Electric racing Formula E starts with the Beijing ePrix

The build up has lasted years but at last the new all-electric racing Formula E has started. The Beijing ePrix was the world’s first ever fully-electric single-seater race. The race, officially called the Beijing Evergrande Spring ePrix, was held on a spectacular temporary race track built around the city’s iconic Olympic ‘Bird’s Nest’ Stadium and was won by Audi Sport ABT’s Lucas di Grassi.

A large accident on the last lap showed the strength of the cars – which in this inaugural year are all the same Spark-Renault designs. On the last corner of the race Nick Heidfeld attempted to overtake race leader Nicolas Prost, who appeared to turn into him. Heidfeld’s car was shunted left and then launched into the air by a kerb, the design of which will have to be rethought. After hitting a wall Heidfeld crawled out of the twisted car unharmed.

Formula E has several new features not seen in motor racing before. Not only is it all electric, but fans can vote for some drivers to have extra power boosts during the race. More importantly the race meet takes place in city centres, with the practice, qualifying and race all  on the same day. This concentration of the action makes for an exciting day for fans. Tyres are not the same issue they are in F1, with the only pit stop being to change cars rather than tyres – the battery does not last long enough to last a full 25 lap race.

The formula does have problems that have to be overcome. The track was too narrow and bumpy. The artificial chicanes looked peculiar and didn’t create a pleasing track. Worst of all though is the current sound of the electric engines. It is a high pitched whine. Until it becomes bearable it could be disguised – maybe every car could play its own music as it comes round. Fans could hear their man coming round the track…

Podium:

1. Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT)
2. Franck Montagny (Andretti)
3. Sam Bird (Virgin Racing)

The next race is in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on November 22 2014

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