Image Credit: Jaguar MENA, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jaguarcarsmena/45611416054/
Formula E, heard of it? Probably not, as with most people Formula E is nothing more than a less interesting sounding Formula 1. How wrong people are for assuming this – if anything – Formula 1 is now the less interesting form of racing. Born seven years ago, Formula E was created to be the more environmentally friendly form of motorsport with the aim of making racing more accessible and involving the crowds in the race. So let’s get down to it, what exactly is Formula E?
Much like Formula 1, the race consists of open seater cars (no windscreen or cockpit to enclose the driver), with free practice followed by qualifying and then the race itself. That may be where the similarities end however, as Formula E has evolved to be its own distinct form of racing. As the name hints, Formula E races include fully electric cars making almost no sound other than the tyres on the track. Not only are the cars electric, any electricity used for the batteries, lighting of the track, or transporting the cars from one city to the next has been generated through biofuel or renewable energies. The sole principle of the sport is to promote clean energy usage while proving that there does not need to be a compromise between the environment and global power. 12 teams of two drivers each compete out on the track for both the drivers championship and the constructors championship, with some of the biggest car manufacturers taking part – Mercedes, Porsche and Jaguar to name a few.
Instead of racing on the traditional track, they race through closed street circuits, making overtaking and racing as close as possible – imagine the street circuit of Monaco for F1. Large portions of cities have to be closed for the racing because free practice, qualifying and racing all take place on the same day, one after the other. This helps to engage the crowd as only a single ticket is required for the day and prices have been kept low to ensure that everyone can afford to see the races. Combine these street races with a new racing format, and Formula E truly stands out from the rest. Each race lasts for 45 minutes plus one lap. Meaning that the race lasts for 45 minutes with one extra lap to finish it, adding to the tension and skill of the driver as they have to carefully manage their energy. Though the cars batteries are designed to last one race before needing to be recharged, they often finish with less than one percent of power left, with some even emptying their battery before the race has finished and are therefore disqualified from the race.
Crowd engagement plays an important role in the racing structure as well. Have a favourite driver? Then give them a boost! Formula E allows the crowd to vote for their favourite driver with Fanboost, with the top five drivers earning an extra boost of power. This boost may only last for a few seconds, but in close street circuit racing, it may make the difference between gaining a place and winning the race. The driver can activate it any time they wish, with their halo lighting magenta to signify this.
To further clump the drivers and the racing, attack mode has been designed to ensure closing racing and the chance for more overtakes. Each driver must activate attack mode twice within the race (their halo’s lighting up blue). Although, they must leave the racing line and ultimately lose a few seconds and potentially even a place to activate attack mode. It is another way for them to gain an additional power boost, this time lasting for a few minutes.
Unlike Formula 1 with a single team and driver dominating the championship, the 2020 Formula E season saw five different drivers win the five opening races. Combine this with the fact that each driver raced for a different team and it becomes apparent just how close and varied the racing can be. Each team builds their car upon the same basic chassis, meaning that each team starts equal and the skill of the driver determines the racing - not necessarily the car.
Though the 2021 season started on 26 and 27 February, with an opening weekend of racing in Diriyah, it became immediately apparent that we are,yet again,in for another competitive season of racing. With Sam Bird having retired from the first race and then going on to win the second, no driver or team can be ignored. Diriyah also marked the start of something new within the sport - night races. A new challenge for a new season did not disappoint with close and unpredictable races, all powered by biofuel. The next race takes place on 10 April in Rome, and if previous years are anything to go by, it will not disappoint.