The world’s first all-electric racing series gets underway this weekend when China hosts Round 1 of the 2014/2015 FIA Formula E season, for the inaugural Beijing ePrix.
Cars will take to the track for the first time in what is highly anticipated to be a ground-breaking and innovative approach to the future of racing. With excitement building, here is a look at what to expect and who to watch out for in an event that cannot be missed.
What makes Formula E so unique?
Commencing this weekend through to June 2015, the championship will visit some of the world’s most iconic cities – including London, Miami and Buenos Aires, racing past many famous landmarks.
10 teams, each consisting of two drivers will compete against each other across 10 rounds of what promises to be a unique and exciting racing franchise, aiming to appeal to motorsport fans of all ages across the globe.
Focused on the future of the motorsport industry, Formula E reflects a vision of sustainable racing whilst maintaining the exhilaration of wheel-to-wheel drama at 150mph with an all new futuristic sound. Using the latest technology from French company Spark Racing Technology, Renault, McLaren Electronic Systems, Williams Advanced Engineering and a chassis constructed by Dallara, the Spark-Renault SRT 01E was born.
The SRT_01E carbon fibre monocoque has been built with a cost effective and eco-friendly mind-set, boasting zero emissions whilst complying with three main values of Energy, Environment and Entertainment. Add to that 18-inch tyres supplied by Michelin – suitable for both wet and dry running, the battery operated machines will hope to lead the way at the forefront of electric racing.
All rounds will be one-day events with practice, qualifying and the race taking part in the same day in order to keep costs to a minimum and minimise disruption to major cities. Formula E hopes to attract audiences by centralising all focus onto a single day, providing other entertainment such as music to cater for everybody’s tastes.
Every event will open with two practice sessions of 45 and 30 minutes respectively. This is followed up by qualifying consisting of four groups of five drivers, with 10 minutes of track time per group to post their best lap time and determine the ePrix grid.
Races will take place following a charging session and last approximately one hour, including a mandatory pit stop to change car. Points will be awarded using the standard FIA system with the driver who sets the fastest lap also receiving two additional points.
The FIA single-seater series brings fans closer to the action with the popular introduction of FanBoost, providing them with the power to help determine each race by voting for their favourite driver to receive a speed boost. The three drivers with the most votes will be aided by a 5 second ‘power boost’, increasing their car’s power from 150kw to 180kw. This is just one of the many ways Formula E hopes to get fans involved and set itself apart from other racing series.
Who to watch out for in China?
It remains to be seen as to whether testing’s results will represent the order of the 2014/15 season, but there are a number of notable talking points from Donington. With each team testing different areas of their cars, it is difficult to gauge who will take the chequered flag first when it falls at the end of Beijing’s ePrix. Although, if testing is anything to go by then e.Dams-Renualt look particularly strong.
The French squad is a brand new team developed specifically for Formula E, spearheaded by Jean-Paul Driot, founder of top single-seater team Dams and four-time Formula One World Champion Alain Prost. Prost’s son Nicholas and Sebastian Buemi make for a strong driver line up, a potential that has been recognised with Buemi topping four of the five test days including the final session in which he was able to set a Formula E lap record around Donington. Expect these guys to be up there come the first race.
Another contender to look out for is the Audi Sport ABT team. With five titles to its credit in DTM alone, ABT Sportsline is one of the most successful German teams, which has also achieved victories and titles in GT and endurance racing. Lucas di Grassi, combined with the most experience of driving a Formula E car on the grid and the only driver to top testing that is not an e.Dams car, is partnered by 21 year old hotshot Daniel Abt, who has taken part in both GP2 and GP3 before this season. Led by Team Principal Hans-Jürgen Abt, the side boast a healthy mix of experience and youth as well as a seemingly competitive pace.
Virgin Racing cannot be discounted either, a brand strongly associated with technological innovation have joined the grid with the backing of Team Principal Alex Tai and Sir Richard Branson. After pursuing activities in aviation, space and commercial technology, Virgin has joined Formula E hoping to add energy and excitement to the spectacle. Former Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari and runner up in last year’s GP2 championship Sam Bird, are trusted with bringing success to the British squad.
Keep an eye out for a renewal of a legendary rivalry between Prost and Senna, with the aforementioned Nicholas Prost coming up against Bruno Senna, who will drive for Mumbai based Mahindra Racing alongside Karun Chandhok. Both Senna and Chandhok could have a big say in the championship with their ever growing popularity and media backing sure to be an influencing factor with FanBoost.
China Racing will be hoping to impress at their home race, with local hero Ho-Pin Tung and former F1 racer Nelson Piquet Jr. There are also a number of experienced racing teams entering Formula E for its debut season, with Andretti probably fielding an all French line up in Franck Montagny and Lotus F1 team’s reserve driver Charles Pic is listed on the provisional entry list.
Dragon Racing have opted to select Jerome d’Ambrosio, who has recently been competing in the Blancpain Endurance Series and Oriol Servia who replaced original driver Mike Conway; whilst Amlin-Aguri will hope that Katherine Legge and Antonio Felix da Costa can boost their championship credentials. Felix da Costa however, will not race in Round 1 in China due to coinciding DTM commitments, he will be replaced in the #55 car by Takuma Sato who has previously tested for the team.
EV specialists Venturi, the current holders of the FIA world land speed record for an electric vehicle at 495kph (307mph) will also take part. Centred around co-founder and award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio, the Monaco based outfit aim for success with a driver pairing consisting of former BMW F1 pilot Nick Heidfeld and triple 24 Hours of Le Mans runner up Stephane Sarrazin.
Completing the entrants are Trulli Formula E Team, located in Switzerland and headed by one of the most experienced drivers in the history of F1 – Jarno Trulli. With 256 Grand Prix to his name, the 40 year old hopes his valuable experience will serve his squad well as he partner’s fellow Italian Michela Cerruti, who makes up the second female driver on the grid.
Beijing has been an integral part of China’s illustrious history of over 3,000 years and is one of the most visited cities in the world. Fitting then that it should host the inaugural Formula E ePrix.
The track itself has been set around the grounds of China’s Olympic Stadium and Olympic Village, which played host to the 2008 Olympic Games. At 3.44km in length and featuring 20 turns, the anti-clockwise temporary circuit has been envisioned and created by designer Rodrigo Nunes.
With an impressive cityscape backdrop, it will provide a challenge for the 20 drivers with a mix of tight corners, tricky chicanes and two main straights. The circuit also features a unique U-shaped pitlane offering fans a spectacular close up experience of the action.
Don’t miss the first ever FIA Formula ePrix with TV: find the broadcast overview here.