FORMULA E: Electric Fantastic Or Dead Battery

Ultimately you will decide. Formula E kicks off tomorrow after much media hype this past year. Pioneer of a new age of racing, or simpl...


Ultimately you will decide.

Formula E kicks off tomorrow after much media hype this past year. Pioneer of a new age of racing, or simply another money-making gimmick? Will it flourish or flounder? MAC weighs in...

This weekend will see the inaugural Formula E race in Beijing around the Olympic ‘Birds Nest’ stadium. Backed by the FIA who sanction and regulate most major auto-races outside of the US of A, the initial season will have ten races, all on street circuits, in some of the major capitals of the world.

Although the season has been billed as a ten-race series, one city, Rio, has already dropped out and a replacement is being looked for; and the London leg is in trouble with the venue probably having to be switched from Battersea Park to the Axiata Stadium. Of course, with alternative fuel being a big part of the idea of the new race series, it is perhaps appropriate that the first race will be held in a city famed for its wintertime blanket of choking smog.

The Race calendar as it stands for 2014/15 Season:

13 September Beijing, China - Olympic Park
22 November Putrajaya, Malaysia - Persiaran Perdana
13 December Punta del Este, Uruguay - Playa Brava Beach
10 January Buenos Aires, Argentina - Puerto Madero
14 February TBC - previously Rio
14 March Miami, USA - circuit to be confirmed
4 April Long Beach California, USA - Long Beach
9 May Monte Carlo, Monaco - circuit to be confirmed
30 May Berlin, Germany - circuit to be confirmed
27 June London, UK - Battersea Park
             
Some of the world’s racing royalty have lined up behind the new series with the likes of Senna, Prost, Sato, Aguiri and Picquet being joined by Hollywood royalty such as Di Caprio and Clooney; and let us not forget good old loveable and cuddly Richard Branson of Virgin fame who is also getting involved.

The Teams and Drivers

Amlin Aguri

Katherine Legge

Takuma Sato

Andretti

Franck Montagny

Charles Pic

Audi Sport

Lucas di Grassi

Daniel Abt

China Racing

Nelson Piquet

Ho-Pin Tung

Dragon Racing

Oriol Servia

Jerome d'Ambrosio

e.dams Renault

Nicolas Prost

Sebastien Buemi

Mahindra Racing

Karun Chandhok

Bruno Senna

Trulli 

Jarno Trulli 

Michela Cerruti

Venturi

Nick Heidfeld

Stephane Sarrazin 

Virgin Racing

Jaime Alguersuari

Sam Bird 

I was wondering what the motive was behind Formula E so I visited their website and found myself becoming a little teary-eyed with their threefold mission statement, which is to: help develop electric vehicle technology, accelerate interest and promote sustainability. Sorry, guys; put away your hemp trousers, I can smell the BS from here. Even though the idea was formulated first by the ex-Ferrari Team Boss and the then head of the FIA, Jean Todt, in 2011, I am sure that the mountains of money that the likes of Bernie Ecclestone have made over at F1 are really the driving factor. 

Spaniard Alejandro Agag, himself a successful businessman, has taken charge of the sport and whilst he admits that this is a “pioneering effort” that will take “10, 20, maybe 30 years to end combustion” he would be the first to admit that he is as much about signing up luminaries to promote the sport and TV stations to buy the rights as he is into being an environmental activist.

The races will take place in identical cars with a mandatory pit stop for each driver to change cars as the batteries will not last the duration of a race. As all the cars are the same, it is supposed to be down to the driver to win the races and, thus, the season will not be won by the team with the technological advantage.


The one-make series idea was last seen in the big leagues, with the FIA-backed A1 GP series in which country versus country teams raced against each other in identical cars designed to promote a level playing field for the competitors. A1 GP went bankrupt after four lacklustre seasons and, of course, it is hoped that Formula E will not go the same way. It is true that all Formula E teams will start with the same Renault SRT 01E cars but this will be opened up in the subsequent seasons which will allow teams to develop their own cars; the hope being that some of the technology will be passed to manufacturers of electric road vehicles and, of course, to avoid boredom. 

So, will Formula E be a success or go the same way as the A1 GP? Who knows. It seems to have started better with so many famous people joining in from the get go, but can they excite the crowd in cars that make the same sound as a golf buggy?

image: fiaformulae.com

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