Formula E

Formula E Celebrates it's 100th E-Prix

Formula E Celebrates it's 100th E-Prix
Formula E not only celebrated its century of races in fine style in Seoul, Korea, but with a bang-crash - literally, after eight cars crashed going into turn 1 for race 1 of the double-header weekend – as it crowned a new world champion in Stoffel Vandoorne, the former F1 driver and GP2 champion who readily took to the electric car racing series with Mercedes.

Not only did the second of the weekend’s two Korean races deliver Formula E’s 100th race, but the event marked the end of the world championship series’ Gen2 era, with all teams now gearing up for Season 9’s faster, lighter and more powerful cars that feature cutting-edge technologies and a top speed of over 300km/h.

Gen1 was introduced to an astounded world in 2014 after then-FIA President Jean Todt unveiled his plans for an electric racing championship. Spanish politician and motorsport entrepreneur Alejandro Agag was selected by the governing body to establish the series at the time Tesla was an odd-ball brand and no major motor manufacturer marketed an electric vehicle range. Todt’s concept was truly visionary.

There is no denying, though, that Formula E initially struggled to gain traction: die-hard motorsport fans lamented a lack of noise while battery technology was in its infancy, necessitating a change of cars at the mid-point of a race. Still, Agag kept faith, staging 11 races in 2014/15 in destination cities such as Beijing (inaugural race), Miami, London, Berlin and Monte Carlo. Nelson Piquet Jnr, son of the triple F1 champion, came out tops.

Fan engagement was placed high on Formula E’s priority list, with inner cities events delivering fun fests with motor racing at the heart of the action. Fan boost enabled fans to play active roles in races by voting for an extra boost of power fir their favourite driver, while the ‘green’ credentials opened doors to venues that shunned traditional motorsport, in turn attracting a younger demographic than other (fossil-fuelled) series.

Loïc Duval during the 2015 Formula E race at Berlin Tempelhof. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Formula E was swamped by manufacturers desperate to get in on a racing series that not only provided a unique global marketing pedestal but futuristic technologies - on budgets a fraction of those required for Formula 1. Audi, BMW, Renault/Nissan, DS and others queued up to join, simultaneously demanding improved, road relevant platforms and more power than ‘just’ 240bhp. Time, then, for Gen2.

Where Gen1 blazed the electric racing trail, its successor, launched 2018/19 consolidated the concept after a four-year period of exponential growth, with the most significant step being battery packs with sufficient energy density to deliver a full 45-minute race distance without mandatory stops. Suddenly Formula E was taken mega seriously by fans, in the process also attracting blue-chips like Porsche, Mercedes and Jaguar.

The calendar, too, was rationalised: double-header races were staged in New York’s Brooklyn area, with the series taking its first steps into the MENA region, in Saudi and Marrakesh. Hong Kong hosted the first milestone: Race 50. Not even Covid could knock out Formula E: although 2019/20 calendars were truncated, a full championship was staged, with Antonio Felix da Costa becoming drivers’ champion.

Jérôme d'Ambrosio at the Berlin E-Prix, 2016. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The next season saw Formula E attain full FIA world championship status – an incredible achievement for a trailblazing series after just seven seasons, with Dutch driver Nyck de Vries taking home the honours for Mercedes after Covid restrictions forced a mainly European-based calendar, with only Saudi, USA and Mexico staging fly-away events. Still, 15 races under such circumstances proved the resilience of Formula E.

So, to this season: No fewer than 11 teams (22 drivers) committed to the 16-race series, with events held in by-now traditional European cities such as London, Rome, Berlin and Monte Carlo plus Riyadh, Jakarta, New York, Marrakesh and Seoul. Jaguar’s Mitch Evans and Vandoorne were the last two drivers standing going to Korea, with the latter simply needing to finish ahead of the New Zealander. Which he did.

Gen3 cars, while still based on standardised chassis, incorporate sustainable and recyclable materials - including tyres with an ‘afterlife’ - and are 60kg lighter despite having 40% more power: up from 335bhp to 460bhp. A front-mounted motor-generator improves regeneration such that 40% of power required to run a full race distance is recovered energy – so powerful is the friction that Gen3 cars do with front brakes only!

The new cars feature pointier, less swoopy lines, while battery charging rates of the upgraded technologies are double or even triple those of most current road-going EVs, enabling Formula E to blaze yet another trail as it aims to attract even more manufacturers - the big news being that Maserati will join the fray next season.

#19 Felix Rosenqvist for Mahindra Racing at 2017 Formula E Championship. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Although Mercedes will bow out after trouncing all-comers for two straight years, McLaren has acquired the Three-Pointed Star’s operation, so two hallowed names ultimately replace one. Next season Formula E can truly be said to have come of age after just eight years!

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