As a lover of motorsport I have immensely enjoyed the latest FIA championship to be introduced, known as Formula e and is a competition between top tier fully electric single-seat and open wheel racing cars. In its inaugural year, like other championships there are different teams with two drivers each, though unlike other championships the regulations define that all the cars have the same chassis, tires and engine, so the cars are incredibly similar.
Qualification in some races show cars to be within a hundredth of a second between one another and the competition between drivers, (some of which will be familiar to motorsport fans as they are ex-F1 drivers or have been in other championships like Rallycross, NASCAR or Indycar), is as fierce at times as any other championship. Drivers also have to use two cars each, having to come into the pits around the half way point of the race to switch, due to the amount of energy the car is able to store and use. A great thing about electric engines is that they are much quieter. It’s hard to imagine watching a sport like football or rugby without hearing the crowd cheer and it would probably be difficult to watch if that was the case.
The noise of the crowd helps create the energy and atmosphere for the event and makes it more exciting and that’s what I love about these quiet engines. I first noticed it in Formula 1 when they went from V8 turbo charged engines one year to V6 hybrid engines the next and in the Australian Grand Prix, for the first time in my Formula 1 viewing life, I could actually hear the crowd cheering, (might have had something to do with their fellow countryman Daniel Ricciardo coming second but it’s still a valid point).
As criticisms were flying around from everywhere at once about the cars not sounding special anymore, I embraced the fact that there was more to the sport than the sound of an engine revving for 2 hours. Formula e has even taken it one step further by having live DJ’s playing music for the crowd as the race goes on as well. Surely that can only be a good thing. Another great thing about Formula e is that they have picked a good set of courses. The freshly built ones and the traditional, classic ones they have acquired can only help build the sport’s popularity and fan base.
The one thing that I think is holding it back though is that it isn’t being taking seriously enough. It would be a nice thought to think that if Formula 1 and Indycar drivers can’t find a seat for next season they would seriously consider moving to Formula e instead of automatically going to endurance or rally racing, but I believe that a lot of those drivers see it as a cheesy or childish variant of their sport. Also, more serious car and engine manufacturers taking an interest would be massively beneficial, (although McLaren, Renault and Audi are serious manufacturers, there still isn’t any Mercedes or Ferrari). Only time, popularity, sponsors and money will change that view and I think after a few years it will grow to be as popular as Formula 1. I mean, let’s face it, Formula 1 is losing viewers and Formula e has had all the excitement since the beginning with huge accidents, close racing and six different winners in six races. Formula 1 has also been diagnosed with a lot of problems that will take a lot of time and effort to fix. To be fair though, Formula 1 has only just started with just two races completed and this season has given an example of Mercedes not being as dominant as they were last year, so things might be looking up.
As for Indycar, they really don’t seem to be having problems with the sport as such, especially not money problems since it’s in America, (the home of sponsorship and advertisements), but it seems strange to me that they still use refuelling methods during the race since other sports have shown just how dangerous that can be. There are more safety problems than just that too. Dan Wheldon died in the Las Vegas Motor Speedway race in 2011. It’s hard to think of a driver dying from an accident in motorsport that recently if you watch Formula 1 since there hasn’t been a death since Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna in 1994.
Being a Formula 1 fan you would probably think the safety measures in Indycar are pretty bad, but the truth is that if anything is responsible it’s the layout of the circuit. Ex-Indycar driver Dario Franchitti, (and current Formula e commentator weirdly), has stated before that they shouldn’t be using oval circuits because of how dangerous they can be and it seems he’s right. Also, personally, I think oval tracks are the single most boring races possible. I can see the appeal, it’s like drag racing in the sense that it’s all about top speed, but you can still have something to mix it up a bit and make it more interesting.
So which do I think is best out of all three? Certainly there are a lot of different areas that all three can improve upon, but currently I think that Formula e has done everything right so far and has learned from other championships to create an exciting new sport. Just a shame about the championship only being ten races long and the big gap between the first two races which felt like an eternity and almost caused me to forget about the championship altogether. Despite this, it’s rare that any of the races clash, (if they do at all, I’m not entirely sure), so if you decide to watch all three like I do, you’ll be able to set a preference or just watch them all every year. You never know what exciting developments these sports will come up with next.