The third season of the Formula E championship is currently taking an early mid-season break, and fans are looking forward to racing resuming next month. When it does, 2017 looks set to provide plenty of excitement and action, with the potential for a thrilling championship battle. Here’s why now is the perfect time to start paying close attention to the all-electric race series…
Although the series is only a couple of years old, there are already some fantastic rivalries between the drivers. Top of the list are last year’s title contenders, Lucas di Grassi and Sébastien Buemi. Tensions had been building between the two throughout the season, culminating in a first-corner crash in the final race. There’s no love lost between them, apparent from incidents away from the track, too…
Elsewhere in the field, there are plenty of drivers who have a point to prove, including season 1 champion Nelson Piquet Jr, and the fiercely-competitive Jean-Éric Vergne.
Competition is fierce
There are strong teams and drivers throughout the entire field, thanks to a combination of fantastic drivers, responsible regulations, and rapid technological advances. Many names will be familiar to WEC and Formula 1 fans. Sam Bird, Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost all race LMP1 cars, and former Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez joins the roster later in the season.
In the garages, nine out of the current ten teams are busy developing their own drivetrains for the cars, which means teams have to keep innovating to keep up with the rest of the field. The result is a field of very quick, surprisingly reliable, and technologically-outstanding race cars.
Often the subject of derision, there are several features of a Formula E race that make the series truly unique (and add an element of fun!). Changing cars at the half-way stage of the race is purely for technical reasons, but it means teams have to consider race strategies — something lost in series such as Formula 1 when re-fuelling was banned. The more controversial “Fan Boost” system (which gives the most popular drivers on social media a quick boost of extra power to use in the race) actually has very little impact on the outcome of races, but continues to generate a lot of publicity. Finally, as an all-electric series, it’s blazing a trail for others to follow.
Location, location, location
Rather than using existing race tracks, most Formula E races take place on street circuits at the heart of major cities. This makes races extra challenging for drivers, but gives people who don’t live close to a more “traditional” racing venue a fantastic opportunity to see live motorsport. It also provides spectacular backdrops, from Moscow’s Red Square to the Manhattan skyline (which we’ll see at the first ever New York ePrix in July).
Anyone with a passion for motorsport engineering will find a wealth of riches in Formula E. The technology powering the cars is already finding its way into road vehicles, with rapid advances in everything from the electric engines themselves to fuel-saving tyres. Because most races take place on completely new circuits, drivers are used to extensive practice sessions in race simulators — great practice for the series’ eSports championship. There’s even a new support series that does away with the least-efficient component of any race car: the driver!
Formula E is already beginning to attract a lot of attention from drivers, teams and investors alike. In the next few years, the likes of Renault, Audi and Jaguar look set to be joined by BMW and Mercedes. The cars themselves will continue to get faster and be able to drive for longer. We will probably see more all-electric racing series (such as Electric-GT) competing for drivers.
Until then, there is this year’s championship to decide. With ten rounds to go, there are plenty of reasons to keep your eye on Formula E.
Image: Nelson Piquet Jr. racing in Marrakesh © FIA Formula E