Formula E to reconsider need for Fanboost before ‘Gen3’ cars arrive in 2022

Formula E

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Formula E CEO Jamie Reigle says the series will reconsider whether to keep Fanboost when its next generation of cars arrive at the end of next year.

Fanboost, which allows fans to award extra power to a limited number of drivers at each race, has been part of the series since it began in 2014. While the merits of the concept have divided opinion, Formula E has refined it over the years, banning Facebook and Twitter voting to prevent the polls being rigging.

Reigle indicated the series could drop Fanboost when its new ‘Gen3’ cars arrive for the 2022-23 season.

“Is Fanboost still serving the purpose that it was originally conceived with, in terms of providing that connectivity between the fans and the race product in a really authentic way?” he asked. “Whether it affects the outcome is a slightly different point but there are no other sports, there certainly weren’t when we started, where fans could have that direct impact on the sporting format or the sporting outcome.

“We’ve done a lot of work in the last year around making sure that the Fanboost concept has high integrity. For example, we stopped using Twitter as a voting platform because there were some concerns from some of the teams that it was open to manipulation.”

He said that despite adjustments, Fanboost would have to be considered for review as Formula E moves to Gen3. “What we’ve tried to do is refine the concept in the near term, I think we have to ask ourselves, as we go into Gen3: what are the core principles of Formula E and what are we trying to achieve?

“We have a responsibility to look at all those elements, to say ‘are they core and are they contributing to improve the experience for our fans, our guests,’ etc. And I don’t think there’s any sacred cows there.”

Formula E changed its event format radically when its second-generation cars were introduced in 2018, including running races to a time limit and adding the novel Attack Mode. Drivers were also no longer required to swap cars mid-race once it became possible to run the entire duration on a single battery.

While the format changes were largely praised, subsequent tweaks such as an energy reduction rule which contributed to last month’s debacle in Valencia received criticism.

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“There’s some complexity in Formula E’s race format,” Reigle acknowledged. “I use the example: Would my eight-year-old son understand energy reduction under a Safety Car? In fact, would a team principal in Formula E fully understand how that works?

If those two people, those two characters, if it’s not super-intuitive… one of the reasons football is so popular is if you’re not a football fan, turn on the TV or whatever and it’s pretty clear what they’re trying to do.

“At a simplistic level, a car race is a car and a driver trying to go as fast as he or she can until the end of the race. So it’s also quite simple. But we’ve added some elements in that have added layers of complexity and we’re looking at that really seriously.

So then, coming back to the question of Fanboost, what purpose does it serve and is that worth the incremental complexity that an element like that brings?”

Formula E’s race format will be due another shift, in Gen3, presumed to be more about strategic fast charging, with a possible return to pit stops. Reigle said that was a factor in defining Fanboost’s future.

“Certainly for me, going into Gen3, these principles of simplicity and clarity so that the sport is intuitive as possible – you can still have an enormous amount of technology and sophistication in terms of race modelling and the energy management models – but as you think about trying to attract new users and for someone who’s not been around the championship when they watch for the first time, do they understand what’s going on?

“Does Fanboost serve that? There is arguments that it does. On the other hand, does it make the race format as accessible as possible? I think I think there’s an open question about that.”

However Reigle made it clear Fanboost would be done away with on a strategic basis, not due to criticism. “We certainly won’t end it because some people whinge about it, to your point on detractors and naysayers. But I do think we have a responsibility to look very granularly at what it’s doing for us – and I say us collectively, the championship, the teams, and then see if we can evolve it.”

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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  • 38 comments on “Formula E to reconsider need for Fanboost before ‘Gen3’ cars arrive in 2022”

    1. Does fanboost divide opinion? That’s strange, I’ve never heard anyone say they like the concept. There are two things about Formula E that are universally detested and could easily be fixed: Fanboost and the confusing broadcast graphics (e.g. lack of colour to identify drivers/cars). That it takes FE years and years to fix these things does not speak well for its management, which seems to live in an ivory tower.

      1. And the annoying sound effects and background music.

        Reply moderated
      2. There are so many easy solutions that they should have made already.

        They even forgot to add driver and constructor standings in the app. Just nowhere to be found.

        Really makes me wonder how the organisation is managed.

    2. I find it funny that they talk about fanboost existing because it allows them to connect with fans and for rans to have a real input in the series. Then at the same time, they say they are not interested in fans’ opinions and will not take the almost universal criticism of fanboost into account. when deciding if it’ll remain or not. Seems to be a massive contradiction…

      1. @petebaldwin I would definitely not say it’s universally criticised – a lot of people do participate in it. They may not be ‘classic’ racing fans or necessarily the RaceFans commenters but there is a substantial cohort of people, many new to racing, who go to a Formula E event or find it online and find it a gateway to feeling like part of the event.

        Which isn’t to say I think it serves the right purpose anymore, personally. I thought it was a clever (mostly accidentally so but still) push to move teams to digital marketing and engagement with social at a point (2014) when motorsport didn’t really engage with online very well. Coincidentally, people using it would make local trends around Formula E events, which drove curiosity about the series. It didn’t have a substantial sporting effect (I can think of one or two times it might have affected a result, most notably Buemi crashing in Mexico 2017 because he was fumbling for the paddle) but did provide a big boost of online visibility for every Eprix. Important, given that FE’s calendar has always been sparse and sporadic.

        As I say: this isn’t me justifying it continuing. It, largely by accident, happened to do a job in the early days. But there definitely are fans who enjoy using it to support their favourite drivers and for whom its part of the show – another site I work on, the Discord community follow Fanboost percentages with quite a lot of enthusiasm and definitely fascinated by the way it swings.

        People experience the way they watch and engage with racing very differently and although it’s easy to get the impression fanboost is loathed without exception, it’s far from the case for a lot of fans. And some of them find it a genuine bonus of engagement.

        (I would mostly like it to end so people stop moaning at me about it)

        1. Participating in it and criticising it aren’t mutually exclusive? I’d definitely prefer to abolish it and still vote for Sam Bird every race since I don’t want him to be at a disadvantage….

          1. That’s true – but I know there are fans who genuinely like it, too. I doubt anyone would be upset for it to be revised away and the format made more straightforward but there are people who really don’t have a problem with it or actively enjoy using it to vote for their favourites.

            As I said, not usually people who’d be part of discussions here or in other traditional racing spaces. But they do still exist and are often some of FE’s most core fanbase, the people buying the most merch, going to the most races and watching most dedicatedly, etc. So it’d be a disservice to them, as an FE journalist, to pretend they don’t exist.

            1. True @hazelsouthwell, but it’s not just in traditional racing spaces, it’s probably anyone interested in sport.
              I’m sure in football if one team were to be given an extra player for 5 minutes because fans voted on it on their phones, it wouldn’t just be the ‘traditionalists’ that would think that unfair on the other side. I’m sure there’s a silent majority that would understand this, and any fan that genuinely likes such a system really should be discouraged from doing so on the grounds of fairness.

            2. @john-h There probably would be, if it was as dramatic as that. But it’s always had a very minimal effect, except that the drivers appreciate the vote of confidence.

              Fanboost started as 100KJ over 90 seconds; given FE cars (even back then) use about 6MJ (1.6ish kWh) per lap it was always a very tiny benefit. Since Gen2 it’s been revised to be a very small top-end increase of power (15kW) for which you need to be flooring the car to get any benefit from – not something FE drivers spend a lot of the event on and for which the energy comes from anything existing you already have. As well as, of course, not giving you extra tyre life to match a sudden burst of speed even if you do find a use for it.

              Which then begs the question: why does it even exist? Most drivers don’t, per se, ‘use’ it even if they activate it and there was a point towards the end of Gen1 where they just ignored it entirely because energy management was under too much pressure for it to be worth toggling the paddle.

              (I am in favour of getting rid of it, I think it is overcomplicated, potentially confusing Attack Mode already and doesn’t add anything sporting; especially as we will have a new format to explain in Gen3)

            3. Thanks @hazelsouthwell for the info, indeed looks like a very small extra boost (about the power of 5 kettles!).
              Of course the viewer using their phone to vote for a driver probably doesn’t appreciate quite how much (or little) influence they have, so agreed why bother at all? I guess to give the ‘image’ of having some effect, but then that’s more of the problem I guess. I have to admit I didn’t know about the Gen1 non-use.

              Attack mode has been so much better, personally I think it’s really been a success as the races this year can attest to. I’ve enjoyed most of the season so far, but when fanboost then appears (like with da Costa through the tunnel at Monaco), it’s really hard not to wince and think – if only they didn’t have this terrible thing, I could really take this seriously.

        2. @hazelsouthwell – Fair enough – not “universally” criticised but certainly “heavily” criticised. There’s enough criticism that he’s been specifically asked about it in an interview and you’ve mentioned you’d have it removed to stop people moaning to you about it ;)

          The point still stands though – it seems crazy to talk about ideas like Fanboost and specifically say “are they contributing to improve the experience for our fans” and to also state in the very same interview “We certainly won’t end it because some people whinge about it.” People whinge about it because it’s contributing to negatively impact the experience for a lot of fans (or potential fans).

          1. @petebaldwin True – and it does grind my own gears, of course. People whinging about it appears at very high volume if you work in Formula E but to the vast majority of people, they literally have never seen anything about it. I find it frustrating that it dominates conversation about Formula E because pretty much all I do all day, every day is talk about Formula E but that’s an unusual experience even for a motorsport journalist.

            Jamie’s line about it followed up on an earlier question (this is a small section of a very long interview) where I’d asked about Formula E existing in a necessary state of opposition.

        3. @hazelsouthwell that’s a good point, that it’s well used, but has any proper analysis been made on whether or not those that participate are in fact real people?

          My concerns with anything that reads volumes of online votes as (“engaged people”) is that they can be artificially rigged and therefore of limited use for decision analysis.

          1. @dbradock There’s been various revisions over its lifetime – Weibo was banned as a voting platform in Season 2 I think (maybe Seasonb 3? everything has become a blur…) followed by Facebook and the only voting method now is via an account on the Formula E website.

            There’ve been moments when the drivers have accused it of being cheated and I would say that, for sure, it was very clear some teams were buying votes in the early days. Whether, at the time, that should have faced more severe FIA sanctions for sporting manipulation is a bit moot seven years down the line but I think it could certainly have been justified and overall, that shows the strange space Fanboost occupies; if it’s actually a sporting concern then it needs to be subject to sporting rules and if it’s pure marketing fluff then presumably it doesn’t. But there are shades of ambiguity, either way.

            (trying to phrase this in some sort of ‘it’s actually interesting to look at it in terms of rules, when compared to a driver of the day vote or other, similar, popularity contest’ before anyone just jumps in and says “WELL THIS IS PROOF OF WHY FORMULA E IS A JOKE” because, erm, nuance etc.)

            1. @hazelsouthwell thank you so much for taking the time to provide such a detailed response.

        4. Southwell has the ability to use a lot of characters to say nothing, the future of journalism.

          You’re writing like we’re newbies and you’re the only educated people here, replying to each and every comment.

      2. It would be interesting if FE actually gave some numbers to back this up. Just how engaging is it? How many people actually vote each race? Is that number getting bigger or smaller?

        Whilst choosing my words carefully, I think maybe this is a cultural thing. Largely in the western world we’re quite traditionalist about sport. However I can see this being the kind of thing that would be massively popular in East Asia for example, as its that kind of fan engagement that thrives across all sorts of culture, including music.

        I personally didn’t care for it, but meh. I’m not a fan of it being a popularity competition. Even if it was a vote for: “driver A topped P1, but got blocked in qualifying and ended up at the back, he gets a boost to kinda even things out”, I’d still think it artificial.

        I do however think it over complicates things for what in the grand scheme of things is such a small thing. Is it a 7s boost? I guess you can get one overtake out of that, but you could then overspend your energy.
        Is there any evidence of drivers tactically not using it? Or activating it, but not actually using the extra power? If so, there’s your evidence that its not required.

    3. Dan Rooke (@geekzilla9000)
      13th May 2021, 9:24

      I have to agree with @krommenaas – I’ve never read any positive fan comments about Fanboost.

      The presence of Fanboost compromises the idea of Formula-E as a sport because Fanboost goes against the sporting principles of same rules/regs/opportunities for all. Yes, Formula 1 has teams with much greater resources than the rest – but the only artificial speed boosting element is DRS and ultimately DRS exists for ALL drivers and isn’t only available to some on the whim of external voting.

      Formula-E has evolved massively over the last few years and Gen-3 could be a great opportunity to cement it as a true motorsport. I only watch a few races a year, but I’d certainly watch more if it felt more like a true sporting competition.

    4. …that was severely unimpressive. Would FE please be honest about why Fanboost exists? It’s simple enough – if you’re a new series which desperately needs to grow a fanbase then giving the teams/drivers which have the most fans a small but concrete advantage is a sensible enough ploy to get them to drive engagement.

      Still necessary? I’d say no, but could be convinced otherwise. However, if they’re not going to be straightforward about the reasons then it’s highly unlikely we can trust them to be straightforward about anything else. It’s an important conversation to have since Fanboost does seem to have actually had something of an effect on the races this season, unlike in previous years – there’s been a couple of Fanboost overtakes.

      1. I think FE themselves may be quite surprised at the impact FB has had this season. Like, when they increased it’s strength for Gen-2 in 2018, they probably didn’t expect it to be quite this powerful, but that is in part due to the increasingly micro-managed nature of FE (just listen to jack Nicholls talking about how they were awestruck when they were crossing the line with 2-3% energy left and said they were cutting it fine, and now they finish with about 0.1-0.2%. If they finish *cough* Valencia *cough*)

        I agree with you in that it probably isn’t necessary anymore, and would like to see it removed quite soon, preferably before next season.

    5. Stephen Higgins
      13th May 2021, 9:51

      FanBoost is one of the main reasons I don’t Formula E.

      Along with:
      * The rubbish tyres.
      * The terrible circuits.
      * The endless energy-saving.
      * The race results often never standing.
      * The “Attack Zone” activation points.

      At least the cars look a bit futuristic…

      1. Formula E should be more:
        * distance races (I don’t like time races)
        * chassis changes
        * a mix of racing circuits and street circuits (look at Valencia and Mexico)

      2. Things I have no problem with
        Tyres
        Timed races
        Energy management
        The results usually standing
        Catalunya

        Things I love
        Full Monaco Track – just awesome
        Attack Zone

        Things I don’t like
        Anonymous walled canyon tracks

        Reply moderated
    6. “Formula E is the only event in the world that lets fans play an active role in influencing the outcome of the race.”

      And that’s exactly what makes it look so random. Giving fans that much power is just wrong and it devalues the sport.
      It makes you feel like you were in Ancient Rome with Caesar and the crowd in the arena deciding which gladiators may live and which ones have to die.

      1. This is the crux of it for me.

    7. As far as I’m aware fanboost can be given to any driver and doesn’t have conditions on it?

      I could see it working better if it were a bit like DRS where it can only be given to a driver who isn’t the leader and has to be so many seconds behind a competitor at the activation time. Then I can see the excitement and it’s not just always the fans of one overly popular driver getting the benefit all the time. If it was F1 I’d imagine Lando would get it all the time as he’s got a huge young engaged and very much online fan base.

    8. “there are no other sports, there certainly weren’t when we started, where fans could have that direct impact on the sporting format or the sporting outcome”

      Well yep, that’s because they were (draws breath)… sports. Anyway, very pleased to hear this news, let’s see if it materialises or it’s just another false hope like getting rid of DRS in F1.

      1. @john-h

        Just out of curiosity, I’d like to understand why you don’t think FE is a sport? (I’m not trying to start an argument, I just want to understand a bit more about the opposition to it)

        1. Please see my thread to Hazel above @randommallard that should explain.

          1. Ah OK so mainly just FanBoost. While I don’t mind it (I am indifferent to it tbh), I think itbwould be better if it was removed. I’d still call it a sport (unless there was a hint of sarcasm in your original post, I honestly can’t tell)

    9. “there are no other sports, there certainly weren’t when we started, where fans could have that direct impact on the sporting format or the sporting outcome”

      Fans do have an impact though, maybe not a quantifiable one as in Formula E. But ask Nigel Mansell about the fans at the British Grand Prix and he’ll tell you they gave him a boost. Or perhaps watch the standard of some football matches whilst theres been empty stadiums this past year or so.

      Imo if they got rid of fanboost all the people whining will just find something else to whine about.

      Reply moderated
    10. Just out of curiosity, I’d like to understand why you don’t think FE is a sport? (I’m not trying to start an argument, I just want to understand a bit more about the opposition to it)

      1. Meant as a reply to another comment

    11. F-E considering Gen 3 cars ….
      The expectation (on my part) is that the regs for the cars and series will again be overly complex and limit development and evolution. But then who cares about development and Road-Relevance.?
      Since the chassis and body work are so tightly restricted and all cars are effectively outwardly “identical”, why do the body-work in expensive and fragile carbon fiber.? Why not something more recyclable, tougher, cheaper and only marginally heavier. Also, easier to clean up should someone (remote as the possibility may be) run into another car and cover the track with tyre shredding debris.
      Do like F1 has implied, look at epoxy reinforcements such as organics like grass and hemp. At least then if there is a fire, we can all go home happy.
      Which brings up another question, are the suits the drivers wear fire retardant.? Why, when there is no liquid combustible fuel on board.?
      If Fan Boost is getting such negative reviews, why not go the other way and give the fans a chance to assign penalties to whomever they wish. Can’t wait to see a race winner being demoted because enough fans didn’t like something about them, the car or the team.

      Reply moderated
      1. No fire Hazzard? You never seen a Battery fire?

    12. Fanboost: “providing that connectivity between the fans and the race product in a really authentic way”

      I shudder at statements like these

    13. I’ve watched a lot of races and can’t now recall an instance where fanboost made a significant difference to results.

      Reply moderated
    14. Hey Formula E, If you want to provide “connectivity between the fans and the race product in a really authentic way” how about putting the race on Youtube a week later like you have done in all the past seasons so your fans can actually SEE the race. Nobody shows the race where I live. I’m not going to follow a series I can’t watch.

      Reply moderated

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