With round three of the all-electric championship taking place in Punte del Este this weekend Charlie Price takes a look at its history and how Formula E was born. When it was announced that the FIA had formed a new single seater series and with it the world’s first fully-electric racing series, many, including ourselves were sceptical.
Two and a half years later and two races in to the inaugural season and Alejandro Agag (CEO of Formula E) and his team are slowly changing the view of many in motorsport.
Though Agag and his team had a massive challenge to start with, they produced a series, which comprised of: 40 brand new race cars, ten teams, nine race tracks in nine cities, a base at Donington Park and a platform for a global TV audience.
It’s something that Agag himself admitted was challenge, “We’ve been working for two long years or two short years – it depends how you look at it – two years is a short time to put together a championship like this.”
During that time Agag and his team had to persuade 10 teams to invest in a concept that had not been proven or even been seen before. So who are the 10 teams in and why are they did they join Formula-E?
Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson was one of the first to commit to the championship under the Virgin banner, who have rich history in pioneering advanced engineering projects including space, aviation and most recently Formula 1. Alex Tai, team principle of Virgin Racing explained why the new formula appealed to a company who aren’t afraid to innovate, “The accessible nature of the series with its races being right in the heart of our great cities, should create a wonderful atmosphere.”
The team have combined their experience of advance technology with a driver line up to match any on the grid. Sam Bird and Jamie Alguersuari both have F1 on their CV, and have speed to match their credentials. This has already proven to be winning formula with Bird dominating the second round in Malaysia.
While Virgin have entered Formula E to expand their pioneering project range, Mahindra have entered to sell electric cars. The Indian company is a major global force in development and productions of electric vehicles.
With the aim of showcasing their electric vehicles, they’ve left the racing to proven winner Trevor Carlin’s operation “Carlin Motorsport”, who have winning experience in GP2, GP3 and F3. Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna, who last drove with Carlin in Formula BMW, have been put in charge of getting the wins for Mahindra.
While having to use the Renault powered Spark SRT 01E this season, expect Mahindra to invest in their own battery technology, when it becomes an open formula in the second season.
This is a similar situation for Monaco based Venturi. The team is a joint venture between Leonardo DiCaprio and Venturi Automobiles, who have a history in electric vehicles.
Venturi have already stated that they aim to become a constructor, building its own car based on the 3,000hp Venturi VBB-3, which aims to set a new record of 700kph no the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2015.
Where these three teams have history in high performance and electric vehicles, others have come from a motorsport background. The most famous of these being Andretti Autosport.
The team is ran by American racer turned team owner Michael Andretti, son of the legendary Mario, who has a vast motorsport operation spanning, Indy Car, Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and Rally Cross. However, this does not mean the team compromise on success either, 4 Indy Car titles, 3 Indy 500’s and previously wins in the American Le Mans series.
With the team always looking to expand Andretti couldn’t resist Formula E, “I look forward to further exploring the series and helping build the future of open-wheel racing across the world.”
The team themselves, have reverted to familiar names to lead the charge for the 2014-15 season , With Andretti stalwart Frank Montagny joined by a new rising star Mathew Brabham who raced for the team in Pro Mazda and Indy Lights.
Andretti are joined by American and Indy Car counterparts Dragon Racing, who are rather less experienced but have had success in their short life span; fifth on their 500 debut, and winning rookie of the year with Raphael Matos in their first full season.
The team have gone for experience for the first Formula E season, single seater driver Oriol Servià has been involved in Champ Car and Indy Cars since 2003. While Jerome d’Ambrosio is a former, GP2 champion and F1 racer, who more recently turned his hand at GT racing with Bentley.
Experienced European teams have also been attracted to the championship, Audi Sport ABT, have been drawn from DTM to take on a new challenge. With the backing of Audi, which is more as a financial & badging process rather than from a manufacturing perspective, the team have Audi factory LMP1 driver Lucas Di Grassi, and GP2 star Daniel Abt. The team currently lead the Drivers and Manufactures Championship are shaping up to be the team to beat.
The all electric Championship has also caught the attention of some of the most famous and successful drivers motorsport has seen, including Alan Prost and Jarno Trulli. Both setting up their own teams.
Prost who joined up with French single seater teams Dams to create E-Dams (and not a cheesy pun in sight!), explains why he couldn’t resist it, “Being able to actively participate in the development of this new technology is extremely motivating.”
Agag has managed to also attract teams, form developing markets including Amlin Aguri (Japan) and the Chinese national team, China Racing. It’s something that China Racing, who have previously raced in A1GP were keen to get involved with, as Steve Lu, CEO explained, “I believe Formula E is a perfect platform for China Racing and our key partners to get involved in the future of motor sport.”
Formula E has indeed come a long way in just two short years, managing to attract teams from around the world all with different motivations for entering, something Agag and his team should be very proud of.
Charlie Price – charlie.price AT dervhead.com