Formula E Drivers’ Club Announced; Buemi, Liuzzi, Sato and Chandhok Included
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Posted By: Matt Meadows  |  08 Jan 2014   |  3:15 pm GMT  |  59 comments

With its first race set to take place in Beijing this September, Formula E has today made a step towards announcing its first set of drivers as eight established names signed up to the series’ Drivers’ Club.

The Drivers’ Club, which includes six former Formula One competitors, sees those announced giving their endorsement to the series and putting their name in the hat for a race seat.

Up until now Lucas Di Grassi had acted as the sole test driver of the Spark-Renault SRT_01E Formula E car, however the group of eight can now carry out pre-season tests.

Included are former Toro Rosso driver, Red Bull Reserve and Le Mans competitor Sebastian Buemi, HRTs Karun Chandhok, Virgin’s Lucas Di Grassi and former Grand Prix drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi, Takuma Sato.

Amongst the ten teams that are waiting for FIA approval is Andretti Autosport, headed by Michael Andretti and father to Marco Andretti, whose has also joined the Drivers Club.

China’s HRT and Caterham test driver, Ma Qing Ha and French DTM driver Adrien Tambay complete the line-up.

Judging by the names announced today and the teams that are set to compete it is simple to judge where some of the drivers will be driving. It is unlikely that we will see Marco Andretti at anywhere other than Andretti Autosport, for example.

Sato should find himself at Super Aguri, with whom he competed in 39 Grands Prix, whilst Ha and Tambey may race for Asia’s China Racing and Audi Sport ABT respectively.

The more high profile names of Buemi, Chandhok and Liuzzi will have more freedom of choice and team capability should be more of a factor than previous relationships.

“From the very beginning, we have set out to deliver great racing to fans across the globe and to do that you need high calibre drivers,” said Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E Holdings. “Now that we’ve announced all 10 teams, everyone is keen to find out who the drivers will be.”

For Buemi, who will have a hectic racing schedule this year with F1 and WEC commitments, the series that runs across the Winter months will allow for more racing as well as being part of a revolutionary series.

“I’m very happy to be a part of the new Formula E Drivers’ Club,” said Sebastien Buemi. “Motorsport should be seen to be the leader in developing and pushing new sustainable technologies so it will be great to see how this will influence not only motorsport but future road cars and the environment. The calendar is very strong and brings the racing to the fans, and the new Formula E car looks like it will be a lot of fun to drive.”

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59 Comments
  1. JEZ Playense says:

    Great!

    1. Sebastian says:

      Even greater if we could see Kobayashi in one of those cars!

      1. Fernando Cruz says:

        Kobayashi aims the Caterham seat, but i think it’s better to race for wins in the new series. Bruno Senna, Paul di Resta and Jaime Alguersuari would also be very good names to join Formula E. I hope they all decide to commit to the series as soon as possible, as time is running out. I hope they can be among the next 10 drivers announced to belong to the drivers’ club of FE. It would be good if they could test at least almost as much as Buemi, Di Grassi or Sato in the next few months. That way they would be more at the same level with them and would have more chances to be chosen by teams…

  2. I wont quit my day job says:

    Some will ask why the season starts only in September 2014. That’s because they need to charge the batteries first.

    1. Random 79 says:

      Yes, you should definitely hang on to your day job ;)

  3. Kieran says:

    I was reading about Formula E today and saw something that concerned me. The article I read mentioned that the cars have around 20 mins battery life at which stage the driver has to pit and switch cars. If true isn’t that quite a safety risk? If drivers are rushing to get into a new car they are also rushing through the fastening of the seatbelt and fitting of the steering. The risks probably aren’t high but how long until a driver has to pit after 1 lap because his harness isn’t fastened correctly?

    I also read that fans can vote online to give their favourite cars a ‘turbo boost’. Sounds to me like that turns it from a competition into a popularity contest.

    1. Quercus says:

      I’d be surprised if they haven’t thought of this. It would be logical to legislate for a minimum stop time that provides enough latitude to make an unhurried changeover.

    2. V6t says:

      The car change is part of the strategy, how many pit stops have we seen in F1 where wheels aren’t fitted correctly or wrong tyres fitted so an extra pit stop is required so it is in each teams interest to ensure the safety belts are done up right to avoid that issue, plus look at world endurance racing, they change driver multiple times so you could argue they take the same risk as they also need to swap very quickly.

      This series is not aimed at F1 fans it’s aimed at a different demographic, it annoys me that a lot of F1 fans pick holes in this new revolutionary series as our beloved F1 is far far from perfect. I don’t believe the perfect race series exists, they are always a compromise.

      1. Leslie D'Amico says:

        “This series is not aimed at F1 fans it’s aimed at a different demographic,”

        If that’s true then why is any news about it only reported on F1 websites? I’d be very interested in hearing what demographic it is aimed at.

      2. Random 79 says:

        The demographic that regularly visits F1 sites, but are not F1 fans ;)

      3. Ben says:

        It is definitely not ONLY reported on F1 sites. I have read stories about on a few different technology and science websites I visit. I also have friends who are quite knowledgeable about it that have absolutely no interest in F1 at all.

      4. V6t says:

        The series promoters are aiming at the .com generation, they youth who are currently being educated about the serious environmental issues their generation ate expected to face. Not all motorsport fans are into F1 and the same for Formula E. The reason it’s being run in city centers is to promote low or zero emmision cars and make them more cool than they are currently. I don’t think you can really ‘convert’ people to electric cars but if you are able to give younger people an unforgettable experience at an early age it will stick with them, the same as F1 stuck with me. Also I would guess there is more people with environmental concerns than there is F1 fans so if the promoters can turn their heads then the interest will start to grow as believe it or not, not everyone like big noise and the smell of fuel, this series is going to greatly accelerate the speed at which battery technology especially will move forward. They don’t plan to always have the car change, I read that they are hoping the batteries will move on so they become either small enough to just do a quick cell change or the car can eventually run full race distance. There is no better way to move technology on than to use it in a competitive environment. I can see in the distant future Formula E and Formula 1 converging on the same type of technology, who knows the FIA may open F1 so you could run a full electric car on the same grid as the current hybrids we have now. I hope that sheds some light on the different demographic that formula E is aimed at.

    3. Random 79 says:

      Like when an F1 team tries to change four tyres in three seconds and one falls off?

      No doubt at some point the F-E pit stops will get F1-grade ridiculous, but I imagine for now the drivers will want to make sure they’re tucked in tight before they stamp on the go pedal.

    4. Yak says:

      There are differences between FE and most other motorsports where you’d see driver swaps. Instead of swapping drivers in the one car, you’ve got one driver jumping from one to the other. So in other racing it might take however long to swap a driver, but at the same time you’ve also got to change tyres and refuel, possibly change a set of pads over or whatever else is going on. In FE, they’re just going to be jumping in another car that’s sitting there waiting to go, so the only limiting factor (assuming there’s no forced minimum stop time) will be how quickly they can get it done. FE drivers are also going to be more limited movement wise, so I imagine pretty much all the work aside from sitting down and maybe putting the wheel on are going to be done by a helper.

      I suspect there’ll be some very strict rules about it. Maybe the car has to be up on jacks and not allowed to be dropped until everything’s done and the helper is clear. Otherwise, I’m imagining situations where the driver’ll go, “All done, I’m outta here,” and proceed to mash the helper with a rear tyre.

    5. Apparently the car swaps will be carefully observed by FIA officials to make sure safety is kept front and centre, and there are suggestions that there will be a minimum time limit imposed to ensure drivers don’t rush harness fastening.

    6. I know says:

      There is a simple mechanism that determines whether seatbelt and steering wheel are properly engaged. I think that the car switch will soon disappear (as it makes electric cars look flawed), but it won’t be a safety concern.

  4. MikeP says:

    I must admit the more I read and see about this Formula E the more I can see it taking over from formula one.

    I ready do think F1 will enter a steep decline over the next 5 years, as more and more teams go to the wall due to dear old Bernie’s lack of foresight.

    Like it or not, F1 is losing it relevance while “Ecco-Power” is a very powerful and attractive label for most blue chips to be associated with.

    Time for F1 to wake up and read the writing on the wall.

    1. David in Sydney says:

      Disagree.

      The 1.6 litre ERS turbo engines will amaze, if not deafen the way the glorious V10s of the past did.

      Battery tech has a long way to go to rival conventional fuel.

      And power generation has a long way to go before it can power electric cars with any fewer carbon emissions than the conventionally fired engine.

      But Formula E is exciting nevertheless and I hope it doesn’t go the way of A1-GP without contributing something to future tech.

      1. MikeP says:

        Dear Dave,
        With a 6 cylinder short-stroke, low-pressure turbo engine acceleration out of low speed corners will be very dependent on the torque provided by the electric motor. If the ERS is off line for any reasons, unless there are only a few laps or a few cars left the team might as well retire the car.

        A 1600cc four cylinder (straight) turbo car would have had far more torque available than a V6 due to the larger “pot size”, therefore this configuration would be less compromised should a ERS failure occur.

        With regard to electrical power, modern “Brushless” induction motors are 89-93% efficient with 100% of their torque available from zero RPM. Even the most efficient internal combustion engines are less than half the efficiency. So the question of performance on an electric car is one of battery weight, power density and reliability.

        As I work in this industry I can tell you that battery technology is about to take a huge step forward in the next 2-5 years. Instead of using carbon as the anode in a typical Lithium battery, new “nano-cystal” technologies are allowing a huge increase in plate area to occur. A standard carbon anode give about 3 square meters of plate area per gram, Lithium Titanate increases this to over 100 square meters per gram and newer batteries we are working on at the moment increase this area further to between 300 and 450 square meters per gram.

        Charge times on these batteries can be reduced down to only 6 mins although some damage to the plate does occur at these very high charge rates. Charge times of 20-40 minutes however cause almost no damage to the plates.

        With regard to life times, we have batteries which have completed over 4,000 cycles and yet give virtually identical performance to that of a new battery.

        One of the universities in Texas recently completed some tests on some Nanotech batteries and estimated the battery life as between 20,000 and 30,000 cycles.

        So yes, I’m sticking by my prediction that F1 need in wake-up before it’s too late.

      2. V6t says:

        Fantastic insights into battery tech, really interesting thanks. I posted further up that I can see F-E and F1 converging on similar technologies and one day we may see IC/hybrid cars next to full electric cars on the same grid, a little bit like in Endurance racing, with diesel hybrids and petrol cars running together just with different amounts of their chosen fuel available to complete the distance. I’m very excited by it to be honest and will be hoping it is covered on free to air TV, at least free to the country hosting that particular round.

  5. Jeff says:

    Good to see they will have some talent behind the wheel?

    Did I read correctly that the cars only have a top speed in the 120s or 130s (mph)? That can’t be right.

    1. V6t says:

      Considering they are racing in city centers, I should imagine that the circuits are quite tight and twisty so 130mph would be pretty quick, look at Monaco for example. The cars have a lot of torque to so should get up to top speed pretty quickly too.

    2. Yak says:

      Assuming they can turn that torque into acceleration instead of just tyre smoke. They’ll also have less aero grip to play with compared to F1, and I vaguely remember reading that their tyre banks for the weekend are going to be rather limited (although maybe they’ll be crazy durable tyres).

      Sure 130mph might sound slow compared to F1, but it’s not supposed to be F1. And so far, the signs are pointing to some interesting racing.

      Plus. who knows what’ll happen when they move away from the spec cars and start working on their own… Hopefully all the talk of it being “open” won’t turn out to be a farce.

      1. The cars themselves will be technically capable of greater speeds (no confirmed top speed has been published, but Spark reckons somewhere north of 150mph is easily doable). The two main considerations for keeping the speed low are: saving energy by not hitting crazy high speeds; and that crazy high speeds aren’t needed on city centre tracks. Straights will probably be shorter than F1 tracks as well. http://www.current-e.com

  6. Davexxx says:

    James I know you always have your hands full, but would it be possible to set up some FE Info page, listing info – updated when new news known – such is list of teams and their base (country), list of drivers (and their teams, when known!), list of race venues and race dates, confirmed or otherwise? I’d be very interested to follow this new series. Thanks

      1. Thomas says:

        Does the series have a facebook page?

      2. Davexxx says:

        I came across one website for FE –
        http://www.formulaeracing.com
        (and they do have a facebook) but it was rather underwhelming with its information! Hence hoping James can get something together. I guess we’re all (well, some of us!) so eager, while it’s still early days and a lot still hasn’t been put together.

      3. @Davexxx – you might find a bit more info on the new sport at http://www.current-e.com #blatantplug

      4. Thomas says:

        Thank You

    1. MISTER says:

      I second that! Thanks James.

  7. Lee says:

    Really starting to get excited about this series. Thus far they haven’t really put a foot wrong. James – Any news yet on a commercial rights holder?

    1. J.Danek says:

      I agree! I thought Formula E was stupid at first, but w/ the recent announcement of driver commitments, I’m really coming around to it and can imagine how exciting it must be to be part of the first season of a new global series! hope it’s a huge success, and I also request that James cover it somehow, even if it’s via a second domain or a subsection of this site. Can’t wait!!

    2. FEH…they’re the ones driving the whole project.

  8. John in SD says:

    I admit that I was skeptical at first, but with all of the articles on James’ site and also one in the Economist plus news of the driver signings, I am becoming more and more interested in FE. I still like large, powerful internal combustion engines and miss the V10s and V12s from previous F1 eras, so I am on the wrong side of history there, but I await the FE series with interest. Hopefully, the new F1 1.6 turbo hybrid power units and their new chassis will give us some great F1 racing in 2014.

  9. Quade says:

    Karun Chandhok could have a much bigger career behind a mike and camera. That guy is a motor racing encyclopedia.

    1. Lee says:

      Hopefully it will be possible for him to do both.

      1. Random 79 says:

        At the same time? Impressive :)

    2. J.Danek says:

      yay!!! he’s great in podcasts, too…articulate and intelligent! :)

    3. Baktru says:

      Karun Chandhok was one of the pundits for the F1 coverage out here in Asia, on Star Sports. He was quite good at it as well.

  10. franed says:

    Are the races going to be on tv James? If so where?

  11. Daniel says:

    Sounds like it’s going to be any interesting series. Any idea on how it will be distributed? TV or online like WEC?

    1. Both, apparently. FEH wants free to view in the UK but it all seems a bit up in the air. They’ve been pretty strident in their assertion though that the series will be streamed live online, which will tie in with their plans to have a real-time computer game too.

  12. Andrew M says:

    Some fairly big names, but I think Buemi is the only one in any way likely to turn up on an F1 grid in the future. Would be good to some some other high profile refugees, like Kobayashi and di Resta.

  13. Stephen Taylor says:

    James when they race in Monaco will they use the GP circuit layout?

    1. V6t says:

      Yes, it all ties with the F1 weekend so the track only needs building up once as stripping it and then setting up again would be impractical and probably really annoy some residents with the road closures as all the safety requirments will be the same.

  14. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    The key factor isn’t the cars per se. Its that the major cities will allow the Formula E races to be held closer to the population centres. Races in the middle of nowhere are struggling, whereas races in city centres (eg Singapore/Melbourne) do well. The infrastructure and accomodation is already in place to support it.

  15. J.Danek says:

    hey are there any pics of the formula e car’s steering wheel? i love F1 steering wheels and their pics are eye-candy, so i’m wondering what the Formula_E version will look like.

    1. J.Danek says:

      doh – google is your friend – this is an FE (how are we going to abbreviate Formula E?? F-E? FE? Fe (isn’t that short for “iron”?)): http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/formula-e-la-ferte-gaucher-Spark-Renault-SRT_01E-2013-15.jpg

      1. Random 79 says:

        I vote F-E – it’s what I’m using at least :)

  16. J.Danek says:

    James, just wanted to say thanks for covering Formula E and let you know that b/c of this article, I went ahead and ended-up reading 5 more articles on electrical vehicles via different sites based on information I first found here. Thanks!! Please keep covering this series!

    One question though: what’s going on w/ the use of “FIA” in the verbiage for formula e? I noticed the official series website url is http://www.FIAformulaE.com... does that mean FIA has some kind of interest in the series beyond just sanctioning it? FIA formula*e Championship…hmmm…

    1. James Allen says:

      The FIA created it in response to a request from the EU to do more to promote EVs.

      They sanction it and, as with F1, have contracted a commercial rights holder (Agag) to exploit the rights. As with F1, they receive income from this, of course

  17. jim says:

    “It is unlikely that we will see Marco Andretti at anywhere other than Andretti Autosport, for example.”

    If not for daddy, you’d be more likely to find marco flipping burgers than driving a race car…

  18. MikeP says:

    With a 6 cylinder short-stroke, low-pressure turbo engine acceleration out of low speed corners will be very dependent on the torque provided by the electric motor. If the ERS is off line for any reasons, unless there are only a few laps or a few cars left the team might as well retire the car.

    A 1600cc four cylinder (straight) turbo car would have had far more torque available than a V6 due to the larger “pot size”, therefore this configuration would be less compromised should a ERS failure occur.

    With regard to electrical power, modern “Brushless” induction motors are 89-93% efficient with 100% of their torque available from zero RPM. Even the most efficient internal combustion engines are less than half the efficiency. So the question of performance on an electric car is one of battery weight, power density and reliability.

    As I work in this industry I can tell you that battery technology is about to take a huge step forward in the next 2-5 years. Instead of using carbon as the anode in a typical Lithium battery, new “nano-cystal” technologies are allowing a huge increase in plate area to occur. A standard carbon anode give about 3 square meters of plate area per gram, Lithium Titanate increases this to over 100 square meters per gram and newer batteries we are working on at the moment increase this area further to between 300 and 450 square meters per gram.

    Charge times on these batteries can be reduced down to only 6 mins although some damage to the plate does occur at these very high charge rates. Charge times of 20-40 minutes however cause almost no damage to the plates.

    With regard to life times, we have batteries which have completed over 4,000 cycles and yet give virtually identical performance to that of a new battery.

    One of the universities in Texas recently completed some tests on some Nanotech batteries and estimated the battery life as between 20,000 and 30,000 cycles.

    So yes, I’m sticking by my prediction that F1 need in wake-up before it’s too late.

  19. mike says:

    No Villeneuve? Get some real pedigree in there…add some credibility

  20. Davexxx says:

    More info (I hadn’t seen mentioned before, on this site anyway):
    “…The social media push-to-pass. So fans will be able to vote for their favourite driver. We are still to exactly define how it will work. We are thinking if this is going to happen during the race or if it’s going to happen a whole week before the race and then the push-to-passes are announced just one minute before the start of the race on the starting grid.”

    Groan… Say it ain’t so?!!
    Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/sports/formula-e-the-idea-is-simply-electric-1309925.html?utm_source=ref_article

    1. Haha, it is – fortunately or unfortunately. Spoke to Mark Preston at Super Aguri a few weeks back and he had some observations to make – including that the team had better jump on the social media bandwagon pronto. I did a comparison of driver Twitter followers too yesterday.

  21. I know says:

    F1 can’t really afford the handicap of the current commercial agreement sucking so much revenue from the sport for much longer. If FE is as competitive as it is beginning to look, team (and sponsor) money will go much further in FE compared to F1, and apart from any discussion about which engine is ultimately better, that’s the most important factor (if racing was primarily about ultimate lap times, today’s cars would look very different).

    I think the medium term (5-10 years) is convergence, with electric cars, the F1 name and most of the historic race tracks, most of the current F1 teams, and a very different commercial arrangement.

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