Oliver Turvey has taken what will be the fastest lap of Formula E testing following a fraught first day with a controversial chicane on the main straight of Circuit Ricardo Tormo with an afternoon session lap time of 1:18.565.

Having moved testing from Donington in search of a more representative track, Formula E has found its first day in Valencia controversial. After placing a viciously tight 'false chicane' made of tyre walls across the main straight of the circuit, drivers have heavily criticised the move.

For Season 4, Formula E moves to slightly higher race deployment, at 180kw over the previous 170. Although still lower than 200kw qualifying deployment, in theory speeds will be the highest ever in the series.

The move from Donington to Valencia was intended to bring the series' pre-season testing days (after which much of the car's settings including, crucially, the differential are parc ferme) to a more realistic track for street racing. However, Ricardo Tormo is a flowing, fast-paced circuit that bears little resemblance to many of the street tracks.

A false chicane was added in the middle of the straight, using tyre walls to simulate a viciously tight street circuit sequence. Most Formula E tracks are fully enclosed by barrier walls and kerbing, incredibly tight and challenging for the drivers but putting these safety features in to Ricardo Tormo would have required special permission, which was not sought.

Consequently the tyre wall obstacle was surrounded by grass verges, with no kerbs to ride and drivers including Season 2 champion Sebastien Buemi criticised the construction as unsafe, following a series of incidents ending in Sam Bird taking a hit to the right rear on it, damaging the barrier.

Bird said afterwards "I’m not gonna have a massive go at Formula E or any particular people or bodies that have allowed that to happen but we’ve had a day on it, there’s been a couple of incidents including my little excursion into it. It didn’t damage the car heavily but it’s just... I think it’s a quick fix that’s a bit Mickey Mouse.

"I’m not going to stand here and scream and shout about it. Do I think it’s right? No. Are there better solutions? Yes. Have they been implemented? No. There’s nothing we can do about it, the kerbs for Berlin and the walls for Berlin - they’re not here, we’re not going to be able to get them here, let’s just crack on."

Although at one point it sounded as though the chicane would be fully removed, a decision has instead been made to add another, reducing speed into the turns and forcing drivers into potentially a more realistic street racing scenario. The additional chicane will decrease lap times, meaning that Turvey's time will now very likely stand as fastest.

However, Daniel Abt said "It would be good to have a proper FE track for testing. To be fair, I think this track here is even worse than Donington. You just have too big corners, you have a different tarmac, you have all sorts of stuff that you don't have on a street track, you have no kerb riding here. It's ok, it's nice weather, the sun is shining here but apart from that, for setup it would be better to have a proper Formula E track."

Meanwhile, reliability issues reared their head for Techeetah, as might be expected for the only client team on the grid, who have consequently missed out on the 15 days of power train testing allowed to manufacturers. Both Andre Lotterer and Jean-Eric Vergne stopped on track and had to be retrieved, with presumed powertrain issues despite using the proven Renault system and software.

However, positive changes saw NIO, running Turvey and new-to-series Luca Filippi and last year's backmarkers Jaguar and Andretti move forward considerably. The top 10 times were within a few tenths of each other by end of play and what current champion Lucas di Grassi has predicted as the closest championship yet looks set to play out.

Formula E testing continues tomorrow and Thursday, with Wednesday reserved for testing autonomous support series Roborace.



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