Furious Passing Rate Becoming Staple of Formula E Racing

pascal wehrlein, tag heuer porsche formula e team, porsche 99x electric gen3
Furious Passing Rate Becoming Staple of Formula E Simon Galloway
  • Porsche’s António Félix da Costa has logged the most passes in a single race this season, with 40 at the first of two events at Misano, Italy, in April.

  • Heading into the June 29-30 Hankook Portland E Prix doubleheader in Oregon, drivers this year have combined for 2,679 overtakes—1,089 more than last season.

  • Different cities and circuits, varying lap totals, drivers’ familiarity with Gen 3 car, and improved software for team engineers are main reasons for the increased numbers.

With Porsche’s António Félix da Costa and Nissan’s Oliver Rowland leading with 171 passes apiece so far, the ABB FIA Formula E Championship puts both the NTT IndyCar Series and NASCAR Cup Series road-course races to shame when it comes to overtakes on city-street and road courses.


As the all-electric series prepares to make its penultimate stop—and the lone U.S. visit—of the 2024 season June 29-30 at Portland, Ore., it has recorded 2,679 overtakes. That’s significantly more than last season’s robust 1,590.

At that first Misano event (Round 6), da Costa claimed the most passes – 40 among a whopping total of 544. Da Costa’s 40 matches the total number at the Mexico City season opener. And that’s the most by any one racer at a single event this season. Behind da Costa and Rowland’s running total, no fewer than 11 drivers are in triple digits for the year so far.

One factor in the increased number of passes is a new mix of venues on the 10-stop, 16-round tour. And different layouts for the circuits in cities to which Formula E has returned also account for the change. For example, the May 11-12 Berlin twin bill featured a completely different configuration than the 22 drivers raced on in 2023.

The 2023 season began with drivers getting acclimated to the new Gen 3 and starting to formulate their strategies as the season progressed. On the same circuits this year, drivers pulled off more passes. For instance, at São Paulo, overtakes jumped from 40 to 212 (with NEOM McLaren’s Sam Bird slipping past Jaguar’s Mitch Evans on the final turn of the final lap for the victory). At Monaco this May, passes were up from 114 to 197.

As Andretti’s Norman Nato, a podium finisher at the most recent weekend, at Shanghai, knows, varied lap total is key. “It depends on the amount of laps they make us do, because that will impact the level of energy we need to save. But it’s true that it’s a lot of overtaking,” he said.

The evolution of the series has produced better software for team engineers to better manage their energy output and regeneration. DS Penske engineer Kyle Wilson-Clarke said credit for the fact “the racing's incredibly tight here at Formula E” goes to the series itself.

“A lot of the car is very much controlled by Formula E and therefore the same for all teams. So we've got the same chassis specs. We've got the same front suspension. We've got the same bodywork. So aerodynamics, it means that we are only in control of a very defined part of the car, which naturally means that the championship becomes very close because there's less freedom, compared to other championships where you can design the full car yourself,” he said.

Formula E has “really, really close racing, which is great for the spectators [who are] after a good entertainment value,” Wilson-Clarke said. “And I think you certainly get that in qualifying. Nothing's predictable. Even when you qualify well or poorly, you still have the ability to come back. It depends on the track, depends on how much energy-saving there is in the race. There's a lot of overtakes always happening. That's the challenge when you've got a car that's very much the same.

"We are massively free on software, so it's down to the teams to be as creative as possible to come up with new ideas of deploying energy in terms of braking software, in terms of anything you can think of. Software is where we can have a big, big impact. We are mandated with various things. Therefore, you’re limited by that hardware, but the software, the functions behind it, you are very, very free. It's as creative as you can be.”

One team principal said during the São Paulo race weekend, “that comes down to a lot of your preparation... a lot of training of the team and the driver. You've got to recognize that the race is a moving target. Everyone's starting to understand the racing more. You need to get your elbows out.

"So there's two things at play. One is you've got to give the drivers as much information as you can. And then the second one is that they've got to be able to navigate themselves on the way forward. And having gathered enough energy before that helps. But there's also a lot of driver input there. They come alive at that point, and you can only help 'em so much. You can be a spotter, but you can't drive the car for them. So you educate, you help, but then it's in their hands.”

And when it is, no one in Formula E is afraid to pass.