As far as debuts go, round 1 of the FIA Formula E World Championship couldn’t have gone much better. There was action up and down the field throughout, the grandstands were full and the heart stopping last corner, last lap incident between Prost and Heidfeld certainly got everybody talking. Fans at home seemed to be engaged as well, with over 40million people watching the event live around the world and 1billion twitter interactions taking place. For the most part it was a huge success, laying down a great foundations for the sport to now build on. I do however feel that there are some issues that need to be addressed if the fans are going to come back race after race.
Across social media and a number of online forums, it seems many felt that the cars were far too slow in race trim and I can see why this could put people off. Whilst the cars looked fantastic in qualifying with the full 200kw / 270bhp battery power available to them, come the race at times they appeared a sluggish. Why? Well the race was not an all out sprint; it was about managing the battery and getting to the end as quickly as possible. Unfortunately it did seem that the race distance was just that bit too much of a stretch for the battery unit;, however I’m not sure that this will continue to be so problematic.
As much as I hate to compare Formula E to Formula 1, it’s worth remembering that the first few races of the 2014 F1 season were pretty poor, both in terms of racing and as a spectacle. The sound was gone, the cars were heavy and slow and there were very few battles over the course of the race. Shortly before the Bahrain GP, the former Ferrari President joined a number of leading F1 figures in openly criticised the new Formula. Since then we have had a number of absolutely fantastic races, with some all times classics at venues like Canada, Bahrain and Hungary, with some incredible duels between drivers at tracks like Germany and Silverstone.
So what’s changed?
The early F1 races lacked excitement because teams were simply trying to understand the new power units and get the cars to end of the race. It was all about gathering data and maximising points in the early flyaway races; now that the teams are further along the learning curve we’re seeing much more excitement. I really do believe that Formula E is similar. The technology and cars are so different to anything we’ve seen, the street circuit so different from Donington Park race track, that it’s no surprise the opening race consisted of drivers simply trying to reach the end of the race. Once the drivers and teams get more confortable with the cars and, more importantly, gain further understanding of how to maximise the potential of the battery, I’m sure we’ll see much faster and exciting racing.
So give Formula E the chance it deserves. Yes there are some rough edges, but that was to be expected for such a unique series and the first race at that. For now, let’s just sit back and appreciate something new, different and – unlike other categories of motorsport – a series that can really make a difference to the motor industry.