A guide to the newest motorsport – Formula E

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Last month saw the monumental opening to a new sport likely to be the pioneer of advanced electric motorsport technology. It was pure experimentation, all new territory, as the cars were put to the test and pushed to the limits. One thing is for sure, it did not disappoint.

The inaugural Formula E race came to a heart-stopping climax on the penultimate corner as Nico Hulkenberg’s car flew across the track and into a barrier. The unpredictability of the race outcome adds to the unreliability of the yet new and improving technology of the cars. Very few people seemed to know what to expect in this summer’s build up towards the championship.

As the excitement of post July and August testing brimmed, it was clear that all drivers would put in their all. Their aggressive driving styles laid all of their confidence into the unpredictable cars they drove.  It astonishingly put the first 7 drivers all within 8.7 seconds of each other with only 3 laps remaining, a rarity in motorsports. Former Formula 1 drivers, such as Sebastien Buemi, Charles Pic and Nick Heidfeld, appeared open minded and ready to adapt to this new concept. It was particularly exciting to see a new generation of drivers taking to the track, as even the sons of both Senna and Prost were racing.

Though electric car technology has been progressing, it is still a very un-chartered and unfamiliar field with a lot of advancements to be developed. Formula E showcases and advertises the capabilities and possibilities of the technology and allows a surge in funding for research to test these limits. It is headway for improvement and gives a real boost in momentum for the electric car research and industry.

The small high pitch noise of the cars doesn’t quite match the confident roar of a Formula 1 car, nor did race day feel as complete as an F1 one. Without the over the top advertisements, an over crowded grid line before the formation lap and a booming crowd as the last red light turns black, there was still work to be done, but it was still special in its own way.

The start was tense, excitement ready to burst, the beginning of a pioneering sport. All was up in the air and it was left to the drivers to push the cars as hard as they dared.

It was refreshing to see that the novelty of the sport allowed some pre-existing conformities to be broken. Here’s a new concept to highly competitive racing: female drivers. It is a new throughway for women wanting to make it big on the motorsport scene. It just goes to show what a modern sport this will grow to be.

A brief but complete guide to understanding Formula E:

– The E stands for Environment, Entertainment and Engineering

– There are 10 races in a championship

– The races will take place around city centres

– There are 10 teams, each with 2 drivers

– The practise, qualifying and race all take place in one day

– Pit stops are different! The driver must change cars at least once per race and may not change tyres unless there has been a puncture

– The points system follows a standard FIA system

-‘Push to Pass’ or ‘Fanboost’ is a 5 second per car extra speed boost given to the fan’s top 3 drivers. You can vote prior to the race on the official Formula E website (www.fiaformulae.com)

Moving on from basics, it is time for a little comparison of the specs of a Formula 1 and a Formula E car, with an insight on the technology used. The difference first of all lies in the weight of the two cars, an electric vehicles’ minimum requirement is astonishingly 888kg while that of the F1 car is 691kg. Weight is one of the large impacts on speed, as an FE car runs up to a maximum speed of 150mph, while the second is configured to go to 240mph. The staggering figure is in the power of these two cars, where a FE car has up to 270bhp, an F1 car has 600bhp, with an additional 160bhp when ERS (energy recovery system) is enabled!

All this goes to show is how much room for improvement there is for the new FE cars. There appear to be no barriers or constraints in the progress to come, as the pioneers of research and development have their work cut out. It is only to be expected that the cars are not yet developed, Formula 1 cars have been subject to decade’s worth of research.

The President of the FIA, Jean Todt, put it in perspective as he defined it as a ‘vision for the future of motor industry’. This is where the excitement is born, in the concept that there is something new to develop that is sustainable and harvests energy. It is inconceivable how these cars will transform in the next ten years, there is a world of progress to be made and it is in this sphere that the ambition of Formula E is sparked.