By Dylan Coyle
WHIP Radio Assistant Sports Director Dylan Coyle reports from New York on the latest in the Forumla E World Championship title hunt
Before the first race of Formula E’s history in Beijing in 2014, no one knew what to expect. There were concerns that the racing wouldn’t be as good as its older, more popular brother in non-electric series.
After Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost’s spectacular late duel that ended up with both of them wrecking at the final turn, the concern of whether or not the racing would be exciting was seemingly answered.
It would be.
Four years later, at the end of the first-generation car’s lifeline, Formula E has grown in popularity around the world, and it’s attracting manufacturers like Audi, Jaguar, and Mercedes as well as drivers and team principals like Felipe Massa and Susie Wolff. It’s giving drivers that couldn’t make it in F1 a chance to shine. It’s expanded into untapped racing markets in cities around the world, such as Berlin and New York City. It’s become the first racing series to receive a top level sustainability award.
Formula E really is showcasing the racing and consumer-based automotive technology of the future.
Next season, the series will be switching to a much slicker and more powerful car. Dubbed the “Batmobile” by many, the second-generation car will have a max power output of 250kW in qualifying and 200kW during the race, up from 200kW in qualifying and 180kW during the race in the first-generation car. It’ll be able to reach speeds up to 174mph, an amazing feat considering that’s around 30mph more than what the first-generation car could reach. Most importantly, however, its battery will last the entire race, meaning there won’t be a need for drivers to swap into their second car midway through the now-45-minute timed races.
The second-generation car is an evolution of what the first-generation car so ambitiously did. Its importance is looked at fondly by everyone in the paddock.
“I believe the foundations of Formula E are here,” series champion Jean-Eric Vergne said, “and it’s like building up a very nice house with the foundation based on foundations. There can be wind, thunderstorms, whatever, it’s going to stay there because it is what it is now.
“I think that Formula E racing has a lot of surprises for the world,” he added.
Vegne’s Techeetah teammate, Andre Lotterer, is a three-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and learning the all-electric single-seater was not an easy task. He only scored points in one ePrix – 2nd place in Chile behind Vergne in Formula E’s first ever 1-2 finish – over the first half of the season. He never finished outside the points in the second half.
Now, after an entire season of learning a new car, it could be just as difficult to learn the generation-two car.
“I think I learned a lot this year,” Lotterer told WHIP Radio. “I think it’s better for me that there’s a new car because these guys know the [first-generation] car very well, then it’s a bit less of a disadvantage.”
The glitz and glamour of a Formula 1 weekend is present in many ways in Formula E. Just in rounds 11 and 12 alone, actors Taron Egerton, Liv Tyler, Natalie Dormer, and Patrick Dempsey, who is very involved in motorsports, were present, along with 2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg. You get the feeling that it really is a peak on the pinnacle of international racing, even if there is more to climb.
One of the best parts of Formula E is the fact that it truly puts itself into world-renowned locations by having most tracks built as temporary street circuits in major cities around the globe. This season, places like Rome, Paris, Hong Kong and New York were raced in. While many permanent tracks around the world are located past the point of public transportation, it’s quite simple for someone living in a city to take the subway to Red Hook, Brooklyn or the Metro to Paris. Even if there is some walking involved, the series makes racing accessible to millions of unexposed people just by simply being there.
Switzerland hadn’t seen a race within its borders take place in over 60 years. This year, due to the sustainability practices of Formula E and its minimal environmental effect, the series raced in Zurich.
Formula E is hitting all the right marks. In just four years, it has amassed crowds of tens and hundreds of thousands. With the faster and better-looking generation-two car, plus a wealth of other changes like the new all-electric support series in the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY, the series will only continue to grow.
Who knows? One day, most series may become all-electric, and every single one would have Formula E to thank for starting it all.
This article was written, researched, and published by WHIP Radio Assistant Sports Director Dylan Coyle. If you wish to interact with Dylan, you can reach him on Twitter at @DylanRCoyle.
Photo: Formula E