Preparations for the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship season is well under way. With a little over four months to go, a solid calendar has been revealed, the teams are known, the first broadcasters are in place and the first drivers have been announced. The fully-electric racing series starts mid September in ten city centres around the globe and there is still much to be revealed.
When the inaugural calendar and all the teams were revealed in December last year, the organisers – led by businessman Alejandro Agag – did a terrific job in building credibility. In a time period of economic uncertainties, the recently failing ‘new world wide racing championships’ like A1GP and Superleague Formula and using new technology that hasn’t been put in place at such level, scepticism arose among those who have been following motorsport for years. Can or will it ever work?
This question has yet to be answered, but almost everything is in place. Formula E keeps pushing with new developments being announced soon. What can we expect during the coming four months?
Opening of the new Formula E HQ
On the 15th of May, Formula E will officially open its doors of the new HQ located at Donington Park in the United Kingdom. The 44,000 sq ft purpose-built facility hosts the ten teams and their cars, plus the crews working on the new fully-electric single seaters. This test and development centre is conveniently located next to the Donington Park circuit were public testing will commence in early July.
Cars being delivered
All ten teams will receive one of the two Spark-Renault SRT_01 electric cars on the 15th of May. Established race teams like Andretti Autosport, ABT and DAMS will have a thorough first look at the electric hart of their machine, while EV pioneers like Mahindra, Drayson Racing and Venturi (including team co-founder Leonardo DiCarprio) are able to compare the car with their own record breaking electric vehicles. Drayson Racing Technologies, founded by former UK’s Minister of State for Science and Innovation Lord Paul Drayson, has developed the Lola-Drayson B12/69EV successfully since 2007. Venturi Automobiles has built various electric sports cars and currently holds the land speed record for electric vehicles.
The Formula E cars, capable of producing 200 kW (270 hp) peak output, are built by Spark Racing Technology. The French company received support from well known motorsport brands like chassis manufacturer Dallara, McLaren Electronic Systems (electric powertrain), Williams Advance Engineering (batteries), Hewland (gearbox), Renault (systems integration) and Michelin (18 inch all-weather tyres).
Until now, only two out of twenty drivers are officially confirmed. Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi are confirmed by Audi Sport ABT Formula E Team, which is indeed supported by Audi. To attract attention and to build credibility, the championship organisers announced a Drivers’ Club. Drivers who are part of this programme are openly endorsed by Formula E and have strong intentions to race in the new series. Former Formula 1 stars like Jarno Trulli, Takuma Sato, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nick Heidfeld are included in this list, but also other established names like Katherine Legge, Oriol Servia, Karun Chandhok and Marco Andretti aren’t missing.
ElectricAutosport.com has learned that it will be likely to see new drivers being announced during the opening ceremony at Donington Park and others are to follow shortly. But inherent to motorsport is that confirming identities takes time.
A great percentage of questions on social media related to Formula E are about the TV coverage. The series has secured an important deal with FOX Sports, reaching 180 million households in territories all over the world. More specifically, a 90 minute Formula E programme will be broadcast in the United Kingdom by ITV4 (26,2 million homes) and Japan’s TV Asahi reaches 51,4 million households with extensive coverage of the racing series. Reaching 257,6 million homes is an important step in this phase of championship preparation, but it is by far not enough. As soon as more drivers are confirmed and the start is near, the numbers could easily double or triple.
The official Formula E commentary team has been announced lately with four-time Indycar champion Dario Franchitti and lead commentator Jack Nickholls covering all the ten races live. This duo is supported by pit lane reporter Nicki Shields and UK’s premier EV specialist Robert Llewellyn.
Partnerships with global companies like DHL (logistics) and Qualcomm (chips and wireless charging) have been secured in an early stage. More interesting in the recent months has been the acquisition of the 21 million dollar investment led by Boston Celtics managing partner Wyc Grousbeck and rumours about smaller investments are around. The next major update about sponsorship should come from the acquisition of a cup sponsor. A document in possession of ElectricAutosport.com reveals that a 15 million euros sponsorship gives naming rights of the FIA Formula E Championship, a worldwide global sponsor should pay 10 million euros and an E-Partner 5 million euros per year. It is rumoured, as it was revealed by The Independent, that Formula E is in talk with a bank, energy company and a retail internet company for the series’ title sponsorship.
Track designs of the events to be held in Beijing and Putrajaya have already been revealed, showing iconic city centre courses with a brilliant backdrop. The Monaco course is also known, as the electric cars will run at the Monte Carlo race track, the same as Formula 1 and the Historic Grand Prix. The race location in Berlin was announced in July last year revealing that a race track will be set-up at the former Tempelhof Airport. For London Battersea Park has been rumoured.
The race organisers have said to reveal new track designs every six months before an event should take place, meaning that the track in Punta del Este, Uruguay will be revealed on June 13th.
Formula E is not only about racing. The one day event in the cities’ centres will feature concerts. Under the brand name FE Live Concerts, run by CDC Entertainment, top artists and DJ’s will hit the stage on Saturday evening to ensure an unforgettable ending ceremony. The first contracts for the Beijing event have been signed and it has yet to be announced.
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