Why Formula E Car-Swapping Isn’t Unique

The last open-wheel race to be won using two cars was the 1957 British Grand Prix

The last open-wheel race to be won using two cars was the 1957 British Grand Prix

With just over three days until the electric-powered Formula E series makes its debut in Beijing, China, there’s a real sense of excitement over the prospect of a truly “green” car racing category.

However, even with an advanced lightweight lithium-ion battery pack — 440-pound max weight, 1,000 volt limit, 200 kw peak power limit and 28 kwh of usable energy — provided by the Williams Formula 1 team, teams will be required to make one mandatory pit stop per one-hour race with the driver swapping to the team’s second fully-charged car.

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Some critics view the car-swap as an overly simple shortcut: changing cars instead of tackling the inherent problem of recharging the cars through a variety of technologies, or swapping the battery packs in the same car quickly. But series organizers put together a news piece describing why car-swapping has a long and storied history in motorsports.

The last driver to win a major open wheel race while using two cars was Stirling Moss during the ’57 British Grand Prix. When his Vanwall Formula 1 racer suffered mechanical trouble early in the race, the team called his teammate, Tony Brooks, into the pits, and in less than 15 seconds, Moss was back out on track. With some luck and plenty of determination, Moss won the 90-lap event, ending Britain’s long drought of winning at its “home” race.

Several more incredible names appear on the list of drivers who’ve used two cars to win races and championships, including the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio in the Argentinean Grand Prix in 1955, Alberto Ascari at Monza in 1950, and even Tazio Nuvolari in 1935 at the Coppa Ciano.

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The practice was banned by the FIA in 1958, the year after Moss’ victory, so with the FIA-backed Formula E embracing car-swapping as part of its makeup, the race-winner in Beijing this weekend will be the first to do so in nearly 70 years.

Formula E