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What is Formula E?
You may have heard of Formula E, but then again, you may have not. It’s the all-electric single seater racing series organised by motorsport’s governing bod, the FIA, and it has caught the attention of some big-name car manufacturers such as Audi, Renault, Porsche, Jaguar and Mercedes. Here we’ve compiled a guide to tell you all you need to know about this rising series.
While it’s not on a level with Formula One just yet, Formula E has the potential to achieve a similar footing, especially now that some major car makers are joining the fray. The attraction of Formula E is the electrical drive systems that the cars use. The series is seen as a hotbed for development of electrified propulsion, and the technology created and used in the series will help to accelerate the development of electrical and plug-in hybrid road cars. That direct link inbetween road and race is attractive to manufacturers, which is why many have dropped their traditional race activities in favour of a Formula E entry.
Below is our quick guide to the FIA’s Formula E single-seater electrical car race series. We’ve got everything you need to know about the Formula E cars, calendar and teams.
Scroll down the page for everything you need to know about Formula E…
What is Formula E?
Formula E is a single-seater racing series for fully electrified cars. It takes place on street tracks in major cities around the globe. Unlike F1, its calendar runs from autumn to summer. The championship is approved by motorsport’s world governing bod the FIA and is the brainchild of Spanish businessman and former politician Alejandro Agag.
It was primarily backed by money from several investment funds and individual entrepreneurs and has partnerships with prominent brands such as Michelin, Renault, BMW, DHL, Visa and electrical vehicle charging technology rock-hard Qualcomm. The fourth season of Formula E takes place from 2017-2018, and each year sees the regulations liberated up to permit more development of the cars and their power systems.
A number of racing teams from other race series have taken part in Formula E, while big car manufacturers and tech firms are also getting involved. Entrepreneur Richard Branson has a tie-up with French rock hard DS to present DS Cherry Racing, while Italian ex-F1 racer Jarno Trulli had his own squad. The former Super Aguri F1 team was also involved, albeit their place has been taken by the Chinese Techeetah team. Other car makers presently involved in Formula E are Audi, Jaguar and Renault, while US EV company Faraday Future has a team in the series, too. Elsewhere, Indian construction rock-hard Mahindra and US IndyCar veteran Michael Andretti both have teams as well.
The big switches come for the 2018-2019 season, when the regulations are liberated up even more. This will see BMW and Mercedes join the series, while the following season sees Porsche arrive. All three will be intensely comitted to the series, and Porsche has dropped its Le Boy’s twenty four Hours programme in favour of the Formula E series.
Drivers mainly come from a single-seater background, with many coming from F1 or Indycars, while a few have raced in the German DTM touring car series or at Le Stud’s. Starlets such as Lucas Di Grassi, Sebastien Buemi and Nelson Piquet Jr have made a name for themselves in the series, while drivers can get a ‘Fan Boost’ in the lead up to a race event via likes on social media. This is then translated into a power boost on-track to help with overtaking.
What are the cars like?
The Spark-Renault Formula E car looks fairly similar to a Formula One or GP2 single-seater, but it’s very different under the skin. It has a Dallara carbon-fibre/aluminium chassis and power comes from a McLaren-sourced electrical motor that’s the same as the one found in the P1 hypercar. The battery comes from F1 team Williams’ technology division, and the output of this set-up is the equivalent of 270bhp. Like a road car, the Spark has relatively narrow treaded tyres, sourced from Michelin, that are low-profile and suitable for moist or dry weather.
Due to the cars’ limited range, drivers must manage their power use cautiously and make a pit stop halfway through each race to switch to a 2nd fully charged car. Development of the battery and other elements of the car will be opened up in future seasons, with the aim of cars running a utter race without recharging by season five.
Is it as swift as Formula One?
No – the Formula E cars aren’t as powerful as Formula One cars and run somewhere inbetween the rhythm of Formula Ford and Formula three junior single-seater racers. However, they race on unique city-centre street circuits so direct lap time comparisons with F1 aren’t indeed possible. Organisers have indicated the cars will be significantly quicker once drivetrain development is opened up to manufacturers.
When and where is the next race?
While most motorsport series run from the spring, through summer and wind down in the autumn, Formula E starts towards the end of the year, runs through the winter and completes in the summer. There have been three finish seasons so far, and the next one starts in December two thousand seventeen and runs through until July 2018. There are eleven rounds scheduled for the fourth season, embarking in Hong Kong, then travelling to Morocco, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, USA and Canada, with one country still to be confirmed.
The circuits are all based on city streets, rather than established race tracks, and they are smaller and narrower than your average circuit. This is designed to showcase the electrical single seaters in a better light, as a Formula E car on a conventional circuit wouldn’t last for very long at utter speed before the batteries ran out.
As for teams, this year sees eight squads lining up. But while that means a modest 16-car grid, the taut street circuits the Formula E cars race on mean there’s some close racing to be had.
Can I see it on TV in the UK?
Yes – all Formula E races are shown on ITV4.
Have you observed a Formula E race? Tell us what you thought in the comments section below.