Alice Powell: Full-throttle on-track action for the Formula E simulator driver coaching the next generation

Of the many championships and series across the world of motorsport, there is no doubt that Formula E holds a particularly unique appeal for a number of reasons. Aside from the natural differences between the all-electric Championship and its fossil-fueled cousins, and the accompanying emphasis on sustainability on its world tour, one of the most defining characteristics of FE is that its races take place in everyday and frequently used cities. streets.

This means no fixed track, a race circuit that has to be quickly set up and taken down every race weekend, a very close to the surface feeling of being in the urban environment on race days and, above all, the drivers extremely flexible.

Unlike other championships, there isn’t much preparation time for those behind the wheel to familiarize themselves with the circuit, with free practice, qualifying and the main race all taking place on the same day. If familiarity is a competitive advantage, additional information is of paramount importance.

This means that a huge role must be played by the team behind the driver, but also the team behind the team: analysts and strategists, engineers and mechanics – and the test and development drivers, putting in countless hours and laps in each team’s simulator, collecting data for use by those on the track.

For British Formula E team Envision, it’s the work of Alice Powell, with the combined efforts of everyone involved putting them fifth in the team standings heading into the final weekend of the season in Seoul.

“The work I do at Silverstone, where Envision is based, is great. There’s a fantastic group of people at the simulation to help the team while they’re there,” Powell said. The Independent before the campaign finale.

“Testing is limited and you can’t just hit the tracks and race – these are busy days and I really like to play a part in what’s happening for the races. I’ll be in the simulator with the team and I will pass the information on to those on the trail.

Like many drivers in the motorsports industry, Powell’s talents are evident in crossover championships; she is currently second in the 2022 W Series driver standings, having triumphed in Hungary last time out.

There is a huge upside to being able to transition experiences from role to role, with FE providing opportunities over the past two years trackside as well as at Envision HQ.

“We have two street circuits in the W Series this year, so that should also help in the simulation of Formula E,” she explained. “I’ve been lucky enough to drive the Formula E car a few times now and there’s a lot more going on behind the wheel. You’re not flat out in a race, you have to regenerate your energy and there’s has a lot of strategy changes you can make.

“I went to Saudi Arabia and Marrakech with the team – the days are very busy, it’s great for the teams and the fans, with a lot of action on the track and energy. It’s a big show, fans get so much for their money because there is so much action on the track.

While Formula E is undoubtedly one of the most progressive and inclusive environments in sport, there is still work to be done to encourage historically underrepresented groups to step into roles.

Powell, for example, is one of only two female drivers at present, the other being Porsche reserve driver Simona de Silvestro. But even as recently as the London E-Prix, the Girls on Track initiative shows how Formula E is encouraging and helping young women to realize that opportunities exist for them in motorsport – not just racing. conduct but in all roles, administrative or strategic mechanics.

(Consider Formula E)

It’s increasingly evident across the racing spectrum, Powell says. “In motorsport – FE, W Series, F3 – there are a lot more women and more diverse roles now. There are women mechanics in FE, Susie Wolff is team principal at Venturi. more important in all motorsports and I think that’s really nice to see. It gives a lot of young girls I talk to the chance to realize that they can take on those roles.

“They thought it was very male dominated and didn’t necessarily have the confidence to take the same college classes with a bunch of guys, basically. Seeing more women featured in the FE paddocks and on TV gives these girls more confidence to go to class, do STEM subjects and eventually learn about electric cars, engineering and more.

Powell remains well-placed to speak about the encouragement and guidance young women might need, with another of her roles being that of a mentor, including to fellow W-series pilot Abbi Pulling, just 19. It’s clear that Powell’s plate is a little full before she even gets in a car – which is, obviously, exactly how she likes it.

As for what’s next, even with FE 2022 coming to an end and the W Series ending with four races, Powell has no reason to imagine things getting much calmer.

“I really enjoy all the roles I have to play, in Formula E and outside of it. The W Series has helped me get back into racing and opened doors for me, back into the spotlight for opportunities. come to me: Formula E, endurance racing, F1 – I keep all my doors open and I don’t refuse anything specific.

“The end of the season is approaching and when it arrives in November I will look at the options and see which direction I am heading. Formula E will see big changes with Gen3 so I am sure all teams will do a lot of simulator work – this could be a busy winter for me!

:: Season 8 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship comes to an end in Seoul, South Korea, with a doubleheader on August 13-14