Last night in London, the new zero emissions world championship Formula E launched in a ceremony featuring three former F1 world champions and two female drivers hoping to make the grade in this new series.
Billed as “the race to the future” Formula E is a ten race championship of races held in city centres, starting with Beijing on September 13 and ending with London next June, in a race around Battersea Park.
Formula E has been developed from an request to FIA president Jean Todt from the European Union to do more to promote sales and use of electric cars in cities.
Last night the man entrusted with delivering a winning product, Alejandro Agag, launched his new series at the Roundhouse in London, announcing new venues, new drivers including two female drivers, Michela Cerruti and Katherine Legge. Also present were Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi and Sir Frank Williams.
There are a host of ex-F1 drivers in the field including Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, Jarno Trulli, Karun Chandhok, Takuma Sato and Nick Heidfeld, while four times world champion Alain Prost is co-owner of the e.dams Renault team. The drivers will be his son Nicolas as well as Buemi.
Alguersuari will partner ex Mercedes test driver and GP2 title contender Sam Bird in the Virgin Racing team. Cerruti will drive alongside Trulli himself in Trulli’s own team.
Renault has been a big supporter of the series, while Audi has an interest via the German Abt team and Toyota is known to be keeping a watching brief on the series. Initially everyone will use the same Spark/Dallara chassis with a McLaren motor and Williams battery, but manufactures and tech companies are encouraged to get involved. However budgets are capped, so no-one can get a significant advantage by spending more.
Formula E is targeting a new generation of motorsport fans with a new proposition; city centre racing with a strong musical side; not only will there be bands playing at the venues, the races themselves will have a soundtrack running throughout, so there will be sounds for pit stops, crashes, starts and other moments. Then there is also the famous ‘fan boost” idea whereby fans can vote via social media for their favourite driver to get a performance boost during the race, making them in some small way a “protagonist” in the action.
It’s a new approach and comes at an interesting time as motorsport faces up to the question of how it engages with a new young audience. Time will tell whether Formula E is the answer, or an answer, or whether it fails, as many new racing series have done over the years, like A1GP.
It will also be interesting to see how much overlap, if any, there is with F1 fans. Given that the brand equity of many of the drivers and team bosses is in F1, one would imagine that there will be a high degree of curiosity, at least at the outset.
We will keep an eye on the series here on JA on F1, as we have since its inception.
What do you think? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below, on whether you think Formula E will work and what it should do to engage a new audience.
You can attend the official test session at Donington Park later this week or next Wednesday/Thursday. So far 3,000 members of the public are signed up to attend.
Visit the website http://www.fiaformulae.com/ for more details.
It was also announced that there will also be a schools series around the Formula E project, run in partnership with Greenpower Education Trust.
The project will see aspiring engineers compete in a series of televised support races at five of the 10 Formula E races in 2014/2015.
Events at Buenos Aires (Argentina), Long Beach and Miami (USA), Berlin (Germany), and London (UK) will give local students the chance to pit their wits against rival teams by constructing and driving electric Formula E School Series cars on the same circuits as the advanced Formula E racers.
Ten School Series teams will participate at each round of the series, which will feature a 20-minute qualifying session between the official Formula E Practice and Qualifying sessions and will culminate in a 20-minute sprint race ahead of the Formula E ePrix.