Formula E: The new sport that is electrifying the motoring world
Monaco will host a race this weekend. It’s not Formula One's Grand Prix though, but the ePrix of Formula E. Sports Gazette met Formula E’s YouTube presenter Marc Priestley to find out more about this up-and-coming sport.
What is it all about?!
The clue is in the title- it’s a motorsport run on electricity! Run by the Federation International de l’Automabile (FIA), this sport has a championship which takes the sport across the world.
The ten-round championship is in its third season now with races in Paris, Berlin and Canada to come after dramatic races in Hong Kong, Marrakesh, Buenos Aires and Mexico City- a race even takes place in New York!
“It’s very different to anything that’s come before but the cars look very similar- it’s almost the same but very different,” Marc said.
“The principles of racing are still there, but what you get with Formula E is really close racing.
“So far, we’ve seen some amazing races where you get to the last lap and you don’t know who is going to win.
“That’s what Formula One has dreamt of having for years. It’s unpredictable and, in a sporting sense, you can’t ask for anymore!”
A social sport: Formula E reaches out to people
One of Formula One’s criticisms has been its lack of resources towards engaging new audiences.
However, this is something Formula E does not share. Fans are able to interact with racing via a ‘fan boost’, an opportunity to give their favourite team or driver a helping hand.
Teams campaign for votes in the build-up to a race and the top three drivers will get an extra power boost.
Marc said: “It was a controversial thing when Formula E came up with it.
“It can make a difference to the car. It’s an extra amount of energy to use when and where you want.
In fact, interest of this sport has been grown, spiking for the very first race in Beijing on 13th September 2014. We are now even seeing peaks in searches on Google for race weekends, the same pattern Formula One has.
Marc added: “The biggest thing is it really helps engage fans with the teams and drivers as never before.
“Lots of people like it and lot of people don’t. I think it’s great we are engaging the drivers directly to the fans.”It's unpredictable- that's what Formula One has dreamt of having for years.”
Formula E: Treading a light environmental footprint
Another issue Formula One has been forced to confront is the environmental footprint, which is ‘hefty’ to say the least.
In Formula E though, there is not a drop of combustible petrol in sight. So how are the cars powered?
“There’s no engine as such, just a great big battery and every team has a finite amount of energy,” Marc said.
“It’s a green sport, and that’s one of the biggest things about the sport.
“Lots of people still think electric cars are milk floats, and they’re not! Formula E is trying to highlight this- electric cars are fast.
“Yes, a Formula E car is not quicker than a Formula One car. The point is that this sport is a test bed- by going in early, we’re getting the conversation going and the technology moving forward.”
And the evidence backs Marc up. Interest in electric cars has been gradually increasing over the last few years (see above). Formula E is tapping into this market, making the battery cool and fast.
Will Formula E compete with Formula One?
After speaking to Marc, we asked him the ultimate question: can Formula E compete with Formula One for entertainment value?
Marc said: “I don’t think they’re trying to compete with Formula One.
“Whilst there are similarities, Formula E is pitching to another audience, trying to bring in new and younger fans, something Formula One has not tried to do up to this point.
“We are aiming much more as an entertainment base rather than a sporting base. Ultimately we want to drag people off their sofas to watch some racing on their doorsteps!”
That last point is perhaps the most vital one: Formula E brings racing to you, unlike Formula One races which happen far away.
The electricity-powered race on Saturday will be on part of the famous Monaco course, and London hosted a race in Battersea last year.
Marc left us with this: “It takes the championship to the places where electric cars are needed most.”
There is only one more question left: where will the sport go? Only time will tell, but there is clearly a growing audience for this sport which has already revved off the start line.
You can follow everything that happens in the Monaco ePrix here!