FIA launches Formula E in Beijing

Beijing – Saturday marked the inaugural FIA Formula E race. Formula E is the FIA’s attempt at expanding international motor sport into the up and coming world of electric cars. The 2014-2015 Formula E season has 10 rounds, with races announced to be run in China, Malaysia, Uruguay, Argentina, the United States, Monaco, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Saturday’s opening round featured 10 teams of 2 drivers each. Among the drivers and teams are a fair number of famous names from Formula 1, including former Formula 1 drivers Charles Pic, Nelson Piquet, Jr., Lucas di Grassi, Franck Montagny, Karun Chandhok, Jérôme d’Ambrosio, Stéphane Sarrazin, Jamie Alguersuari, Nick Heidfeld, Takuma Sato, Sébastien Buemi, Jarno Trulli, and Bruno Senna. Of the drivers yet to enter Formula 1 on the Formula E grid, perhaps the most notable is Nicolas Prost, whose father is 4-time Formula 1 world champion Alain Prost, and two female drivers, Briton Katherine Legge and Italian Michela Cerruti.

Formula E differs from Formula 1 in many other ways. To begin, Formula E is entirely run by electricity rather than by petrol as F1. Likewise, FE requires that drivers remain in the pits for a minimum pit-stop time. That being said, FE drivers have to switch cars at their pit stops, reentering the field in a newly charged car.

The two elements of the race that I found most frustrating were 1. the Beijing street circuit was too narrow in most places for passing, and 2. the FE cars sounded like a cross between a jet engine and a child’s remote controlled car. At first annoying, I found myself drowning out the buzzing of 20 electric cars through paying closer attention to the beauty of their design, the fine curvature of the fuselages.

The race finished with a dramatic crash between then 1st place Nicolas Prost and 2nd place Nick Heidfeld, resulting in the latter being valuted by a kerb into a set of high barriers at the last corner, flipping his car upside-down, leaving the German finishing the race on his head. The race was won by Brazilian Lucas di Grassi of Audi Sport ABT. The Brazilian finished the 25 lap race with a time of 53:23.413.

The first retirement of the race came from one of the biggest names in motor sport, Bruno Senna, nephew of Formula 1 legend Aryton Senna. Bruno collided with another car on Lap 1, forcing his early retirement.

Another difference from Formula 1 is the awarding of points for earning pole, and driving the fastest lap, given to Nicolas Prost and Takuma Sato respectively. Likewise, according to the Formula E website, Daniel Abt, Jamie Alguersuari, and Katherine Legge were handed 57-second penalties for exceeding the allowed battery usage limit of 28kW.

In general, I do recommend Formula E to my Formula 1 readers. It is quite a spectacle to see. And considering that this sport is in its infancy, I’d watch just to be a part of history. Formula E is broadcast in the United States on Fox Sports 1, in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland on ITV 4 and BT Sport. Television coverage will be provided in 80 territories including Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia by Fox Sports. Canal + diffuse la Formule E en France.

The 2014-2015 inaugural Formula E calendar is as follows:

  1. China – Beijing ePrix – 13 September 2014.
  2. Malaysia – Putrajaya ePrix – 22 November 2014.
  3. Uruguay – Punta del Este ePrix – 13 December 2014.
  4. Argentina – Buenos Aires ePrix – 10 January 2015.
  5. TBA – TBA – 14 February 2015.
  6. United States – Miami ePrix – 14 March 2015.
  7. United States – Long Beach ePrix – 4 April 2015.
  8. Monaco – Monte Carlo ePrix – 9 May 2015.
  9. Germany – Berlin ePrix – 30 May 2015.
  10. United Kingdom – London ePrix – 27 June 2015.
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