Formula E has admirably taken on the challenge of breaking the mould in motorsport and with further improvements can be genuinely electrifying.
It is not easy in today’s day and age to do something truly different. With so much of what we are familiar with and accept as the norm – regardless of any aspect of life – being recorded and referenced through a variety of mediums (including social media memes) breaking the mould is a tough ask.
Just look at the debate over the sound of F1 for instance. The fact that cars will be completing the same race distances in around the same time (or faster) than the outgoing F1 machines using 30 per cent less fuel while maintaining the same levels of power (if not more) was overlooked in a debate over how F1 cars should sound that started to border on the ridiculous.
Case in point, the attempt to shape the exhaust on the all-conquering Mercedes W05 in the form of a trumpet to magnify the sound of the exhaust. The idea of being fixated on something so trivial – aside from the ridiculousness of putting a trumpet on the derriere of a racing car – was rooted and strengthened by a notion of how something ‘should be’ rather than what it can be.
Imagine races with top line single seat machines being held on circuits near residential areas and on street circuits without complaints from residents about noise pollution.
Imagine at least one aspect of a racing series being free of fossil fuels and acting as a test bed for developing alternative means of propulsion in a world plagued by rising levels of pollution, global warming and shrinking reserves of fossil fuels.
While Formula E is not yet a perfect alternative to the current energy landscape (is there such a thing as perfection to begin with?) there is a lot the first ever all-electric single seat championship has going for it.
Formula E’s strengths, weaknesses and aspects that are a work in progress were laid bare at its inaugural ePrix in Beijing and on the balance of it, one could not help but give it a thumbs up.
ON THE PLUS SIDE
The idea of all racing related activities being contained within one day instead of stretched over three days makes it easy to package for broadcasters, as well as for spectators who need to take out just a bit of time on a Saturday to get their fill.
Awarding three points for qualifying means those spectators get to see a hard fought battle to be clear of the field.
Given that all the cars are exactly the same specification (for the first season) makes getting pole a big plus as things can get pretty hairy in the midfield.
Although as the finishing of the Beijing ePrix proved, things can get tight and hairy at the finish too. All in all there is potential for good racing as the cars scramble in and out of tight corners and chicanes.
WORK IN PROGRESS
That being said, the lack of top speed (cars maxed out at around 195 kmph) is pretty noticeable even on TV and a more elegant solution for charging needs to be implemented than a driver hopping out of one car into another. Either that or the technology needs to improve to a point that the race distances can exceed 150 km and cars can complete it in a single charge.
Also, the series needs to ensure that its drivers become regular fixtures and stars in their own right as it is ultimately the people behind the wheel and their battles that people want to see. All in all, however, the FIA can be proud of taking a chance with throwing Formula E into the wide spectrum of motorsport and working on it on the go.