What’s the future of racing? This blog has been following Formula E’s progress for a while and we decided it was time to ask some questions/get some answers…
Q: First of all, congratulations on creating something new and original, which Formula E undoubtedly is. Can you give European and American racing fans a basic idea about the technology involved behind the series and also people, companies, etc. How’s the project shaping up?
Formula E: Since launching the Championship in August 2012 the response has been fantastic and things are moving at an electric pace so to speak! The Championship will be the world’s first fully-electric Formula series (single-seater cars) racing on 10 street circuits worldwide beginning in 2014. There will be 10 teams each with two drivers. The cars themselves will be very impressive, capable of going from 0-100kph (60mph) in three seconds. They’re being built by a new French company called Spark Racing Technologies using a chassis designed by Italian firm Dallara, using a powertrain from McLaren. They will also race on Michelin tyres (Click HERE to read recent Formula E/Renault announcement in full.).
The Championship was started by the FIA, the same governing body that runs Formula 1, and is being promoted by Formula E Holdings, led by CEO Alejandro Agag who has a long history of motorsport success.
To date, the interest has been overwhelming from cities, teams, drivers and also sponsors. Over the coming weeks we have many big announcements to make including how our new Formula E car will look. Later this year we’ll also be finalising our calendar with the FIA but before then we’ve been showcasing the car around the world such as our recent event in Los Angeles where we drove the car through the streets of LA!
Q: Formula E is an FIA championship and motorsport’s governing body is known for its desire to keep costs under control, so what’s the amount of freedom that car designers get when it comes to technical regulations – is it all about keeping costs under control or Formula E will leave more room for creativity than most FIA series?
Formula E: Indeed, capping costs is very important to us and our budgets are certainly going to be considerably less than say that of a Formula 1 team. We also want to create an open championship to encourage competition between cars and drivers, where the best technology and the best pilot will win. In the first year, all teams will use the same car, which we will shortly be revealing, but after that they will be free to design their own providing it complies with the FIA regulations.
Q: What’s the current situation with teams and drivers?
Formula E: This has been very encouraging as we’ve had interest from around 50 potential teams from all over the globe and from all different types of motorsport and sectors. We will have 10 teams in total, each with two drivers, and have already revealed the first two with Drayson Racing and China Racing. Over the coming weeks we’ll be unveiling more, many of which will be well-known names.
Q: From a driver’s perspective and based on Formula E testing programme/driver feedback, can you talk us through the challenges of driving an electric powered racing car compared to a conventional car with internal-combustion engine?
Formula E (answers consulted with former F1 driver and official Formula E test driver Lucas di Grassi): The cars are actually quite similar from a driver’s viewpoint with just a few differences. The main one is the torque. Electric motors have instant power so there’s no lag. An electric motor is much better for a driver because you can control the torque much more easily. The tricky part though is managing the battery life. The more you push the quicker it drains so when racing it will be a real balancing act for the drivers to know how to mange this. It will be a great strategy, a bit like managing tyres are in an F1 race. The other main aspect is the sound. People say there’s no sound but there is. An electric car sounds more like a jet fighter and is very futuristic. It’s still around 80 decibels which is more than a road car.
Q: In simple terms, how powerful is the first generation Formula E car, what are the speeds involved (considered that races will all be street courses)?
Formula E: The car can reach speeds of more than 220kph (140mph) and go from 0-100kph in three seconds. Due to the fact that Formula E will race on street circuits though, the top speed has to be limited due to the regulations so the actual top speed could be much more! Pretty powerful for a car with zero emissions!
Q: With Los Angeles and Miami on the 2014 Formula E calendar, you seem to be well ahead of Formula 1 when it comes to American market, however, USA is a known petrolhead territory, so how do you plan to win over fans who normally look forward to noise and smell? Where will the excitement lie for them and why they should come and see Formula E races?
Formula E: We think Formula E is going to appeal to a different type of motorsport fan…the ‘electric-head’ if you like! First and foremost we want to create exciting and competitive racing which we’ll do with features like the drivers pitting to change cars, not tyres!
But we will also have great on and off track entertainment for the whole family plus in the evening we will be putting on a large-scale music concert. Our events will also take place in one day as opposed to being spread out over a weekend and will have much more of a family environment by using city centre locations that are easily accessible and of course the reduction in noise pollution means young children won’t be put off.