Formula E What to Expect from Formula E


No passing through my dirty air please
So this Saturday sees the start of a brand new form of motorsport with the beginning of the Formula E Championship in Bejing. If you’re on European time you can tune in at 8am and enjoy it over your breakfast and if you’re across the pond you can stay up and have a late one. There has been a lot written about Formula E but its still not massively clear on what to expect from the new series. To prepare themselves for the championships the new teams decide to hold extensive test sessions at the Donnington Park race track and as its only up the road from me (and it was free to get in) I thought I’d go along and see what exactly to expect from Formula E. I took along my good friend Glenn who is a pretty good photographer so I thought I'd share some of the stuff he took. I took along my old Dad too who is the bloke next to me in the first pic. :)



The organisers from Formula E have continually been preaching the mantra that they are not a rival series to F1 but something completely different. This is probably very wise as the series does not want to fall down on over hyping itself and previous ‘rival’ series from F1 have fund themselves crushed under the irk of Bernie Ecclestone. You do get the impression though that, however much they insist they are not a rival, secretly deep down they would like to be. They certainly seem to have gone out of their way to embrace aspects that F1 has previously been criticised for not making more of. The main thing that struck me on being at the test was how much access to all aspects the teams and drivers were willing to give the crowds. Sam Bird arrived at the track the same time as me and within 10 mins was up on the pit wall waving at fans and chatting away to the track commentator over the PA system. Someone at the test told me that first thing in the morning Fabio Leimer (who was testing that day) was sat in the stand on the main straight taking pictures of the cars going past on his phone whilst freely chatting away to people around him. During the hour lunch break they opened up the pit to the general public and let us all wonder in and out and I couldn’t believe how close we were allowed to the equipment they had with teams specifically leaving noise cones and power units out for the fans to inspect, photo and even (shock horror) handle. Sebastian Buemi and Nicholas Prost sat in the pit garage about 5ft away from fans analysing all the data on a laptop. Bruno Senna walked up and down the pitlane posing for pictures for anyone who wanted one, at one point someone handed him an old school Senna vs Prost poster and he ran off with it in order to track Nicholas Prost down to sign it too. Katherine Legge was also sitting and smiling in the pitlane and seemed quite comfy with it. On leaving the pitlane I witnessed Karun Chandhock jogging through the car park hi-fiving fans as he went announcing loudly that he had to dash as he was due up at Silverstone to do commentary on the GP2. It was the kind of stuff you wouldn’t get from the lofty F1 drivers and teams with no attempted hiding of information, I’m too busy attitude or ‘put stuff away in the garage or Joe Public will break/nick it’ mentality which was really good to see. Formula E’s remit appears to be bringing the sport close to the fans which is the idea of having all the races on street circuits in the centre of cities. From what I witnessed at the test I do think that if you go along to a Formula E event you are going to get access you wouldn’t get at the F1.



Another aspect that Formula E seems to have embraced is the social media side of things. The big whigs in F1 are ignoring the internet as they see no profit in it so Formula E has decided that’s where its market is. This brings us to the most controversial of the Formula E concepts which is the ‘fan boost’. For those of you who don’t know, the 3 drivers who received the most votes between races will receive a 5 second power boost to use in the race. Now I can hear the collective groan from here and I’ll admit I’m not a fan of this either and the Simpson’s Mayor Quimby’s quote of “its just a popularity contest with you people!” is never far from my lips when I hear it. I get the concept though, its not just about making the fans feel involved but about making sure the teams and drivers make the fans feel involved. Teams are going to have to work with the fans in order to gain this advantage and you only have to check out the Twitter feeds to see that its already working. The more the teams want the advantage the more they have to open up to the fans, the more they open up to the fans the more popular the race series will be. Its basically a marketing strategy and not a bad one at that. I was originally not going to vote but have now decided to take a different tact and vote for a driver I think will be near the back and it might be interesting to see boosted up to the midfield pack. My first vote has gone to Katherine Legge if you’re interested.

Another angle they are clearly pushing is the environmental aspect which is a tricky one as its highly debated. A lot of people do not like Electric cars and a lot of the things they say about them sometimes have a point, A naysayer on this board already has stated he thinks this series will be worse for the environment because of the energy needed to charge the cars. That is over simplifying it somewhat and is not strictly true as it doesn’t take into account the fact that F1 cars use about the same amount of electricity charging as the Formula E cars before we even get to the engine use but no one is under the illusion that this is completely green series. The aspect that was continually talked about at the test was the fact that mobile phone technology stated as something the size of a brick in your hand and look how far that has come. Formula E has set its stall out as a place to develop this technology which is again completely different to F1’s current attitude. The first year of Formula E is a spec series but after that it is a free for all and everyone is allowed to push it as far as they can. We were told at the test that in just the short time they have been testing these cars the teams have managed to push the charge time on the batteries so that only 1 car change will be needed during the race rather than the expected 2 and its clear that competition will certainly push this technology and that can only help it eventually spread down to the everyday road car.



The car’s themselves are very different animals to its petrol driven cousins and have very little aero on the car. The lack of aero is a master stroke as it appears, from what I saw, to allow the cars to follow each other closely without issue which can only lead to more overtaking and less ‘Hold station 2.5 seconds behind’. The torque level of these cars is at the same level as the V10 era of F1 and the series has decided to be brave tyre wise and have Michilen special developed and all purpose long lasting tyre. The tyres will not be changed in Formula E and have been developed to run in both dry and wet weather conditions which makes them a lot closer to your regular road car tyres. There is no hiding that the cars are underpowered compared to F1 but they have said that is something that will improve and on a street circuit you probably won’t even notice. The main aspect of Formula E is going to be power management and knowing when to use the power you have and how long to use it for so that your charge does not run out. This is all in the hands of the driver and should lead to some very different strategies and hopefully some good races. Sound wise the cars are a little odd, whilst I was sitting in the stand on the main straight I hated it as with car slowing to come into the pit everything sound clunky and wrong. However when I went elsewhere on the circuit I was surprised that the sounds became more Tie-Fighter than Milk Float and soon got used to it. The tyre squeals on these cars was very noticeable and there appeared to be a lot of drifting going on through the corners. It takes sometime to get use to the enclosed wheels on these cars as its something completely different but once you do you realise how beautiful these machines look with the alloy wheels really giving it a boost.



Driver wise it’s a really mix-match field that I’m sure the Formula E organisers are loving. I think the Senna/Prost angle is going to be milked for all its worth, you can even now throw in a Piquet! Jarno Trulli running and driving in his own team certainly brings back olds school images of Jack Brabham and old 60’s racing whilst having two female drivers (neither of whom have posed in a bikini or married the boss) is another PR point for the sport. Having a splattering of F1 could have beens in the field is also an interesting aspect but I think the factor that is most interesting is the international element of the teams. The Indian team on the grid Mahinra Racing are actually based in India and not just Indian licensed with a UK base. Team China are based in China and of course the two American giants Andretti and Dragon (owned by Jay Penske) are based in the US. This is again different to F1 and certainly have the US seemingly on board with this series is a massive coup.


Despite all of this its all going to come down to the racing and whether its interesting to the public and drivers alike but certainly from what I witnessed at the test this is a well thought out series with quite capable organisers and exciting great looking machinery. The proof is in the pudding as they say so I guess we’ll see when the series kicks off but I am certainly looking forward to it.

If you’d like to join the Formula E discussion on CTA than F1Yorkshire has already posted a Bejing Race discussion thread with a handy preview just here


Also the photos posted on this thread were taken by my good friend Glenn Higgins who came with me to the test. He is an amateur photographer and has kindly given me permission to use this photos on the Clip The Apex forum and for these pictures to be used by the Clip The Apex if they wish. It would be greatly appreciated if you asked permission before using any of these shots outside of this website. Thank you.

I have a ton more if anyone is interested but I just thought I'd give you a selection.
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Excellent write up, wish I had gone down myself. That's amazing access and I could never imagine it in modern F1

Formula E has set its stall out as a place to develop this technology
If Trulli's plan to use wireless charging in future seasons becomes a reality then that will have a staggering effect on consumer products and current electric vehicles. Imagine a real world Scalextric with power being transferred directly from the road to the car. It would reduce the amount of batteries in which benefits both monetary and environmentally terms as well as reducing the overall weight of the cars dramatically.

My first vote has gone to Katherine Legge if you’re interested.
As did mine, being Female and one of the few Britons in the championship I'm expecting a large portion of our nations vote going her way. it's a great way of getting sport and social media connected. It could have been worse especially with ITV involved!

having two female drivers (neither of whom have posed in a bikini
This is true as I've just checked!
We could hold the first ever Clip the Apex annual general meeting at the same time.

Items for the agenda:

1) Will refreshments be available?
2) Biscuits?
3) No Lewis Hamilton talk
4) See 1.
I'm sort of splitting my thoughts over multiple threads here but according to Autosport even though there's a 200bhp limit for the races the drivers will rarely be able to go above 160bhp in the races, so more than 100bhp down on the maximal 270bhp in qualifying.

In qualifying trim in testing at Donnington the cars were reaching 105mph at the end of the start-finish straight and setting similar lap times to Formula Fords.

Long way to go yet but good to see things starting to develop is my feeling.
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