Watching cars spin around a track at high-octane speed has always been a spectacle to behold for thrill-seekers everywhere, and Formula E is certainly proving that notion to be true all over again.
There’s rarely a dull moment in the world of motorsport. Between bitter rivalries, edge-of-your-seat contests, breakneck speed and the screech of race-day, it’s a helter-skelter sphere not for the faint of heart.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not been open to its fair share of criticism. Indeed, when Formula E was first rolled out back in 2014, more than a few eyebrows were raised. We already had the highly-successful Formula 1, so what exactly was the point of this shorter, slower, less illustrious brother? At the time, it was pretty hard to tell, to be quite honest.
Fast-forward a few months, however and it has soon brought people round. Seemingly, there was method to the FIA’s apparent madness. Inciting excitement, enthusiasm and publicity, its début season gave people a real taster of what they were capable of. But that was simply the beginning. The best, it seems, is yet to come.
With the new season on the horizon excitement is sure to rise and rise with each passing day, so it’s safe to say that this is a sport that is continuing to make in-roads in an super-competitive market. It’s going to be intriguing to see just how far it can go and how, if at all, it plans to overshadow its fuel-driven other half.
So, let’s run through some of the facts, interesting snippets and necessary titbits you simply have to know if you want to follow one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.
As ever, feel free to sound off in the comments section with your own opinion.
15 Fan power means winning power
Sports right across the globe often pride themselves on their ability to engage fans, get to know them and include them as part of their team in whatever way possible. However, it’s rare that supporters, whether it’s in soccer, basketball, baseball or anything else can directly impact the outcome of their team’s performance – during a contest. Then there’s Formula E.
Having trialled "Fanboost" in its first season – where supporters got to cast votes for their favourite drivers prior to the race to receive a boost to their engine – it looks as if they are developing those plans further. Now, voting could well continue during the race, adding even more excitement and drama for the fans because they could spur their preferred drivers, quite literally, on to victory.
14 The cars look better than they sound
One of the biggest complaints about the Formula E franchise to date has been the fact that the cars don’t make the same noises some think they should. Detracting from its appeal somewhat, it’s proven a difficult obstacle for newcomers to wrap their heads around. That said, there have been some developments to add sound to their make-up.
For many, the verve and wail of a powerful engine adds so much to the theatre and opera of a big race as it whizzes into a chicane. Without it, they feel as if there’s something missing. There might well be, but after one settles in to the narrative of a compelling season, all that talk sort of, well…gets drowned out by so many other aspects. Whether it’s the sheer magnificence of the skilful drivers, the eye-catching design of the car, the Championship drama or the picturesque settings, it becomes easy to ignore some of its minor drawbacks.
13 Some top celebrities have endorsed it
You know something is causing a fuss when the likes of Antonio Banderas, Richard Branson and Leonardo DiCaprio are forming orderly queues to attend their glitzy events. Indeed, that’s precisely what Formula E is doing. Garnering a lot of media attention, there has been a long list of famous faces endorsing it and attending its many ePrix spectacles.
In fact, DiCaprio even helped launch the Venturi Automobiles team back towards the end of 2013, which is hardly surprising considering the award-winning actor is a passionate environmental advocate.
12 Alejandro Agag is the brains behind it all
While the entire series may well have tapped into the resources of glamorous celebrities and respected, well-known, faces, it’s the driving force of Agag which has really seen the idea expand from an ambitious adventure into something hugely popular. A Spanish businessman with tremendous know-how and plenty of contacts, his desire to see his project grow has played a huge part.
The 44-year-old is constantly on the look-out for ways to make the project develop and his evident hunger could very well see its reach grow rapidly over the next few years, despite the make-shift nature of its formative stage.
11 How fast can they go?
Getting to grips with social media and palling around with DiCaprio is all well and good – but how fast can these machines actually go? Well, the short answer, right now, is that these cars can typically reach around 140 mph with around 270 bhp backing them up. Although that’s a heck of a lot slower than what speeds Formula 1 cars can hit, it’s still pretty blistering.
However, it looks as though they could become even faster in time, with Agag hinting that they have plans in motion to up the ante. As yet, he has not divulged the specifics of exactly how much faster they will be, but fans will no doubt be rubbing their hands in anticipation at the proposed improvements.
10 Drivers need two cars to complete a race
Sounds a bit anti-climactic, doesn’t it? Sure, it takes some getting used to but it bears remembering that this project is very much in its nascent stages, having only really taken off a few months ago. Therefore, there was always going to be teething problems and niggling issues to resolve along the way.
Drivers change cars at a pit-stop midway through each race because the batteries powering them cannot charge them for long enough. In that regard, it’s not really a great deal different to Formula 1 as those vehicles often need to be re-fuelled or repaired during the course of a race. After all, two cars are better than one…right?
9 The races are short and sweet
For most sports fans, one of the main attractions of staying up late to watch a game, or rising early in the morning to see your team do battle, is the story that unfolds over the course of 90 minutes, or several hours. Seeing the balance of power sway back and forth as competitors slog it out for superiority makes it all worthwhile, despite the result. Formula E is a little different in this regard.
Most races have a run time of roughly one hour, so the action is over pretty quickly – but that’s not exactly a bad thing. All the action of practice and race day are over in a single day, and although that’s because of battery constraints, its weakness has probably become its biggest strength in terms of being a crowd-pleaser; it packs all the action into one punch. In essence, condensing the excitement makes it live longer in the memory and leaves fans pining for more.
8 How many teams are involved?
Overall, there are 10 teams involved for the upcoming 2015/16 season. With so many teams competing for the Championship title, it’s expected to heat up early on. For the new installment, the constructors have been given license to adapt their cars in some aspects, which is a departure from the previous season where they all had to use an identical model.
The teams, in full, are as follows: Abt Schaeffler Audi Sport, Andretti, Dragon Racing, DS Virgin Racing, Renault E.Dams, Mahindra Racing, Nextev TCR, Aguri, Trulli and also Venturi.
7 The new season is almost upon us
Once pre-season comes to an end, the countdown to the start of a brand new season will be well and truly upon us. October is set as the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign and with the test days currently in full swing, it won’t be long before the chequered flag finally gets waved on October 17 in Beijing.
No doubt, it will prove tough to top the inaugural season. However, with so many alterations, changes and improvements having been made over the course of the last few months since the last race in London took place, it certainly promises to be as far removed from predictable as possible – and that can only be a good thing for the excitement levels.
6 It’s tipped to become bigger than F1
Bigger than F1, you say? Yes, apparently. Its exposure through television, social media and word of mouth has seen more and more fans jump on the bandwagon with every passing month, and it’s sort of easy to see why. Aside from its draw as a compelling sport, it’s also eco-friendly and is seen as the way of the future for motorsport by so many.
In fact, Richard Branson himself has gone on record to say that it will eventually become the go-to sport for motorsport lovers everywhere: “There's still going to be room for Formula One for a few more years but I would say there will come a time when Formula E will overtake it.” Having drawn over 1.2 million viewers in Britain for the last final, it’s clear the appeal is there.
5 How are the points awarded?
It’s pretty simple, really. Aside from the obvious note that 1st, 2nd and 3rd receive the most points, there is also the fact that the driver who finishes in pole position will receive three additional points. Also, the FIA is out to reward the driver who records the fastest lap (something which Fanboost could really help with) with extra points as well, so they receive two more points. After all, it is a race.
The breakdown is as follows: 1st = 25 pts, 2nd = 18 pts, 3 = 15 pts, 4th = 12 pts, 5th = 10 pts, 6th = 8 pts, 7th = 6 pts, 8th = 4 pts, 9th = 2 pts and 10th = 1 pt.
4 There’s a former F1 champion competing in it
If you’re a Canadian sports fan, the chances are you probably hold Jacques Villeneuve in pretty high regard – indeed you’d probably go so far as to say he’s something of a national icon. Having won the Formula 1 title back in 1997 under pressure from the ever-imposing and wonderfully talented Michael Schumacher, his prestige and class is beyond question.
Now, 18 years later and the 44-year-old is back behind the wheel once again, looking to win yet more accolades on the racing circuit. For the forthcoming season, he will race for team Mahindra and his addition to the line-up will surely boost viewing figures even more. Does he still have what it takes to make an impact, despite 10 years away from it all? Time will tell.
3 Nelson Piquet Jr. is the defending champion
A thriller at Battersea Park, England saw the drivers’ championship go right down to the wire between Nelson Piquet Jr. and Sebastien Buemi, and although neither driver won that particular duel, it was Piquet who came out on top overall as he snatched a higher finishing place to wind up in fifth, two places ahead of his fierce rival.
Throughout the season, it had been Buemi who took home more pole position finishes (as many as three), but Piquet’s tally was boosted by his superior consistency to finish inside the top five on more occasions. In truth, it was a fantastic spectacle, and one that highlighted just how enthralling the sport could be. Let’s hope for more of the same again.
2 How many tracks are there?
A truly widespread event, the upcoming season will see Formula E pay visits to Europe, South America, Asia and North America – and with plans to introduce more varying regions in the future, the odds are that it will quickly become a global brand, too.
With Beijing, Berlin, Paris, London and Long Beach all on the calendar, it’s got a pretty cosmopolitan feel to it which, of course, has got a lot to do with the idea of electric cars being marketed as city cars. In total, as many as 10 tracks will feature again with the action expected to wrap up some time in June or July in the vibrant metropolis that is the English capital.
1 Ayrton Senna’s nephew is involved
A legend not just in the world of motorsport – or indeed sport – but a character who truly transcended his own field, the late Ayrton Senna has always been viewed as a great character who knew how to excite, irk and entertain in equal measure. A real showman of his generation, and a three-time winner of the F1 Championship, he has often been considered as one of the greatest drivers of all time.
With that in mind, it must be difficult for his nephew, Bruno Senna, to live up to that legacy. Then again, he surely deserves credit for wanting to take part in a sport that claimed his uncle’s life so tragically. It takes courage. It takes guts. It takes bravery. Those are precisely the kind of traits Ayrton exhibited throughout his career, and Bruno has been doing his best to transfer that into wins and big results. On board with Mahindra racing for the next season, it’s going to be a joy to watch him work alongside Nick Heidfeld.