bespoke driver training.
“What if, through advanced brain function analysis and training, we could help make our drivers perform better?" suggests Volpe.
"Every tenth of a second counts in Formula E, so we’re excited to see how our cutting-edge Nissan research team can enhance Seb and Oli’s already high-performing brain functionality."
You can see more about the research program in the video below.