I used to be a massive Formula 1 fan, back in the days when RTÉ showed the races. I found it hard to watch races until recently when I got Sky Sports, which includes a dedicated F1 channel. I’m loving having regular races to watch again, but now it’s the offseason so what’s a man to do? Well, if you give Formula E a shot, the winter months pass much faster.
Here’s everything you need to know about Formula E.
What is Formula E?
Formula E was founded in 2011 and is an electric motor only auto racing class. The idea for this new single-seater racing class was conceptualised by Jean Todt, former Ferrari team boss and current President of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile). The first championship took place in 2014 and it launched to a mixed reception.
It’s an unusual motorsport to watch given the odd sound electric motors make. Naturally, I was immediately comparing Formula E vs Formula 1 and couldn’t help but noticed the much more audible tyre squeal given there are no loud hybrid engines I’m familiar with from F1. All the tracks are road tracks, shutting down 12 cities for 13 races across 5 continents.
I’ll dip into more Formula E facts in a second, but there are some really interesting things you should know about this modern day motorsport which make it clear it’s here to stay.
Today, it’s plain to see that environmental change is having a massive impact on the world. Many governments, including Ireland, have made commitments to ban fossil fuel-powered cars in the not-too-distant future. With that in mind, motorsport will also need to change. I’ll admit, Formula E doesn’t offer quite the same level of excitement as Formula 1 just yet, but it’ll get there. Well, it has to.
Formula E Top Speed: Are They Getting Faster?
The fifth series of Formula E sees the second generation car take to the grid; the Gen2 Car. With the new car comes some pretty massive upgrades.
These cars are absolutely getting faster, with power outputs jumping from 200kW to 250kW and top speeds increasing to about 280kmph. Now, are Formula E cars as fast as Formula 1 cars? No. The fastest recorded speed in an F1 car is Pablo Montoya’s 373kmph but they are getting faster and at 280kmph, Formula E cars can really move compared to most motors.
Formula E Race Format
Ultimately, race weekends aren’t hugely different from what you might be familiar with in F1, but there are some subtle differences.
At most race weekends, referred to as the E-Prix, things kick off with a Friday practice session where car power is restricted to 110kW. These sessions are referred to as a shakedown session.
Given the fact E-Prix takes place on public roads, Friday sessions aren’t always possible.
On race weekend Saturdays, there are two full-power practice runs of 30 minutes and 45 minutes long.
Formula E Qualifying
To determine the race starting order, a qualifying session takes place. This is an hour-long session which divides drivers into groups determined by their position in the championship.
With a hot lap completed, drivers have six minutes to set the fastest time they can, with the fastest six competing in a Super Pole shoot-out. The fastest driver secures pole position and with it an additional three points.
E-Prix: The Formula E Race
After the morning’s qualifying, later in the day is the race. Cars make a standing start, waiting for a green light to kick things off. The E-Prix lasts 45 minutes, with the race concluding as the leader crosses the line once 45 minutes has elapsed.
In previous seasons, during the race drivers would swap cars halfway through to ensure there was enough battery power to complete the race. This meant drivers pitted, jumped out of their car and jumped into another. To be honest, this looked a bit mad but was really exciting, but with the introduction of Gen2 Cars, car swapping is no longer required.
As you can see, Formula E really stands out from Formula 1 on race day where some exciting innovations have been introduced. Here are the big ones.
Formula E Fan Boost
Fan Boost allows people watching the race, including people watching on TV, to have a direct impact on proceedings. Viewers vote for the drivers they want to be awarded a boost in power for a single five-second window throughout the race.
Voting opens six days prior to the race and you can vote right up to fifteen minutes before the race starts. Voting takes place on the Formula E website but also drives social engagement through hashtags.
Attack Mode: New in 2018/2019
Attack Mode encourages drivers to take extra risks on the track. Attack Mode is extremely Mario Kart-esque as drivers must leave the racing line, taking a slower line through an activation zone. The reward is similar to Fan Boost in that they get 25kW of additional power to use.
It’s hoped that the sporting element of Attack Mode will offset the loss of mid-race car swaps.
Does Tesla Compete in Formula E?
Alas, Elon Musk doesn’t seem to believe Formula E is a good fit for Tesla. Here’s the full list of competing teams for the 2018/2019 season and no, there’s no Tesla but some of their biggest road car competitors do feature:
- DS Techeetah Formula E Team
- Envision Virgin Racing
- Geox Dragon Racing
- HWA Racelab
- Mahindra Racing
- NIO Formula E Team
- Nissan e.dams
- Panasonic Jaguar Racing
- Venturi Formula E Team
Personally, I’m more surprised Red Bull don’t have a team present than Tesla as this would seem to be a perfect fit. The big names from F1 are expected to eventually file into Formula E with Mercedes announcing they would enter the sport for the 2019/2020 season.
Formula E Drivers
I’m not sure you could call any of the Formula E drivers household names or not, but for Formula 1 fans a few well-known names appear.
Felippe Massa took a year out of motorsport following his retirement from F1 before taking a seat with the Venturi Formula E Team.
Stoffel Vandoorne allowed himself a very short break from a disappointing F1 season with McLaren Honda to take a seat with HWA Racelab for their debut season.
Sébastien Buemi failed to set the world alight while driving with Torro Rosso in F1 but since making the move to Formula E he has been a dominant force and is the current holder of the record number of race wins.
Formula E Car Specs
Much of the Formula E car specs are the same across the board. In the first season, every team had identical cars, but since season two, powertrain manufacturers could build their own electric motor, inverter, gearbox and cooling system.
Formula E in Dublin
Unfortunately, there are no signs of an Irish driver breaking through to the Formula E series. Adam Carroll came close in the 2015/2016 season though but never quite made the grid. Also, even though we seem to have a growing love for electric transport with the likes of electric scooters becoming popular, attempts to get a Dublin-based Formula E race seem to have fallen on deaf ears for now. Hardly surprising considering the UK doesn’t even have a race yet.
2018/2019 Formula E Calendar
|1||Ad Diriyah E-Prix||Saudi Arabia||Riyadh Street Circuit||15 December 2018|
|2||Marrakesh E-Prix||Morocco||Circuit International Automobile Moulay El Hassan||12 January 2019|
|3||Santiago E-Prix||Chile||Parque O’Higgins Circuit||26 January 2019|
|4||Mexico City E-Prix||Mexico||Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez||16 February 2019|
Hong Kong E-Prix
|Hong Kong||Hong Kong Central Harbourfront Circuit||10 March 2019|
|6||Sanya E-Prix||China||Sanya Street Circuit||23 March 2019|
|7||Rome E-Prix||Italy||Circuito Cittadino dell’EUR||13 April 2019|
|8||Paris E-Prix||France||Circuit des Invalides||27 April 2019|
|9||Monaco E-Prix||Monaco||Circuit de Monaco||11 May 2019|
|10||Berlin E-Prix||Germany||Tempelhof Airport Street Circuit||25 May 2019|
|11||Bern E-Prix||Switzerland||TBA||22 June 2019|
|12||New York City E-Prix Race 1||United States||Brooklyn Street Circuit||13 July 2019|
|13||New York City E-Prix Race 2||14 July 2019|
Where to Watch Formula E in Ireland
BBC, BT Sports and Eurosport will be showing Formula E for subscribers in Ireland, but you don’t even need that much! Eager to grow interested in the sport, tickets on the door are pretty cheap and there are few barriers to watching from home too.
The Formula E website has a handy page which helps you find the best way to find a way to watch in your locality.
Is It Worth Watching or Is Formula E Boring?
Season one lacked a lot of magic, but every season since, Formula E has been growing in popularity. To be honest, the future of high-performance motorsport is Formula E, so watching it is unavoidable in the long term. Every season that passes, the races get faster and more exciting so Formula E is far from boring too.
If you have any doubts about just how exciting electric-powered racing can be, check out this video of former F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg trying out the new Gen2 Car…