Formula E – the electric car, city-centre race series with direct fan involvement

t’s only three months until the new electric car racing series Formula E begins in Beijing on September 13th. It will visit ten countries before the season ends in London on June 27th 2015. On Monday the new formula launched officially with the ten teams announcing new drivers and displaying their cars for the first time.

Purple lights and deep bass beats started off the party, before CEO Alejandro Agag spoke about the upcoming season and the journey Formula E had already taken. Three years ago it was only an idea (‘not even a power-point!’). Not only did teams, manufacturers and tracks have to be found, but the completely new technology had to be developed. Now Formula E is an FIA series.

The brand-new, as yet untested cars circled the Camden Roundhouse in their individual liveries. The cars are single-seaters, with some additions to make them safer for city racing, including a big element behind the back wheel to prevent collisions resulting in airborne cars. Two wings stick out of the side of the cockpit, which aid aerodynamics but also add some impact protection. F1 teams Williams and McLaren have helped with the technology, and Sir Frank Williams was present to lend his support to the new series.

Formula E has two big aims. To popularise electric cars and to be a testbed for their development. One of its strengths is that it will bring electric racing right to people’s doorsteps. Rather than ready made racetracks, Formula E will race at temporary tracks around city centres. Lower levels of pollution and better air quality is a real challenge for big cities and Formula E will travel the world showing the advantages of electric-power in cities.

Past champions Emerson Fittipaldi and Alain Prost added some F1 glamour to the launch. Prost is a team owner, as is ex-F1 driver Jarno Trulli. His team TrulliGP announced its second driver (Trulli himself is getting back in the driver’s seat). They will be employing one of the two female drivers in the formula, Michela Cerruti.

In one of the biggest changes to the way a race formula works fans will have a direct, crowd-sourced input into the results of the race. Whether this innovation will dilute the racing we will have to see, but before each race fans can vote for their favourite driver. During the race this driver will have access to a #fanboost, allowing them extra power for overtaking.

The street races of F1 are always amongst the most popular of the season. Formula E will go street racing every time it heads out of the pits. It will be like the Monaco GP every month – even more so on May 9th when Formula E hits the streets of Monte Carlo a fortnight before the F1 circus.

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