History was written in Beijing. The first race of a global all-electric championship was being held in the Chinese capital city. Formula E succeeded where a number of organisations failed to initiate something similar in the past decade. Timing seems perfect as the technology is evolving and the automotive industry is searching for new, relevant, platforms to develop and showcase new techniques.
Sustainable racing. For the FIA it has been an area of interest for many years. It was 2011 when the FIA chose a name: the FIA Formula E Championship should be launched in 2013 and they were looking for a promoter. A number of interested businessmen with a passion for electric racing enrolled for the competition to become the promoter.
Alejandro Agag and Enrique Bañuelos handed in their ideas. With their extensive knowledge in business and racing, the idea to initiate the championship with ten teams, twenty drivers and equal cars for year one was appealing. And funding was a key element too. An initial budget of 100 million dollar should guarentee to build the cars and to cover costs to make it to the first race. The deal was formally signed eleven months later. 2014 would become the year to launch the all-electric single seat championship. A bit later than the FIA originally had planned.
But that made sense. Launching a competition in ten city centres and to acquire ten teams in two years time is quite a challenge. It was criticized globally as it would be impossible to create a high profile series. And racing in cities? That’s too expensive, most said. But Agag’s strategy paid off. He provided the concept ‘cost-free’ to cities and he attracted interest from (potential) teams all around the world.
But the clock was ticking. With just one year to go the prototype racing car was presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show and 42 cars were yet to be built. The engineering challenge was huge due to the timeframe. Williams Advanced Engineering, for example, had to design and build the battery in just six months. Meanwhile Indycar teams, former Formula 1 teams and electric car manufacturers signed up. A range of high experienced drivers as well as promising talents joined too.
A great line up of teams and drivers appeared after winter time. And while the cars were being tested in summer at Donington Park in the United Kingdom, Formula E staff worked hard to ensure a successful world wide première of the their championship in Beijing.
It left their desired mark globally. While the event ended with a bang – literally – newspapers picked-up the story of the of the inaugural electric race of this championship. According to Agag, mentioned directly after the race, about 40 million people watched the race and 75,000 spectators witnessed the unique event live in Beijing. In addition, Formula E was world wide trending topic.
Of course there were some start-up troubles, but overall: the track was safe, the look and feel was great, sponsors were attracted, the cars ran trouble-free and Nick Heidfeld – unfortunately – proved that the car could resist a hard impact onto the barriers too.
“The first Formula E race is a historic moment for the FIA, for motorsport and also for the future of the electric car,” said FIA President Jean Todt. “Motorsport has always been a driver of innovation, and as the world’s first fully electric racing championship, Formula E will follow that tradition and accelerate the development of electric vehicles. We are proud to take our place at the forefront of this revolution as teams imagine, test and then use new technology to be the quickest on track. I would like to thank all who have worked so hard to make the exciting vision of electric racing in city centres a reality.”
Alejandro Agag said: “A few years ago the FIA had a vision of creating a championship which has close racing, entertainment and sustainability at its heart. We truly believe this weekend marks a new era of motorsport that embraces sustainable mobility and we are incredibly grateful to all our investors, teams, drivers, partners, event operators, personnel, and of course the FIA, for helping us make this such a success.”
The next event on Formula E’s calendar is Putrajaya, Malaysia, on 22 November. The all-electric racing series will also visit cities like Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Berlin and London.
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