As innovative and often-controversial Formula E begins its sixth season, VHR’s Automotive experts reveal everything you need to know.
Details: The new season features 14 races in 12 cities on four continents, lasting nine months.
Where to Watch: All races are available to watch on television as well as stream on a variety of platforms. The locations include:
How to Get There: Fans are encouraged to use public transport to travel to events. To match the series’ environmental standards, there are no public car parks available.
The first Motorsport season using only electric cars, FE was created in 2011.
President of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) Jean Todt felt there was a gap in the competitive car racing game. He wanted to launch a more sustainable sport that could also use the latest advances in technology to reduce environmental impact whilst maintaining viewer enjoyment and attracting new fans. Todt worked with Italian politicians to create a single-seater electric car motor racing championship based in cities across the globe.
In a move to make the series as environmentally friendly as possible, all vehicles run on batteries made with 100% renewable fuel. Each car’s tyres last for a full race and are recycled after use.
The first five years have seen hotly-contested races, with champion drivers and teams from all over the world:
· 2014–15 – Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet Jr. led the series’ first ever victory with NEXTEV Team China Racing
· 2015–16 – Swiss entrant Sébastien Buemi won the second championship with France’s Renault e.dams
· 2016–17 – Brazilian competitor Lucas di Grassi secured the highest podium spot for Germany ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport
· 2017–18 – France’s Jean-Éric Vergne raced to the number one spot with China Techeetah
· 2018–19 – Vergne China DS Techeetah championed for the second year running.
The 2019-2020 edition offers:
· New Teams – Series 6 welcomes Automotive giants Porsche and Mercedes into the fold. Mercedes boasts Belgian former McLaren F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne for his second Formula E season and Dutch newcomer Nyck De Vries, who recently won the 2019 Formula 2 Championship. Porsche welcomes German driver Andre Lotterer alongside Swiss veteran Neel Jani, whose credentials include a 24-hour Le Mans win and experience in two most recent two FE races.
· Audience Engagement – Spectator interaction has always been key to the sport, with ‘Fan Boost’ allowing audiences to vote and provide their favourite challenger with extra racing power, but this year’s race goes even further. 'Attack Mode' gives competitors a speed boost, and when used at pivotal moments can be the deciding factor in winning and second place.
· Enhanced Performance – Whilst previous battery capacity of the Spark-Renault SRT 01E chassis saw drivers forced to swap cars mid-race, this year’s vehicles are fitted with a battery that lasts the entirety of a race. With uninterrupted top speeds of around 174 miles per hour (280km), the new models are set to provide exciting competitions.
The electric car championship achieved unprecedented growth in its fifth season, with a record revenue of over €200million – an increase of over 50% compared to 2017-2018. Series growth is partly due to capturing new audiences through television, live stream and social media across geographies and demographics – digital channels enjoyed a 449% increase in spectator interactions last year.
Seventy years of Formula One has seen the sport go from strength to strength, though many perceive the launch of FE as a new rival.
Electric racing imposes strict technology limits, with all cars required to use the same battery and chassis, meaning that the podium finish does not necessarily belong to the best cars – it’s all in the skill of the driver on the day, as well as the decisions of the fans. FE’s interactive elements are unparalleled, not only in Automotive racing but any spectator sport. Electric vehicles are also cheaper to produce, generating greater profit for organisers and teams.
However, Formula 1 is catching up: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is helping design engineers to increase aerodynamic performance and reach faster speeds, more safely than ever before. Whilst traditional automobile racing is known for its iconic sounds, the lack of noise from electric vehicles has seen some seasoned fans disappointed in atmosphere, and Formula E will have to work hard to capture the magic of a seventy-year history.
In the sixth season’s first races last weekend, Britain's Sam Bird won the opening Saudi E-Prix and British BMW i Andretti contender Alexander Sims took his first series race win at Ad Diriyah. France's Jean-Eric Vergne has won the past two editions, but faces a new challenge with industry leaders Mercedes and Porsche.
Currently Sims and Bird are at 1st and 3rd standings respectively, with former champion Stoffel Vandoorne in second place. Team podium standings show Mercedes-Benz EQ leading at 38 points, Envision Virgin Racing close behind at 36 points and BMW i Andretti Motorsport almost neck-and-neck at 35 points.
Who will be crowned victor in 2020?
FE Chairman and co-Founder Alejandro Agag believes that six years in, viewers have only seen the start of the innovative sport. ‘Reaching new young fans, the excitement of Formula E is helping to inspire future generations to embrace clean energy and in turn bringing them one step closer to buying an electric car. This ties in with Formula E’s vision of moving towards a cleaner future, faster.’
The series began its sixth season on 22nd November 2019 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. The Saudi E-Prix will host the first two races.
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