Formula E launches: The race to the future
Innovation
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Jul 2014   |  11:05 am GMT  |  127 comments

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.

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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.

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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.

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1

I’m interested because they have a good line-up and interesting technical ideas. For me though the biggest negative is the car changes. I mean seriously winning or losing a race because you can’t get your seatbelt on as quick as the other guy?

2

We need to have races at Macau and Imola. F1 too!

3
German Samurai

I really don’t care. I’ll tune into the first race to see how they sound. If the racing is good I might continue to watch.

But to me it’s just another minor category of racing. I get my fix from Indy Car and GP2.

4

So, cue the music! This will look on my tele something akin to Mario Kart. Silly music and sound effects will be like playing a Nintendo game, but perhaps that’s the idea, to get the 5 year olds watching. I will watch the first race, with interest, but that interest will be to see if I can Tweet the car in last place enough times to give it so much boost that I can cause it to crash into the car in front? Once that’s happened and I have stopped laughing at the comedy sound effect that is played over the crash I just caused, I’ll switch off as will definitely be bored by then.

5

Go figure…2 guys who were team mates at Toro Ross are now racing here…and a bunch more from F1…wow…and 1 team owned by a F1 guy…wow

I am curious what the budget cap is…we know there is one…but what is it…

Do these drivers actually get paid?

Too many questions…just gonna have to watch it…who knows it might be fun.

6

I’ll be interested to see if the TV commentators talk real quiet like they do with golf…

7

much as i thought this was exciting to start with . formula1 has show that the lack of noise diminishes the spectacle. Its like berni shot himself in the foot trying to prempt formula e.

Also will they actually race? would a crash run the risk of electrocuting someone?

so all we see it tame parading of ‘the future’ .

8

You realise of course that Bernie has been extremely vocal from day one that he didn’t want these engines?

One quote for example “I said it was going to be like this – a total farce. They (the FIA and the teams) insisted on these new engines. If they wanted to race like this they should go to Le Mans.”

I’m actually not too bothered about the new engines but if you’re going to blame someone for the noise at least throw spears in the right direction 🙂

9

Completely behind this.

Like the technology, drivers, venues et al.

I don’t mind the fan vote idea either.

But how will I see it? Will it be televised, or streamed?

10

I’m not really impressed by what I have heard so far. The two cars per driver, fanboost, music for crashes etc all seem quite strange. I will certainly give it a try though, curious to see how it will play out. At least it looks like it will be on ITV4 in the UK so no subscription to pay so it’s worth a shot. If it’s good then great, if it’s laughably bad then either way the first race will be a must watch 😉

11

I hope they do well, as a battery and eV expert, I know the energy density of metal air cells, with enough on board energy, the cars can use more power for longer periods. This tech is coming quickly so the current structure is simply a place marker for what is to come. Mark my words with in ten years these cars will be able to use slicks without worrying about rolling resistance. Their power will rival that of the turbo engines as the DC rail voltages exceed 1200v to 1600v. You will get ever smaller more efficient and powerful motors. If they are allowed to run 2 or even 4 motors and use 4 wheel drive with torque vectoring you will see aceleration the f1 cars can not touch and low speed cornering that will make an F1 car look like a road cars. If done right this series could easily out perform f1, but unless you know the industry you have no clue of is true potential.

James email me if you need articles and info that proves this.

12

thats a great comment.. very insightful.

13

The average age of a F1 fan I am told is 35 and that is likely to continue to get older unless F1 wakes up and starts becoming relevant to a younger generation. If F1 doesn’t appeal to a younger audience you are unlikely to have brands such as Red Bull sticking around, you are likely to get SAGA plastered over the cars.

Having been a lifelong fan of F1 and not too far off 35 I have two major gripes. The races are too long. Don’t get me wrong, I could watch wheel to wheel racing all day. F1 isn’t that, half way through the race it becomes a “managing” phase which is boring and doesn’t translate on TV ( noone knows why Lewis for example may have dropped back 5 tenths from Rosberg for example in the Austrian Grand Prix).

Secondly, there has been far too much dominance by a single team. Ferraris Schumacher period was tedious, Red Bulls recent dominance and now Mercedes. I ask myself, what is the point of Marussia and Caterham. Its not like they are getting huge tv coverage being at the back. (I would suggest 3 cars per team would be a great idea, inter team rivalry would be immense, maybe even coallitions form in the garage against one of the drivers)

My Sunday F1 order of the day is: Watch the grid walk, watch the start, watch the first 15 laps, distract myself with my smart phone during the managing phase and regain concentration for the last ten laps. You can compare F1 to football and say football has their boring matches, but they play over 40 games a season. F1 only has 19 to get right.

14

Formula E. One has to say the idea is interesting …. but with lots of good and bad ideas in the presentation. I for one will watch it with interest and reserve my decision ,as it go’s though the ‘start up’ races. I am sure changes will be made as it gets settled as a series.

I just hope its stays with Free to Air TV …. otherwise I would say it is doomed. As I woud add, one day F1 might realise, if you want people to watch it. Or will it just become another millionares playground.

15

I hope it succeeds, but doubt it. Already mentioned other failed attempts in these comments. The one that springs to mind for me, was the grand prix masters series. Thought that was a fantastic idea, but that still failed.

16

I will be certainly giving it a go and watching , would love to get to the tests.

as for all the gimicks . i’m trying not to slag them off before seeing and trying them, there has been times when watching F1 i would like to see a tighter finish after a dull race , and if i could vote for someone to have a boost near end of race who is in 2nd to get up to and hassle 1st i think i would vote 🙂

and thats what it is about…

also i could see me voting for someone in 1st place , if it looks like maybe his first ever win etc, and he deserves it , why the hell not … better then nodding off near end of races like i have done sometimes 🙂

17

ps., love the idea of the commentators arguing about who they will give boost to 🙂

18

I’m interested in watching this series.

I’m not thrilled by the idea of FanBoost. If they feel they must “engage with a younger audience” then it would be much better if it was via users interacting to provide a boost to drivers in some more random way, rather than voting for a specific driver.

James it would be interesting to have an article from one of your tech guys that discussed how the cars are put together and how they are expected to perform relative to a current generation F1 car. For example reading the specifications on the Formula E website I notice that the cars only produce 200kW at maximum power which is only going to be used in practice and quali. For the race they are going to be restricted to 133kW except when they use Push to Pass or are given a FanBoost. Given a weight of 800kg that’s a pretty poor power to weight ratio for a race car – F1 cars are more like 1.5:1 versus 4:1 (at 200kW..it’s 6:1 at 133kW) for the Formula Es. So I assume they are making all their speed from their instant torque, although I can’t find a torque figure for the FE cars anywhere.

19

Good idea

Thanks

20

I’m interested in this, but the music and fan boost (this could easily be rigged!) are terrible ideas! And please broadcast it online rather than doing deals with TV stations, I’d even settle for full race re-runs on YouTube.

21

This smells of Baby Boomers trying to determine what the Millennials want by sitting around in some 19th century clubhouse and smoking cigars as they discuss what their grandkids are like.

You know what Millennials dislike? Artifice and cable television. Do you know what they crave? Authenticity and connectedness.

Oh, and a significant number of them can’t wait for their stupid transport to start driving itself already so that they can focus on a less mind-numbing activity.

So I don’t see them going for “loud music” and “Fan boost” as anything but old farts trying to cater to them in the lamest of fashions.

Try opening the pits to fans, and allowing the drivers to communicate directly with their fanbases in a way that once in a while, someone you know (if not you yourself…) actually gets to connect with the driver for a few sentences and exchange some pleasantries…

That, and multicast a number of simultaneous feeds on them internets and give away the post-race audio-visual rights to let the tweenie youngsters who like to do video mashups do whatever they want…

“Fan boost”… -_-

22

The technology bits and the engineering bits sound interesting.

The fan voting is a huge turnoff for me though. I’m not sure, but is there any other sport on the planet that allows fans to give competitors a physical advantage? My guess is this series would be the first. And hopefully the last!

The music and the noises – again a huge turnoff. First time I read it, images of the old Batman TV show with the comic book sound effects came to mind. Ultimately this series needs to stand on its own – competitive racing using cutting edge machinery driven by talented drivers – sans the gimmicks.

23

I just had a worrying thought to how they would advertise it. It’s not at all impossible that the marketing team would come up with a a different driver saying a line in the following format

“Formula E is coming! But what does the E stand for?”

“Energy!”

“Excitement!”

“Entertainment!”

“Exhilaration!”

(everyone)

FORMULA E, COMING THIS SEPTEMBER

(cringe)

24

i think this series is doomed just like a1. electric cars are not the future at all, the future is efficiency and electric motors are not efficient at all. f1 going hybrid has leaped into the future. hybrid is the future because internal combustion engined cars are a lot more efficient than electric cars so hybrid engines lifts the bar that much further, leaving electric cars far behind in terms of efficiency.

the idea of fans voting for a boost is ludicrous! promoting dictatorship. what is their idea of racing if external people can influence the outcome?

i think a side car racing series with hybrid engines would be a lot more successful than electric car racing

25

ICE’s are around 25% effecient on average, electric motors are closer to 80%. The biggest problem the EV’s face is energy density in that it’s harder, with todays battery technology, to have 300+ miles worth of energy on board an electric car than it is to have the same range’s worth of gasoline on board.

Hybrids are a stop gap allowing better effeciency than a regular ICE powered car and better range than EV’s until battery densities catch up with petroleum.

26

ice’s efficiency is measured from burning fossil fuels to providing motion and your quote of electric motors is from electricity to providing energy. do you think that’s a fair comparison? think about the processes involved in converting energy from fossil fuels into electricity and then converting electricity into motion and you’ll notice that electric motors are no way near as efficient as ices. now add the energy involved in making the batteries. very time energy is converted from one form into another, some of it is wasted as heat, light and sound.

now you have a better idea. electric cars are not the future nor matter how great a battery pack is invented in the future. hybrid ices are the future. only solar powered electric cars are more efficient.

27

Can see this series folding within a few years!!

If the FiA want a new series, why not ask F1 teams to run B teams at B races in-between actual grand prixs, or even at Grand prix weekends? Perfect for their test/backup drivers and a hotbed for young engineers with last years F1 cars as their base for development!

28
Johnny Canuck

A soundtrack playing all the way through? Is this just for the broadcast version, or is it supposed to be heard by the fans at the track? If the latter, I wonder how loud it would have to be to be heard over the noise of the cars? Or are the new cars so quiet that it won’t be an issue? Either way, that sounds pretty mickey mouse, but not nearly as daffy as the idea of fans voting drivers a boost in power. No wonder Ecclestone always refers to racing as “the show”, as do the American promoters. Social media is fine. Involving the fans is fine. But when the fans start affecting the racing, it isn’t a sport anymore.

Worst -case scenario …… the new series creates a generation of fans who have no interest in racing unless they can directly influence the outcome in some way. Of course they wouldn’t care a whit about F1 …. where’s the interactivity? So Ecclestone uses this as an excuse to make Formula 1 about flashing lights, loud music and even more gimmicks. What’s next, letting the fans at home steer real racing cars with their joysticks?

29
roberto marquez

I would like to see a race on a hilly city to check how they climb. I also hope ,as it is going to be an street affair they dont show a kid on a skate board going faster than them.

30

Go to youtube and seach for clips of the Mitsubishi at Pikes Peak.

Although not FE cars EV’s do quite well going uphill.

31

This will never replace F1, but may in time become a substantial rival, if it can be proven to be serious racing, with ideas that capture the imagination. My own interest in F1 is waning, and I hope to find in F E, a replacement that sparks my interest. Make F1 a chimera of concepts and the pure racing side falls apart.

32

it’ll be interesting to see how long they survive.

only if they were solar powered.

33

Crash noises? I hope there aren’t any serious crashes. Music playing throughout? Sounds like one of those bike race meetings that comes on ITV4. They get a decent crowd, so I expect there will be some turnout for this, faster racing. Fan boost? Sounds like something from an Alfa Romeo concept.

I had high hopes for this….I guess if I watch it in the spirit it’s intended I will find some enjoyment.

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