Sunday 25 September 2016

FORMULA E - The lowdown ahead of the season opener in Beijing

Eoin Harrington

Published 21/10/2015 | 14:41

Formula E’s second season begins on Saturday morning with the Beijing ePrix and we’ve got the lowdown on what to expect and why you should tune in.

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WHAT IS IT?

Formula E is a single-seater racing series run by the FIA, the same governing body as Formula One. The series’ CEO Alejandro Agag pitched the idea in 2012 and the series’ first race took place just two years later, in September 2014 at the Olympic Park in Beijing.

It is the first ever global racing series to use fully electrically powered cars.

RECOGNISABLE NAMES AND TALENTED DRIVERS

One of the main fears for any new racing series is that it will struggle to attract top-level drivers. However, if season one of Formula E proved anything, it was that this would not be a problem for the series.

The field is full of recognisable names – Nicolas Prost (son of four-time F1 champion Alain), Bruno Senna (nephew of three-time F1 champion Ayrton) and 1997 Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve are just a few of the big names, while Nelson Piquet Jr – son of the Formula One great, Nelson Sr – is the defending series champion.

Former F1 drivers such as Jean-Éric Vergne, Nick Heidfled and Sébastien Buemi are all competing in season two, while 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Loïc Duval is also part of the field.

BACKING FROM INTERNATIONAL CAR BRANDS AND CELEBRITIES

The series has also caught the eye of several noted public figures – the Venturi team is owned by Hollywood actor Leonardo di Caprio, while the DS Virgin team is controlled by business magnate Richard Branson.

The series also has the backing of several international car brands and motorsport teams – Renault, Citroën, McLaren and Williams are all providing software and powertrains to the teams, with Renault controlling the e.dams team.

SPECTACULAR VENUES

The series’ goal is to promote a greener future and it does so in several ways. A prime example of how much painstaking attention is being paid to “staying green” is the format of the race weekend.

Race events take place over a single day, with two 45-minute practice sessions, an hour long qualifying session and a 50-minute race all taking place over a single Saturday to cut down on emissions and intrusion to the hosting venue.

Every race also takes place on temporary circuits constructed in some of the world’s most famous cities – bringing the races to the centre of cities cuts down on the travel emissions of supporters. Some of the venues include the opening round in the Olympic Park in Beijing, a race around the streets of Paris and the season closer around Battersea Park in London.

FAN INTEGRATION

Formula E is the first racing series to give the fans a say in the race – in the 12 days leading up to each race, fans can vote via the website, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for their favourite driver to receive a five-second “boost” of energy.

Although it has divided opinion, it is great to see a new racing series trying something new to include the fans. The series’ Twitter account (@FIAFormulaE) also livetweets video clips of highlights from the race, along with live-streaming of every session being available on the Formula E website.

MOST OF ALL: INCREDIBLE RACING

Formula E’s first season received widespread acclaim for the quality of the racing – as every team was running the same chassis, it was down to each team’s engineers and drivers to decide the fate of each race. This year, each team is free to build its own power supply, but the racing is still expected to remain incredibly close for season two.

Last season’s championship was decided on the final corner of the Battersea Park circuit in London – Nelson Piquet Jr beating Sébastien Buemi by a single point after a failed overtake attempt on Bruno Senna by Buemi into the last corner.

With such closely matched cars, such a high level of driving quality, spectacular venues and wheel-to-wheel racing, Formula E is definitely worth a watch – the first race of the 2015/16 season gets underway at 9am from Beijing’s Olympic Park on Saturday, October 24.

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