The all-electric Formula E series has been racing around some of the finest cities in the world now since 2014. The third series will see the series visit Hong Kong, Marrakesh, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Monaco, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, New York and Montreal. That combined with a stronger driver line-up than seen in the previous two seasons with five highly rated rookies joining the series, points towards the Formula E series heading in the right direction, even if it is not going to reach its goal overnight.
Formula E Series is Heading in the Right Direction
Being introduced to motor sport is not necessarily the easiest of things in the digital era, with the significant rise of paywall channels, and more and more ways to occupy oneself than ever before. What Formula E does (in the United Kingdom anyway) is have a series like Formula E on free-to-air TV (despite losing the London ePrix), and in the host cities, have the races in places which are relatively easy to reach. Formula E takes the series to the fans, as opposed to the fans having to go to the series; which is the case for a lot of other championships.
A series which runs solely on street tracks, as opposed to road courses, short ovals or super speedways (or the car park circuits seen at places such as Sochi) appeals massively to the drivers as well. This is why a lot of really talented drivers have moved over into Formula E. Street circuits are judged to be the type of circuit where the driver can really make the difference. There is often very little margin for error on them; with walls either side of you, instead of grass or extended tarmac.
However the biggest appeal for Formula E has to be the interest from manufacturers. Renault, Citroen, Jaguar and Venturi all have their own teams. Audi and BMW also sponsor teams and are evaluating their options for the future.
The relative low-risk nature of Formula E with manufacturers only required to produce their own powertrain (at the moment anyway) means that substantial amounts of resource are not required to produce aerodynamically complex chassis, confusing and expensive hybrid systems or anything like that. All of that is provided at a relatively cheap price in comparison by other manufacturers chosen by Formula E. This also improves the racing. None of the cars have wings to the extreme levels seen by F1 or Indy cars. They also generally look nice too, and the new front wing introduced for this season improves the appearance.
A Plan for the Future
Formula E is also impressive by having a clear-cut plan. Minor tweaks have been made to these plans over time. The general improvement of the cars is also showing as time progresses. By season five, the car swaps will no longer be a thing. The amount of energy being deployed and harvested has increased since the start of the series as well.
Whilst perhaps flawed, the concept of FanBoost is a very interesting one indeed. Being able to vote for a favourite driver and possibly helping them in producing a crucial overtake has never been seen in motor sport before. Questions about the legality of the voting have been brought up; but the uniqueness of the idea helps give Formula E its own identity away from other series.
Not all Plain-Sailing
Admittedly, not everything about the series is great, and some teething problems have remained since the inception of the championship. However some series have been going on seemingly since the dawn of time; and they still can’t get some things right. The qualifying format is one I’ve never been a fan of. The mess at London in July meant that it literally became a lottery.
The length of time between some of the rounds in the calendar is simply far too long. Having more than three months between two rounds, only to have five races within a single calendar month at the end of the campaign just looks quite silly. With the calendar incorporating the winter months, Formula E must exploit this, whilst other categories remain in their off-season.
Street circuits are great for racing generally however finding spectator areas is not always an easy task. Not many places outside of Mexico City have a purpose-built circuit within a city centre. Perhaps taking spectator areas into account is something Formula E can focus on in future years.
The Future is Bright
Ultimately Formula E is heading in the right direction. Those more familiar with their motor sport consisting of loud engines and massive pit buildings may not appreciate Formula E so much. However, the gradual improvements shown by the Formula E series are very promising. The series will always have critics, as does every series, but not everything will appeal to everyone.
Whilst we shouldn’t do too much comparison between Formula One and Formula E, or IndyCar and Formula E, or any series and Formula E, should Formula E keep improving at the rate it is and if both IndyCar and F1 keep tripping over themselves as they tend to do, who knows? Perhaps one day the Formula E series could well become a premier category in a future era of motorsport.
Prince’s Albert II of Monaco attends the official presentation of the new Venturi Formula E on September 26, at the Monaco Palace in Monaco. / AFP / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)