Sebastien Buemi, Formula E, Buenos Aires, 2017

Manufacturers ‘now prefer Formula E’ – Agag

F1 Fanatic Round-up

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In the round-up: Formula E chief Alejandro Agag says the all-electric racing championship has become the preferred motor sport for manufacturers.

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Has NASCAR’s increasingly gimmicky product turned fans off – and is there a lesson for F1 here?

Something that is sad to see is how NASCAR is been run into the ground with all the silly gimmicks over the last 15-plus years. To see grandstands at Daytona less than half-full shows just how far that series has fallen and how none of the gimmicks are doing anything to bring people back.

This new stage format they introduced this year is a complete and utter joke. The way they format their ‘championship’ is an even bigger joke and for as long as they keep doing nonsense like that they will continue to haemorrhage fans because I don’t know a single person (including many who grew up watching NASCAR) who likes any of it. Most I know got turned off by it starting with the stupid Chase for the Cup in 2004.
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  • 60 comments on “Manufacturers ‘now prefer Formula E’ – Agag”

    1. Regarding the ruling. I think a few of us here had long suspected Vettel’s lack of an apology and his arrogance, was what brought about the FIA’s escalation.
      Had he acknowledged his errors immediately after the race, I’m sure the FIA would have been satisfied.
      But in the end, the FIA should have wasted less time with all that show, and instead fined him on the spot and ended the whole charade early.

      1. Fukobayashi (@)
        4th July 2017, 9:59

        In an age where they are putting vacuum cleaner engines in F1 to promote a green message how about the air miles that have been accumulated by journos and those involved in the hearing to fly to Paris all to hear this stupid non sentence. Weak FIA, Ferrari obviously pulling some strings behind the scenes as they always have done.

    2. Sure, Formula E is relatively cheap now, what happens when the give the manufacturers free reign? Aren’t they supposed to be afforded more freedom with respect to development in the coming years?

      Motor racing at the top level has always been and always will be a very expensive endeavour. Formula E is currently not at the top level, but it might get there one day, but at that point, I’m sure we will be having similar debates about costs and revenue sharing structures.

      1. They’re going to be allowed freedom wrt the powertrain and potentially the battery (thus driving technology and road-relevance), but I believe the intention is to always run a spec chassis, thus avoiding a pointless aerodynamics arms race.

        1. @optimaximal, that doesn’t really address the question of how they will keep wider development costs under control though, since it may just end up redirecting spending towards different areas instead.

          It’s worth noting that, when Formula E started, Agag originally planned on limiting budgets to $2 million a year in order to make it affordable for independent teams to enter. The idea of ensuring that privateers can compete seems to have been abandoned in favour of luring in manufacturers, and even though budgets are still modest right now, it doesn’t sound as if Agag is putting that much thought into capping costs for the long term.

    3. Absolutely terrible precedent set. You can’t let a group of fledged wrens treat a moth like that and get away with it.

      1. I understand the fledged wrens are summoned to report to the WWF headquarters.

        1. Crucially important F1 news written by Alan Partridge there.

      2. Indeed. If it was football, it was like sanctioning an elbow to the face with a yellow card then asking for video referee and saying the previous punishment was enough.

    4. In regards to the COTD,

      Yes the thing that is very attractive about F1 is the simplicity in understanding who leads the championship,

      Depending on your standing you take home the respective points and the guy with the most points wins the championship.

      If F1 went any other route other than this, it would be a turn off.

      1. But F1 DID have confusing points schemes at various times that made it somewhat hard to understand why Prost had more points but Senna won, as an example. It’s a miracle F1 walked away from the gimmicks.

        1. @wushumr2 exactly. F1 tried that junk, sometimes for knee jerk reasons, but usually had the sense to back out of bad ideas.

          NASCAR has been running The Chase for ~13 years and everyone seems to universally hate it!

        2. @wushumr2, I might be mistaken, but I think that the idea of the maximum points system with races dropped was carried over from the regulations which were being drafted for the Grand Prix championship in 1939, but abandoned on the outbreak of hostilities.

          Right from the very first season, the points system in F1 was a bit confusing – it started out with just the top five being given points, plus a bonus point for fastest lap, then in the 1960’s they dropped the bonus points system and gave points to the top six, but kept the system of keeping only a proportion of the best results. The 1970’s made it more confusing by splitting the season into two separate halves, and only allowing a certain proportion of races from each half to count towards the championship, though I’ve never seen a clear explanation for the rationale behind that complication.

          Incidentally, whilst the case of Prost and Senna in the 1988 season, where Prost outscored Senna by some margin if all results counted (11 points clear), but lost under the dropped scored system, there is another case where that happened. In 1964, Graham Hill would have been declared champion if all results were allowed to stand, as he would have scored 41 points to 40 for Surtees: however, Hill had to drop one 5th place and 2 points, dropping him to 39 points and giving the title to Surtees that year.

    5. COTD is spot on. NASCAR keeps going further and further down the rabbit hole thinking that they haven’t gone far enough when it is actually the complete opposite. My parents, like many others in the deep south, used to be die-hard NASCAR fans but now they rarely watch a race. Hopefully F1 learns from this and stays away from gimmicks and sticks to its roots.

      1. I haven’t followed NasCar for decades, it went from being an exciting test of the potential performance of cars you could actually buy to being a money making exercise using low-tech, one-design, race cars painted to resemble cars you could buy, just like F1 this was done to reduce costs and justify vast amounts of revenue being taken away by a single promoter. And just like F1 the costs never really went down.

        1. Yeah I think F1 should be the open class. It’s not anymore. The stage racing in nascar is nothing more than heat races with heat race points added to the championship. It’s heat racing. However, the point scheme makes the heats super valuable. I don’t like gimmicks, and it took quite a while before I watched a nascar race when they changed the format, but mingling heat race points with championship points has kinda got me paying attention. Still not sure if it’s fair cause long run cars don’t get to run long. Still deciding.

        2. @hohum, since when was NASCAR a “test of the potential performance of cars you could actually buy”? Even in the late 1950’s, that was a rather tenuous claim given that most automotive manufacturers were fitting what were euphemistically called “heavy duty” components to their cars, whilst by the 1960’s they’d gone straight to producing “limited edition” cars that were effectively the forerunners of the late 1990’s “limited edition” cars that were used in the short lived GT1 series.

          1. Anon, you need to think about what the word potential means.

      2. I was done with NASCAR when they put headlight decals on the cars.

    6. Regarding the COTD, I actually enjoy stage racing. It mixes up the strategy and keeps the race from being a waiting game. But it feels pointless because of the Chase system. Drivers jockeying for places 2-10 won’t be rewarded in the end because the points are wiped away. And I hate that the entire season’s championship hangs on one race. If NASCAR insists on doing a Chase format, make it like it was with 10 races of cumulative to decide. And make it a good mix of large, medium, and short track ovals, a plate race, and a road course. I’m adamant that Jimmy Johnson has won so many championships because he’s really darn good at 1.5-mile ovals and it just so happened that 5+ of the 10 races were 1.5-mile ovals. Of course I’d rather them go back to a real season-long championship like every other series on earth.

    7. I agree with @jaymenon10 in that Formula E is bound to have the same problems as any other world series once manufacturers start developing the whole car themselves.

      It’s bound to happen to see a manufacturer so far ahead of the rest that people start turning off the telly. It’s bound to happen that Formula E becomes so expensive that it’s no longer worth it. It’s the normal course of any series willing to be the best at something, the pinnacle of electric driven motorsport in this case.

      Nowadays it’s dirt cheap for the manufacturers, there’s a reasonably even playing field, good marketing and willingness from cities to be seen as “green” for allowing an electric motorsport race taking place in the most visible places of each city.

      But it’ll change… races will become boring, people will start complaining about lack of sound and unexcitement during races, predictable results and all that stuff that we hear from F1 nowadays.

      1. Formula E currently has no plans to open up the entire car to development, and I don’t think they ever will. Agag is well aware of how spending has risen to ridiculous levels in F1. The teams are limited to drive train(i.e. the electric motor(s), gearbox, and control software) development right now. I could see Formula E allowing the teams to make their own batteries or develop active suspension in a few years, but I don’t see it ever being a completely open chassis/aero formula. Definitely not in the next 20 to 30 years.

        1. Since Mr Agag is happy to roll the red carpet out for manufacturers, over time, the manufacturers will have a bigger say in what goes into the rule book. This is inevitable.

          FE may not turn into an aero arms race, but there’s plenty money to be spent, especially if the big boys start pumping the cash in. There could very well be an arms race on to develop batteries, on the power train, or the suspension. Like Bernie’s always said, the one thing racing teams do well, is spend whatever money they have.

          Ultimately, the manufacturers are currently involved because it suits their marketing demands, for a relatively low spend. As and when the formula relaxes its technological development restrictions, you can be sure that the manufacturers will turn up the wick. I mean, no manufacturer (not even Honda) wouldn’t want their cars to finish behind their rivals, thats not good for business.

          When the costs start going up, it will come down to return on investment. For continued interest from manufacturers, the global reach FE will need to be significantly increased,it will need to rival F1’s audience. If it doesn’t, why would the manufacturers be interested?

        2. @forrest that’s bound to happen too. And even if the chassis stays the same, the costs will inevitably go out of control… 1 manufacturer will start beating the heck out of everyone else, the losers will leave because it’s not worthy to keep going just to lose, and it’ll become WEC…

    8. Otek Ondiek
      4th July 2017, 5:34

      All the more reason to bring back V8 engines to f1 and forget all this e-stuff creeping into f1.

      1. Why V8s in particular?

      2. And the reason that’d not be less interesting than a H16 is because….?

      3. So you want less powerful slower cars that are easier to control that make lots of noise for no purpose what so ever.

        1. Not necessarily V8’s, but it would be fantastic to have normally aspirated cars back, just from an entertainment point of view.

          How about a cutting edge, lightweight, smallish V10? I’d wager they could get better fuel efficiency out of that then what we have now, with all the extra weight that the hybrids carry… And it would make a sound that would have us all jumping up and down like kids when we are at the track, like we used to.

          1. I don’t get whats wrong with Turbos and energy recovery. Its only the regulations that end up with a heavy engine.
            If V10s and V8s could be so easily efficient, why don’t the major car manufacturers make engines like that? Its because they can’t. The V10s and V12 wre conplex and expensive and their power output was not that greatI hope my future road cars had energy recovery and more efficiency.

            But for comparisons
            1980s BMW 1.5 Turbo max 1400 hp est (900hp in race)
            Ferrari 3.5l V12 820 hp (611 kW) at 15,800 rpm
            Ford Cosworth DFR V8 giving 620 hp (462 kW) at 10,750 rpm
            Renault RS01 powered Williams, a 67° V10 giving 650 hp (485 kW) at 14300 rpm.
            BMW’s P83 3.0 L V10 19,200 and 900 bhp (670 kW)
            Toyota 2.4l V8 approximate 740 hp (552 kW) output at 18000 rpm
            From 2010- 2013 2.4l V8 with KERS cars had a regular power of 700-800 hp

            Formula 1’s V6 turbo power units are now more powerful than the previous V8 and V10 engines, according to Mercedes’ engine boss Andy Cowell. “I think the current turbo V6 is the most powerful power unit that we have produced.”

            “With recent news out of Ferrari it looks like Formula 1 will once again be flirting with the 1,000 horsepower threshold soon. Mercedes comfortably hit 900 plus horsepower with their 2016 power unit and the old V10’s also broke 900 hp, but the last time F1 engines produced over 1,000 hp was during the peak of the original turbo era in the mid-80’s.”

            1. @theoddkiwi

              I won’t argue with any of your quoted figures, which I am sure are correct. The reason some people want N/A engines is simple. They sound so incredible at the circuit that they make you feel 5 years old.

              The turbo hybrids simply don’t sound art all special and that makes for a very underwhelming experience at the circuit for those who have memories of how F1 used to sound.

              I fully take onboard arguments about current technology, but if we go that way, as Ross Brawn says, we will end up with driverless electric cars. So my view is we should accept F1 is in the entertainment business and make a car that entertains live.

    9. In my opinion, Formula E’s success till now has little to do with its rule making, meticulous planning or organising.

      Electric vehicles are growing in market share for years now & there was a championship asking to be set up from a reputable governing body. And Formula E happened. All major car makers are releasing EVs throughout their product lines. It is a product of its time, and it is solely built on requirements of that. It will rise and fall along with the lifetime of relevant fuel technologies.

      Other major championships(F1, MotoGP, NASCAR etc) weren’t born of such circumstances. Formula 1 can just pick hydrogen fuel cells in 15 years from now and still retain it’s identity. As long as Le Mans prototypes put wheels on ground & runs for 24 hours… no matter what tech they use, they’ll be what they are. Same would apply to MotoGP.

      FE’s identity isn’t in the racing, format, competitiveness, number of big names involved or locations even….it’s with the fuel they use.

      1. GtisBetter (@)
        4th July 2017, 9:23

        this is nonsense. FE has a very distinctive format and rules. They are the only one who race in the middle of the biggest cities in the world. You can not tell me that doesn’t require a lot of planning, organising and help from the city. They have a good marketing strategy and make sure they put up a little show. The kind of racing is always defined by the car and engine. Just as with rally cars, nascar, single seaters, touring cars etc. Saying FE is only here because of the electric engine is not doing justice to the series, however high or low you regard it.

        1. @passingisoverrated,
          Interesting that you point my comment as ‘nonsense’.
          Anyway, either (a) you’ve missed my point to a large extent, (b) didn’t read it all… or (c) English not being my 1st or 2nd language created some misunderstandings.

          I did never indicate that this sort of tournament

          doesn’t require a lot of planning, organising and help from the city

          . My opinion was about the main reason behind its success & the root of its identity. None of the major championships have their identity so obviously rooted on a single factor like fuel. Their origin & defining factors encompass a whole lot more & changed throughout multiple decades.

          Here’s a simple question, if you’d answer in a single sentence, “What is Formula E?”
          Show me how your answer would contradict my comment/opinion.

        2. @passingisoverrated the only reason they can race “in the middle of the biggest cities in the world” is because they are so slow! The moment they start racing at sensible racing speeds they will have outgrown these piddly little circuits and have to move to more traditional types of track (if the batteries can take it).

      2. @praxis Actually I’d say of all the championships you listed there, only WEC really has gone anywhere with using alternative fuels. They’ve had petrol and diesel running competitively, but that’s about it. What WEC has of course is a desire to be at the forefront of technology, and that frees it from being tied to any specific type of power unit. As Audi say, vorsprung durch technik!

        But all of those other series are very firmly rooted in using petrol internal combusion engines. F1 couldn’t even go from NA V8s to hybrid V6 cars without having a crisis of identity. I couldn’t imagine something like Audi’s hybrid diesel power unit from its defunct Le Mans cars being welcomed by F1’s fans – too quiet; against the dna of the sport, and blah blah. People are constantly moaning about the hybrids, fans team, promoters, everyone in F1. Imagine what a leap it would be to have electric F1 power units.

        By contrast, I think you’re failing to make an important distinction with Formula E – actually it is literally the only one where the fuel is removed entirely from the equation. The cars are battery powered – the energy in the batteries can come from basically any source. It’s completely fuel-agnostic. The only real concern going forward is whether hydrogen fuel cells replace having batteries. But even then, what’s the distinction? It’s formula E, not formula Battery. The rest of the car concept remains the same – the car is propelled by electric motors. The energy for those motors can come from a battery, or, if the technology ever matures, it could come from a fuel cell. It’s still an electric formula.

        Plus I think you’re being a bit disingenuous here – Formula E isn’t popular because people just love electric motors. In fact I know plenty of people who love the series in spite of it being electric. Who still moan about car changes and the whiny noise. Really, curiosity about the series got people watching in the first place, but what keeps them watching is that, at the heart of it, it’s just a really great racing series. It remind me of the heyday of touring car racing during the 90s – lots of tech, but brilliant wheel-to-wheel action through the whole race. Every F-E race I’ve watched has been thrilling, and that’s what keeps me tuning in. Great drivers, big named teams, lots of backing, accessible coverage. It has everything that F1 lacks.

        1. “The only real concern going forward is whether hydrogen fuel cells replace having batteries.”

          Actually, all fuel cell cars have a battery as the fuel cell cannot respond quickly enough to changes in the throttle. So a fuel cell car is exactly like a normal electric car, with a smaller battery, but additionally they have a fuel cell and hydrogen tank.

          [Personally, I think fuel cell technology is a dead-end. The process of converting electricity to hydrogen back to electricity is much less efficient than storing and retrieving the energy from a lithium ion battery (factor 2-3). This will simply make fuel cell cars unable to compete as the cost of the hydrogen will always be significantly more expensive than the electricity for an electric car. Exceptions may be racing cars and the very long term when renewable electricity has a significant overcapacity so that hydrogen can be produced at very low cost.]

    10. I truly believe the interest in FE now is because it is cheap. With all these comparisons between FE and F1 one shouldn’t forget the amount of people both sports reach. I’m not going to post any numbers, do a bit of googling and be surprised yourself.

      1. @xtwl it’s going to be interesting to see that reach pivot if F1 continues its march behind paywalls.

        Why Sky consumes F1 in the UK come 2019, Formula E will be the only motorsport getting any significant FTA coverage!

    11. From Joe Saward’s article:

      In order to be fair to other drivers, the FIA cannot now punish them harshly – because of what it has done with Vettel.

      Does anyone seriously believe that other drivers will now regularly drive into each other and the FIA will do nothing about it? Precedent or no precedent, if the FIA sees any unwelcome or dangerous trend, then it will act accordingly. It has often done so in the recent years.

      1. 10s Stop & Go plus 3 Penalty Points is not worth it to just attract somebody’s attention and show disgust by banging wheels!

      2. The only thing I got from Joes article is if you don’t agree with him, you’re not welcome to post an opinion.
        I don’t believe other F1 drivers will be deliberately driving into each other and I’m hoping Vettel calms down to allow this championship to be decided on the track and not by penalties applied off the track.
        The lower category series however, is another matter and that concerns me as a safety issue.

        And just be reading back my own comment there, we have the problem. You can’t really do both. Ban Vettel for 1 race and the FIA are sending a strong message, but intervene directly with the F1 championship driver battle. Not doing any additional action and they could be not deterring any younger drivers of similar actions in lower category racing.

        1. Thats Joe. Dishing up garbage for decades, with a superiority complex that puts Ron Dennis in the shade.

          His investigative articles have the accuracy of a stopped clock. The blog equivalent of a shock jock.

        2. @chalky @dimsim Sadly, I have to agree with you about Joe Saward, the “discussion” in the comment section of his website does not make any sense. Perhaps it makes the author feel better about himself, perhaps he thinks it’s some kind of a funny game. Anyway, I lost my respect for Saward after his encounter with “the silent majority” at the 2012 Bahrain GP – I believe he never apologised for that. But I guess it’s about the principles of journalism – either you adhere to them or ignore them.

          As for the FIA’s verdict, it was never going to be an easy decision, particularly as there is no rule, which says what penalty you get for deliberately touching / driving into another car. As you say, sending a stronger message to the young drivers or other drivers in general would also mean intervening with the DWC battle. In my view, they did the right thing; for sure, the opinions might be different but I really do not think that what Vettel did has now become more acceptable just because the FIA did not disqualify him.

        3. “The only thing I got from Joes article is if you don’t agree with him, you’re not welcome to post an opinion.”

          Disagree.

          Looking from the comments, the only ones he’s told are not welcome are the people who accuse him disliking Ferrari because of his opinion on the matter, which is tantamount to insulting him.

          1. Not sure it is Ferrari, but I have the feeling he really dislikes Vettel. Point me to a blog post where he portrays Vettel in a positive light…

    12. You don’t say. All the have ever said is that they race to develop street cars. All they want to produce is electric vehicles. They knew that 5 years ago. And, you knew that when a manufacture joins F1 it is always a temporary budget for a set period. Sadly, in 10 years, if you’re still burnin gas, then you are running the vintage class. Mind you, that’s not a bad thing. As soon as the e cars make serious horsepower, you will forget it’s a e car. And they will. Soon. Don’t matter to me just as long as it sits me back in my seat.

    13. Red Bull fuel boost, now that is nice.

      But also quite lame. All this science of special fuels is diverging from intention and spirit of the rules. F1 should be racing on close to street petrol. But they aren’t.

      1. @jureo, the trend in recent years has been for the fuel blends to move closer towards commercially available fuels than in the past.

        Go back to the inception of the sport in 1950, and the fuel blends that were being used didn’t remotely resemble “pump fuel” – the Alfa Romeo 158 ran on almost pure methanol, whilst Ferrari’s 375 ran on a methanol/benzene mixture and the Talbot-Lago T26C ran on a similar alcohol fuel blend too.
        By the time you get to the 1960’s, the cars were straight up running on aviation fuel blends, whilst even though the cars were ostensibly supposed to run on a “pump blend” in the 1980’s, the turbo cars of the time ran on some fairly toxic toluene blends (it was the toxicity of those fuel blends that eventually resulted in the shift to something that really did resemble a “pump blend” in the 1990’s).

        When they talk about the fuel chemistry these days, it’s the minor additives that are being tweaked – at its core, it’s an octane blend that still bears a stronger resemblance to commercially available fuels than you might think.

    14. Great stuff yesterday with the tour de france doing a section of Spa. Highly recommend taking a look at the youtube video, especially eau rouge. Really gives a sense of how steep the run from la source is and then how much of an incline there is on the kemmel straight, most of the riders got halfway up eau rouge before having to pedal and then struggled (relatively) all the way up to les combes. They then pretty much free wheeled all the way to the stavelot complex

    15. Tony Mansell
      4th July 2017, 11:46

      F1 is still the preffered choice of the fan.

      The day you start marching to the manufacturers tune is the day you end up in the river. I remember Toyota coming into f1 screaming about this that and the other needing to be changed. then they just up and left when the economic conditions didnt suit. We need McLaren, Ferrari Williams, Sauber & FI.

      Manufacturers, driven by accountants as they are can play but they should never be in charge of the ball, let alone anything else.

    16. “I’m the guy who knows Lewis best in the whole of the racing industry, so I think I’m in the best position to judge it and for sure he didn’t do that one on purpose, definitely.”

      Didn’t do -what- on purpose Nico?

      The same language being used as usual. Blaming him by not blaming him.

      1. Didn’t do -what- on purpose Nico?

        I didn’t even need to read the article to know exactly what the headline referred to: The incident before the incident everyone is talking about. The reason why Vettel lost his cool.

    17. I’ve completely lost interest in Formula E this year, I watched the 1st few races & then missed a race & just haven’t gone back. I watched the 1st 2 seasons & enjoyed them & it’s not that I didn’t enjoy the races I watched this year but it just lost me at some point.

      The long gaps between races earlier in the season really didn’t help as it sort of fell out of my thoughts a bit to the point where I could barely remember who had finished where in the prior rounds let alone what the championship standings were.

      With something like F1 & Indycar where there’s a race every 2 weeks or so the race results & championship standings are always kept fresh in my mind so I really get into the flow of the season. With Formula E & even WEC to an extent, The long gaps takes it out of my memory a bit & there’s less of a flow to the season which makes it kind of hard for me to stay engaged in the season to the same extent I do some other categories.

      1. @stefmeister While I absolutely love Formula E, I think this is a really valid point. it’s something WEC suffers from as well, with a big gap after Le Mans, when the enthusiasm for the series should be at its highest.

        One other thing I think Formula E needs is for one event to be its crowning jewel. In the way that Le Mans is to WEC, the Indy500 is to IndyCar, and Monaco is to F1. I do get that every race in Formula E is meant to be a special and unique showcase, but I really to think it needs one specific event to be the centrepiece of the championship, from which the hype can flow. Something like a night race in the heart of Europe, something a little unusual. Obviously you can’t just create the history and heritage of a race like the Monaco GP, but certainly you can tune your marketting activities to make one event a main leverage point.

        1. “One other thing I think Formula E needs is for one event to be its crowning jewel. In the way that Le Mans is to WEC, the Indy500 is to IndyCar, and Monaco is to F1.”

          I don’t think Monaco is that to F1. This rethoric has been pushed for decades now, but very few people feel it, as seen by the discussions on this forum after the Monaco GP this year especially.

    18. Meh, I wouldn’t cross the street to watch Formula e. And I’ve been following racing since 1969. I think the problem (for me) is that when the first three races you went to, at age eight, were Formula 5000, Can-Am and Trans-Am, then formula e just doesn’t measure up.

    19. I still can’t take Formula E seriously as a proper racing series. For me it still feels like a showcase series for the potential of electric motorsport in the future. Maybe it’s because the cars aren’t that fast or the tracks being too simplistic and short or the artificial fanboost, but something in it for me feels like it’s not a real motorsport.

    20. Michael Brown (@)
      5th July 2017, 2:12

      I would be a fan of Formula E if it got rid of Fanboost

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