After the inaugural Formula E season came to its close in June, the organisers are already gearing up for its second campaign by announcing all of its participating teams and most of the venues. Deemed a roaring success by most involved with the venture, the clean motorsport is looking to improve upon that platform in the coming year.
There were no surprises on the participants’ front, with the line-up of teams unchanged from last year, while the venues have been altered slightly. The problematic Miami location has been dropped in favour of a race in a location yet to be determined (with Mexico City a strong possibility), while Paris has stepped into the breach left by Monaco.
A More Eco-Friendly Motorsport
For the uninitiated, Formula E takes the same basic principles as Formula One (and a handful of the same drivers) and transplants them into an environmentally-friendly setting. This involves substituting the diesel-guzzling and carbon-spouting engines of F1 for 200kw glycerine-powered battery engines, which produce zero emissions and significantly reduced noise pollution (a maximum of 80dB in comparison to the ear-splitting 140dB of F1).
Of course, this doesn’t come without compromise. These eco-friendly batteries can only endure 25-30 minutes of solid racing, which necessitates the drivers switching cars mid-race. The races themselves also only last around an hour, although that’s not necessarily bad news – especially for newbie fans whose attention spans might not be held by the marathons of Formula One or other traditional styles of racing.
Meanwhile, there’s no denying that the vehicles are slower. Top speeds of 150mph are standard across the board – which, again, doesn’t necessarily spell bad news. Levelling the playing field in such a manner encourages fairer competition and an overall more compelling spectacle, as was evidenced by Nelson Piquet Jr’s narrow championship win over Sebastian Buemi by one point. Things really did go down to the wire.
Friends in High Places
The sport also has the financial backing and the PR connections necessary to succeed. The big boys of F1 are all involved in some shape or form, with McLaren manufacturing the electric motors, Williams providing the batteries, Michelin furnishing the tyres and Renault offering technical support.
Renault and Audi both have horses in the race and its novelty has also attracted some big name investors. Hollywood hotshot and outspoken environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio owns a team, as does former F1 great Alain Prost. Perhaps the most vocal supporter of the sport, however, is Virgin tycoon Richard Branson.
As well as funding a Virgin team which scooped the final race in London, Branson has put his mouth where his money is, claiming that the new brand of racing “in four or five years [will] take over from F1 in terms of number of people.” Such comments have understandably unsettled the F1 world – most notably Red Bull’s Christian Horner – but their consternation at Branson’s bullishness might betray real concern.
The biggest challenge facing Formula E is drumming up the interest in the sport. Last season, several races were free to the public in an attempt to raise its profile, while the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) recently announced that all test days for the upcoming season will be free to watch, as well. The events which will take place over six days in August at Donington Park racetrack in Leicestershire will be ticketed, but at no charge.
However, the very fact that cities around the world are clamouring to be honoured with hosting the new spectacle demonstrates its immense appeal. The new season will get underway in Beijing, China, on October 17th, and is sure to be hotly anticipated. Whether it can live up to Branson’s hype remains to be seen – but for now, the future of Formula E looks bright.
Formula E 2015/16 Season Full Team Names:
Formula E 2015/16 Calendar
October 17th 2015 – Beijing, China
November 7th 2015 – Putrajaya, Malaysia
December 19th 2015 – Punta del Este, Uruguay*
February 6th 2016 – Buenos Aires, Argentina*
March 19th 2016 – To be announced
April 2nd 2016 – Long Beach, United States
April 23rd 2016 – Paris, France
May 21st 2016 – Berlin, Germany
June 4th 2016 – Moscow, Russia
Date TBA – London, United Kingdom
*To be confirmed
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