The inaugural Formula E championship comes to a close today in London after nine months and eleven races.
The all-electric racing series has been touted by some as a potential future rival to Formula One. But has it done enough in its first season to get your attention?
The usual advantages of a single-make championship is that the cars tend to be reliable and the racing close. The former was always going to be a concern with cars packing so much cutting-edge technology, but the number of breakdowns has been encouragingly low.
The closely-matched cars have produced some excellent racing as well, particularly in the latter stages of races.
However the limited performance of the cars is painfully apparent. With a top speed of just 225kph (140mph), it’s debatable just how far down the single-seater ladder a Formula E car belongs, but it would surely be comprehensively seen off even by a Formula Three car.
The standard of competition has been very good in Formula E’s first season. The sheer number of ex-Formula One drivers who’ve appeared in the series has leant it instant credibility.
Their ranks have been bolstered by many hotly-tipped names from the junior single-seater ranks who arguably deserved to reach F1 but didn’t, such as Antonio Felix da Costa and Sam bird.
On the downside, only a dozen drivers are currently slated to complete the entire season, with many ducking out to fulfil commitments in other championships, such as Da Costa in the DTM.
Formula E’s green credentials and whisper-quiet cars has allowed the organisers to base the championship entirely in urban areas where it is far easier to attract a crowd than out-of-town tracks.
It was an ambitious move by the organisers to run a calendar almost entirely on new venues. However when the series has visited tracks used by other championships – such as Monaco and Long Beach – it has made the gulf in performance between Formula E and top-flight single-seater championships all the more obvious.
The new circuits run the gamut from ‘tight and slow’ to ‘really tight and slow’, and some clearly work better than others. Berlin’s unusual circuit, built in a disused airport, was a highlight; the angular Beijing track was not.
Close racing in confined quarters between quality drivers in smart cars – Formula E has got a lot of the basics right. When it all comes together, Formula E’s racing has been good enough that the ponderous nature of the cars can be overlooked.
Some will probably never reconcile themselves to the lack of volume, however.
Having each race split in two by a mandatory pit stop to change cars does demonstrate the shortcomings of all-electric propulsion very clearly. But the organisers plan to open up the rules to allow more competition and development between different manufacturers in the future, so perhaps we will be able to look back one day and marvel at the gains that have been made.
The involvement of F1 teams such as Williams (batteries) and McLaren (electronics) lends vital kudos to the championship in this respect.
An innovative, forward-thinking way to engage with Formula E’s fanbase and help promote the championship across social media?
Or a tawdry gimmick which reduces racing drivers to begging for votes so they can have an extra power boost, without which they might be passed by a more popular rival?
There tends to be no half-way house on this subject.
I’ve watched most of the Formula E races prior to this weekend, though not always with the same level of attention I devote to other championships I’m more invested in.
While the quality of racing and the many familiar ex-F1 names draws me in, there are a couple of things that put me off. The sheer slowness of the cars is a big minus for me – although the often narrow circuits help give an impression of speed, the cars are otherwise distinctly unimpressive.
And then there’s Fanboost. I’ve said my piece on this once before, suffice it to say I still think anyone who believes motor racing should ever place popularity before performance shouldn’t have anything to do with running it.
What's your opinion of Formula E?
- No opinion (1%)
- Very negative (11%)
- Slightly negative (13%)
- Neutral (10%)
- Slightly positive (33%)
- Very positive (33%)
Total Voters: 485
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