On the Prospects of Formula E…

If the uncertainty surrounding the 2014 Formula One regulations isn’t enough to make the sport realize that its current trajectory is unsustainable, then the hype surrounding Formula E should.

Electricity, in all its simplicity, could very well be the key to the future of motor racing, and Formula E is the pioneer of the movement. Hybrid power and electricity are the Soviet Union and United States, respectively, in the motor racing “space race”, and we all know who has had the most success. in the WEC Audi, Toyota and Porsche are paving the way for hybrid power, and they should be commended for it, but ultimately, their endeavors are not infinitely sustainable.

Alejandro Agag, the man behind Formula E, is on a mission to completely revolutionize the way racing is approached, from the propulsion to the race format. Whether this will translate to dedicated fans is what this blog will try and gauge.

The propulsion

Clearly this will be the defining characteristic of the series. With Formula One switching to V6 engines for the 2014 season, fans all around the world prepared themselves, and continue to do so, for a letdown in the auditory department. Will the high pitched whir of the electric motor in a Formula E car awake our inner child and make us want to watch, or even listen? Judging by fans’ views on V6 engines, this could be where the spectacle falls short.

Or maybe not. We must remember that Formula E is not a Formula One competitor, nor is it even a feeder series. It is a standalone entity trying to forge its own path in motorsport. Perhaps this fresh perspective could alleviate fans’ reluctance concerning the sound of the sport.

The racing

The most important part of any racing series is the excitement of the event. Knowing who is going to win a race before it even begins is not how a racing series should be viewed, and this is something Formula One has tried to fix in the past few years with varying degrees of success. Certainly, the spec nature of Formula E will work in the series’ favor. A la Indycar, Formula E teams will be given identical chassis and power units, and it is up to the teams to find the most speed with different set ups, and, obviously, the skill of the driver.

This is Formula E’s biggest asset. While uncertainty will surround the championship in the first year just because it is so new, excitement can be attained through practical implementation of spec parts.

Now, making the whole series completely spec would be counterproductive. Afterall, this series is supposed to be the breeding ground for innovation in electrical propulsion. Freezing the regulations to make the racing close would go against the philosophy of the series. So, the biggest asset to the sport could end up being its biggest obstacle. How do you balance close racing with technical innovation? That is something Formula One has grappled with for decades, and is something Formula E will eventually have to face. Let’s hope they’re more successful.

The location

Formula E is slated to race in 10 “global cities”, as the championship likes to call them. Should the series become popular amongst the millions of mellenials that inhabit them, then job well done. Should it become a flop, at least amongst that demographic, then, while all is not lost, a rethink will need to be done.

Young people are one of the keys to Formula E’s success. With teens and young adults, on the whole, becoming less and less interested in cars, especially the notion of racing them around in circles over and over again, Formula E needs to find a way to encourage its viewers to A) want to come to the races and B) invest in the products that come out of it.

What is to come?

There are some big names throwing money into this project: Andretti, DAMS, Audi, Mahindra, Super Aguri, just to name a few. They need an investment return, and fast, because Formula E, for all its future implications, can be scrapped just as fast as any other racing series that has come and gone in recent years. The future of motor racing depends on that not happening.