Start, Formula E, Hong Kong, 2019

Is Formula E ready for world championship status?

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Formula E was greeted with some scepticism when the all-electric series was launched by FIA president Jean Todt in 2014.

However the idea of using motorsport to promote and develop electric vehicles on a global scale has clearly won the support of car manufacturers, who have flocked to the series.

Formula E notched up its 50th race earlier this year and by the end of the year will boast Porsche and Mercedes among its competitors.

The possibility of granting world championship status to Formula E has now been raised. Does it deserve to be considered alongside the likes of Formula 1, the World Endurance Championship and World Rally Championship?


Formula E has undoubtedly grown in stature and the presence of automotive giants like BMW and Audi means it commands respect.

Similarly there’s no doubting the quality in its roster of drivers. Formula E has attracted outstanding talents from other top racing series, such as Stoffel Vandoorne, Felipe Massa, and Jean Eric Vergne, and also given opportunities to top-class drivers who were overlooked by F1, such as Robin Frijns, Sam Bird and Andre Lotterer.

In straightforward terms, Formula E clearly is already a ‘world’ championship’ in that its races take place internationally. Formula E checks this box with races in Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, and South America.


Formula E may have grown in popularity among car manufacturers but still has somewhat of a niche following among motorsport fans. Despite its highly active social media presences, viewership of its races remains surprisingly low.

Is this the future face of motorsport or a marketing exercise for manufacturers whose combustion road cars vastly out-sell their electric ones?

Formula E’s dependence on ‘gimmicks’ – such as the widely derided Fanboost – gives further ammunition to its sceptics. Even Mercedes motorsport director, Toto Wolff, admitted that he was unsure whether to class FE as primarily sport or entertainment, asking last year: “Is it racing or is it more an event?”

I say

A world championship should have offer a credible challenge, have quality competitors and a level playing field. Formula E has only some of these things.

Yes, Formula 1 has its gimmicks, such as ‘DRS’. But Formula E’s is fundamentally different. Fanboost is a tawdry popularity contest the likes of which does not belong in any form of sport, which is completely out of the racer’s hands and can have a significant impact on the race. DRS may be a crude means of creating passes but it is available to every driver irrespective of how much the fans like them.

Currently, every Formula E race takes place in the city, which is a great marketing strategy for a new series because it brings the racing to the people, but all the current world championship series have a variation of tracks across the world. Including purpose-built racetracks on the calendar is a core element of racing that is imperative for any series to be taken seriously.

You say

Is Formula ready to be deemed a ‘world championship’? Cast your vote and have your say below:

Do you agree Formula should E have world championship status?

  • No opinion (2%)
  • Strongly disagree (28%)
  • Slightly disagree (16%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (7%)
  • Slightly agree (17%)
  • Strongly agree (29%)

Total Voters: 187

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Josh Holland
USA-based Josh joined the RaceFans team in 2018. Josh helps produce our Formula 1 race weekend coverage, assists with our social media activities and...

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48 comments on “Is Formula E ready for world championship status?”

  1. Yup.

    FIA agree. Next.

    1. I agree with you. :)

  2. Sure. They had more car makers than F1, they race in europe, arab and asian tracks…

    1. If F1 is a world championship then logically so is this. Fanboost is the only dodgy part of the decision.

  3. What’s the difference between the poll options ‘Neither agree nor disagree’ and ‘no opinion’?

    1. Neither is if you don’t mind what happens, no opinion is more like if you don’t know enough about it.

  4. Bruno vai Verrari
    5th May 2019, 11:57

    Well, as a moderately FE-interested follower (but a serious F1 fan), I thought it was already a FIA World Championship. So I feel strongly mislead by the previous FE communications, if that was not the case…

    1. Same.

    2. I got the impression that Formula E had some sort of exclusive agreement with the FIA that FE would be the only battery powered racing series, or at least the premier battery powered car racing series. If that is true then they effectively are a World Championship racing series because they don’t have any real competitors.

  5. I find the arguments “against FE been world championship” quite poor. I mean, the only concrete negative element put forward by the article is the fanboost. Now, I don’t like it, I agree it is a gimmick and on the principle I think it does not belong to the sport. But it has almost no impact on the race, it’s really a little marketing stuff that is blown out of proportion. On the contrary the DRS that is defended in this article is really affecting the essence of F1.
    For me the only real aspect that Formula E should improve for it to be fully WC level is the quality of some of the tracks… I think the principle of racing on urban track is ok (even though I would like to have 1 or 2 venue on classic tracks), but some are really too twisty, too narrow and verge on “artisanal cobbling-together”… The rest is quite good, in fact. A bit more speed and it could be great.

    1. Hal, I do have to agree that some of the arguments that were put forwards in the “against” column felt fairly weak and poorly argued.

      For example, if you were to follow the argument that “viewership of its races remains surprisingly low” and that the series “still has somewhat of a niche following among motorsport fans”, you’d then have to start stripping some other motorsport series of their status as a world championship event.

      In terms of viewing figures, for example, the World Endurance Championship’s viewing figures for any other race than the 24 Hours of Le Mans are basically negligible. About 3 or 4 years ago, Formula E races had an average number of viewers of about 140,000 in the UK, with a peak of 260,000 – by comparison, the peak number of viewers for the Silverstone 6 Hours was 24,000.

      It is perhaps telling that quite a few venues which have held sportscar races have stopped giving attendance figures (Sebring, for example, stopped giving attendance figures for the 12 Hours race in 2012), whilst the ACO is also rather careful to avoid mentioning average viewer figures. Where the ACO does give figures, they’re usually either a cumulative figure or figures about the potential size of the audience they could reach – only Le Mans sometimes gets specific viewing figures, though even then it’s usually about the potential audience size rather than the actual audience.

      If viewing figures were a criteria, then you could put forward an argument that the World Endurance Championship is even more of a niche event than Formula E – yet I doubt that people would be prepared to argue that the World Endurance Championship is not popular enough to merit the status of a World Championship.

  6. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    5th May 2019, 13:18

    I kinda want to say yes but I voted no. I suppose that it essentially already is – it has races across the globe and support from multiple constructors from around the world so there’s no real reason for it not to be called a World Championship.

    But I voted no. Don’t get me wrong I rather like FE but the gimmicky things get under my skin – mainly the tracks. Some of them are alright but others are clearly not good for racing as they’re too narrow. The races stewarding is awfully confusing too. I tend to think until it moves to actual racetracks – or at least altered tracks to fit FE’s needs, it’s going to just get looked at as a gimmicky marketing exercise which is a shame as it deserves to be a lot more than that.

    1. I agree with Adam. I watched the Paris Qualy and race, mostly a procession until the leaves and rain caused some drama. Are all FE’s tracks going to install leaf blowers on the edges and sprinklers? Going to real race courses might cause me to reconsider.

  7. Robert McKay
    5th May 2019, 13:46

    “Yes, Formula 1 has its gimmicks, such as ‘DRS’. But Formula E’s is fundamentally different. Fanboost is a tawdry popularity contest the likes of which does not belong in any form of sport, which is completely out of the racer’s hands and can have a significant impact on the race. DRS may be a crude means of creating passes but it is available to every driver irrespective of how much the fans like them.”

    A reasonable argument. On the flipside however the effect and influence of DRS is felt far more than it is in Formula E. DRS is a gimmick that is also considered now a necessity by the people currently running the sport, at least until they can implement major change (which is a real struggle at the best of times). DRS is a gimmick that significantly affects racing.

    The truth of Fanboost is that although it is not especially welcome it is actually so insignificantly affecting races that it can be waved away as a pointless irrelevance by anyone regularly viewing it. Fanboost is not distorting competition, results, championships. It’s actually hard to create a list of several obvious and memorable occasions when it did so – it’s rare.

    However it’s too soon yet for FE world championship status. Most races this season have just been destruction derby crash-fests on tracks that are frankly silly. It’s entertaining, and its unpredictability in winners and polesitters is a HUGE breath of fresh air in comparison to the mouldy stale atmosphere of F1 at present, but it still needs to mature a bit further before it should be a world championship level event.

  8. Is there a race result article? I read a jalopnik article about it but was surprised not to see one here.

  9. While it has fanboost: no.

    Without fanboost: sure, it’s world wide, it’s unique and at least as competitive as WEC; more so on the constructor side.

    1. The way things are at the moment, FE deserves WC status more than WEC does!

  10. Definitely, it is the highest form 9f electric racing in the world, with major manufacturers, races all over the world and f1 level drivers. My gripe is I just hope they make the cars faster much more sooner than it appears they will. I doubt a current formula e would match the nio road car at nurburgring and far less the volkswagen i’d-r. For f1 fans to take the sport more serious, they need to up the speed.

  11. No, I agree Keith, while it still has fanboost, it hasn’t become a mature series. I also agree with the point about city circuits (most of which I dislike, though that’s not the point of the objection). Formula E needs to be running round iconic tracks before it achieves world championship status.

  12. TBH, I didn’t realise it wasn’t.

    Some of the ‘against’ arguments are dubious:
    F1 runs at empty stadiums, TV viewership in the UK has suffered, not only from being flung around the networks but each network being undecided how & when to show it (Why was there only one BBC studio based broadcast this season?)

    Show me any motorsport series which isn’t a “marketing exercise”?

    *All* sport is entertainment.

  13. If the criteria for a World Championship is only that there are races on multiple continents and ….. ??? Then I nominate Formula Ford for WC Status.
    Like FE, it is a technically restricted, a well defined class of racing. Has a single allowed (sort of) power unit, just like FE and apart from the fact it does not have a sole source, artistically elegant, mandated chassis supplier, it meets all the basic requirements. You can even run it on street legal tyres.
    Yes, most of the major manufacturers are participating in FE, but is this for technical development? Sorry, not permitted. Is it for the purpose of demonstrating their technical superiority? Ooops, that too is out. How about for the development of young and upcoming drivers? Last time I checked, that is clearly not the case.
    But … what it seems to be is socially acceptable Bill-Board for branding and promotion. Likely it is pretty good value for this or the manufacturers wouldn’t be there.
    WC status for FE, not yet.

    1. @rekibsn, asides from the obvious flaw that Formula Ford regulations were written by national motorsport bodies, not at an international level, so rather than being “a well defined class of racing”, as you claim, the nationally written regulations for Formula Ford have actually diverged quite significantly over the years.

      In fact, by the time that most Formula Ford series folded, the regulations that they adopted had diverged to the point where they were fundamentally incompatible with each other – an Australian Formula Ford car couldn’t compete in the now defunct British Formula Ford series, whilst in turn neither of those cars could compete in the US Formula Ford series, just to pick a few examples.

      Indeed, in the case of the US, it isn’t even called Formula Ford these days – it’s called Formula F, and most of the grid doesn’t even use Ford engines (they actually use a Honda engine), such is the extent to which it has diverged from the few remaining Formula Ford series out there.

      If you don’t mind me saying this, it does perhaps show your age a bit that you are referring to Formula Ford at all, given that most Formula Ford series shut down in the early 2000s to early 2010s. The closest active equivalent would probably be Formula 4, and in fact quite a few former Formula Ford series, such as in the UK, converted over to Formula 4 several years ago.

      1. The intent was to promote the contradiction that many series, old and new, could meet whatever criteria is being used to judge if something like Formula E is worthy of WC status. Maybe all that was needed was to have JT do the paperwork and support an application. Will, and rightly so, never happen.
        The comparison between F-E and other established series doesn’t really put the F-E WC proposition in a brighter light.
        Yes, FF as originally envisioned has passed, but you have to admit that it served the racing public very well and in some countries, the current version still does.
        Regardless of what we think or feel, it will happen, simply because those at the FIA want it to happen. Consider it DONE.

  14. Cristiano Ferreira
    5th May 2019, 15:48

    To be fair i thought that crap was already on “world championship” level. Good to know that its not the case, yet…

    I strongly disagree that FE become “world championship” material. Its a racing series that is amateurish at its best. Poor drivers, poor circuits and poor gimmicks. Close race? yeah but its because its a spec series. Remove that factor and the so said “close race” is gone…also its kind of have a “bumper car” feeling to it.

    Driving the car is not hard because of the slow speed. FE should be put even lower in the pecking order than current is. F3 and F2 are miles better than this.

    Even karts are better.

    While F1 has its share of poor gimmicks and drivers, the circuits are great and the competition feels legit and professional. The only downside it has is the poor manufacturer support for now.

    1. Half the drivers are also active in WEC, so they’re already participating in a world championship :)

      It’s not a spec series. If it were the Venturi drivers would now like a spec driveshaft please.

    2. lol at driving the car is not hard cos of slow speed……if thats the definition then people driving fast on a straight highway are the best skilled drivers in the world.

  15. Andy (@goatofwisdom)
    5th May 2019, 17:11

    So what exactly is the definition/credentials for a “World Championship”?

    I always just assumed if events took places on more than one continent, then it’d be a World Championship. And would the designation of World Championship status actually have any kind of effect, other than to possibly be seen as more prestigious?

  16. i initially voted agree, but on reflection i actually now disagree. i don’t think Formula E should be a World Championship, because there is already a World Championship for open wheelers. The FIA should sanction, at most, one World Championship per discipline. I don’t think just being electric differentiates FE enough to merit world championship status, not with so many electric series in development.

    But just to refute the points made above:

    Formula E has only some of these things.

    It certainly has a level playing field and quality competitors, so are you implying it is not a “credible challenge”? Even if it’s not to your taste, FE is plainly not easy. If it was, you’d expect a handful of elites teams/drivers to dominate and that is clearly not the case.

    And are you implying the F1 World Championship has a level playing field? Wow. Which leads me onto…

    Fanboost… is completely out of the racer’s hands and can have a significant impact on the race

    Well, I guess it is sort of in their hands, they could make the effort to be more popular. You must be a spec series fan, because advantages “out of the racer’s hands” are pretty much fundaments in F1. I assume you do know this as you write for predominantly F1-based website, but in F1 some favoured teams are a bonus simply for showing up.

    all the current world championship series have a variation of tracks across the world

    Rallycross, not so much, but ok.

    Including purpose-built racetracks on the calendar is a core element of racing

    A) Again, I assume you may know this, but they race at the Mexico City venue as F1.
    B) I assume you think WRC should lose its World Championship status, as it barely includes any purpose-built spectator areas let alone racetracks. Or perhaps WEC, as a series that is solely on purpose-built racetracks, doesn’t have enough variation either?

    I just don’t see why everyone has to completely lose their minds everytime FE gets even mentioned. Like there cannot be any valid motorsport beyond what they show on Sky Sports F1.

    Don’t like Drag Racing? Don’t watch it.
    Don’t like endurance racing? Don’t watch it?
    Don’t like NASCAR? Don’t watch it.
    Don’t like Speedway? Don’t watch it.
    Don’t like Rally? Don’t watch it.
    Don’t like Spec Series? Don’t watch them.

    Don’t like Formula E? Guess what.

    I respect that it’s not to everyone’s taste, no motorsport is (not even F1, imagine that!), but the criticism of FE is often hysterical. Just keep some perspective when you feel the need to tell everyone that you don’t like it, every five minutes.

    1. Worthy of COTD. A very well reasoned post.

    2. Indeed @graham228221 well said. Also, I find myself agreeing with just about everything you wrote. I chose ‘no opinion’ because I don’t really think that official status matters very much at this point (as evidenced by many posters who assumed FE already had it).

    3. Well, I guess it is sort of in their hands, they could make the effort to be more popular. You must be a spec series fan, because advantages “out of the racer’s hands” are pretty much fundaments in F1. I assume you do know this as you write for predominantly F1-based website, but in F1 some favoured teams are a bonus simply for showing up.

      That’s a really strange argument. F1 is a competition between drivers and teams, car differences and advantages/disadvantages are part of its competitive structure, which is carefully regulated. Fanboost is entirely outside the actual competition, based on neither driver skill or a team’s ability to build a better (faster, more reliable) car. They’re really not comparable.

      1. @david-br then you obviously haven’t read my argument. How is Ferrari’s substantial bonus for simply being a longstanding team “based on driver skill or a team’s ability to build a better (faster, more reliable) car”?

        At best, F1 is a competition between several multi-billion dollar corporations to see how they can best deploy R&D spend and politically influence the FIA and FOM. By “carefully regulated” I assume you mean carefully manipulated by several teams to ensure that there is no level playing field and no prospect of one until they take their ball and go play somewhere else. I no longer see it as a competition based on driver skill nor real nuts-and-bolts engineering, it’s a battle of CFD and PR waged, in the main, behind closed doors.

        But let’s all cry about fanboost – god forbid someone tries something different in motorsport.

  17. I don’t think you need the spoiler button to hide your opinion. RaceFans rarely carries the latest Formula E news and, when it does carry information of merit, it doesn’t feel of genuine interest. Same goes for W Series – a quite entertaining race yesterday yet no article here. Hardly a site for “race fans”.

    I’d welcome FE as a World championship. Looks like the FIA agree. F1 is dying a slow and painful death, with all hopes of survival resting on the 2021 regulations. I hope it does pick up, but I already sense Liberty getting fed up and wanting to offload the series after a while.

  18. ColdFly (@)
    5th May 2019, 19:29

    I wanted to vote “who cares?“. But as I cannot find that option and went for the middle one.

    I DO have an opinion though. ‘Who Cares?’ I’d say because a World Championship means nothing to me as long we as there is a World Series in one country and a Miss Universe with only representatives from our planet (but I could be wrong there).

    1. The Toronto Blue Jays would definitely not agree with your one country World Series assertion :)

  19. NeverElectric
    5th May 2019, 19:47

    It’s got little or nothing to do with F1, so who cares?

  20. Josh (@canadianjosh)
    5th May 2019, 20:07

    Quite literally I would agree to play a round of golf with my wife before I watched FE, just my opinion.

    1. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      5th May 2019, 20:10

      And part of the deal would include me cooking dinner, watching Days of our Lives and doing dishes at the end of the night, oh and maybe a load of laundry.

      1. @canadianjosh You should be doing all that anyhow. Well maybe not the golf.

  21. Why not? They let that Rallycross become a World Championship whatever that means. Make them all a World Championship while they’re at it.

  22. Let’s see. No. However, because we live in times of increasing blandness, why not?

  23. Giving FE world championship status would put all the other world championship series in disrepute. Simple as.

  24. No. Get rid of the fan boost nonsense and maybe I’ll accept it.

  25. I’m not entirely sure. All I know is that I’ve been trying to watch FE races for the past 3 years and haven’t been able to finish one. I’ll usually try watching 5 or 6 per season, but they honestly just bore me to tears and I’m not exactly sure why. I know that I really dislike Fanboost, the lack of sound, and the lack of circuits to show of what the cars are really capable of. I really want to like it, and I’m planning on trying again, so I’m hoping it clicks with me soon.

  26. They always were a world championship. They had races at various locations around the world, so this question is nonsensical.

  27. Fine. Why not. But I every time a watch a race, I never finish because of 1. the terrible Roomba noise 2. the cars look so slow 3. the mickey-mouse track designs. I end up looking up a Porsche Cup or IMSA race on Hulu to get my motorsports fix.

    I do think that if they unleashed them technically a bit, and put some proper slicks on, the product could be better. But I know they are trying to be strict about costs. And this has worked well to get lots of manufacturers in. I can’t think of another series, even touring car series, with such a roster of serious manufacturers.

  28. Formula E has attracted outstanding talents from other top racing series, such as Stoffel Vandoorne, Felipe Massa, and Jean Eric Vergne

    I’m not really sure this belongs solidly in the plus column. For someone who’s a Formula 1 fan, the first reaction on seeing names like Wehrlein, di Grassi, Lotterer, Buemi, etc is just, “Oh yeah, those are all drivers who didn’t make it in F1, so they had to settle for second-best.” Yes, this is very harsh, but it does reinforce the image of Formula E as a stepchild series for also-rans. I think the series is better served by scooping up drivers coming through the ranks. A World Championship needs to be a pinnacle series that serves as a final destination for those looking to get to the top of their sport, rather than as a Plan B option for those who don’t quite make it.

    Having said that, I think Formula E does have potential to reach pinnacle status. It’s a very different form of racing to F1, though could still do with some tweaks to reduce the Wacky Races aspect with all the bumping and grinding going on.

  29. WTCC was a world championship and it had some dreadful years, I cannot see why Formula E should not get a World Championship status. It is present in 4 continents, it attracts some of the most prestigious car manufacturers, it enhances new technologies and it creates eventful races.

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