The fourth round of the Formula E World Championship took place this weekend on the legendary Monaco circuit. Lemon squeezer was lucky enough to be invited by the FIA to discover this far too little known discipline and highlight the “ultra-connected” aspects specific to Formula E that we do not find in the other categories.
A young discipline created in 2011, the first Formula E World Championship was launched in 2014. Under the regulations of the FIA (International Automobile Federation), Formula E is the only single-seater category currently in competition equipped with an electric motor.
In the Formula E paddock
Lemon squeezer takes you behind the scenes of a racing weekend through a documentary video alongside the article. Live the weekend as you were there, from the arrival in Monaco, through the press conferences, interviews, meetings with the drivers, paddock visits, qualifying, the race and even… A lap of the track in safety car.
What is Formula E?
Launched in 2014, FE is only in its seventh season. Less known than most automotive disciplines, it is one of the rising categories of motorsport, which has seen its popularity skyrocket in recent years.
With 24 drivers on the grid and 15 rounds, the 2021 season will be the most complete since its launch. The concept of FE is to unify motorsport and sustainability, through the energy of fuel generators powered with glycerin, a 100% renewable fuel. One of the particularities of the discipline is that it only offers city tours, which are much more spectacular, but also much more accessible to the public.
– Lemon squeezer (@pressecitron) May 8, 2021
The single-seaters from all the teams have the same battery and a common chassis, but the brands are developing their own powertrain. At maximum power, when running, normal mode delivers 200 kilowatts, or 270 horsepower.
But Formula E is still struggling to appeal to motorsport lovers. One of the main criticisms of the discipline is the use of electric motors which offer a much less bewitching noise than the turbo V6s used in F1. We already remember that in this premier class, the engine changes had already made a lot of teeth cringe when the V12 had given way to the atmospheric V10, but especially to the V8 and V6 from 2013. However, it would seem that this be the future of motorsport.
Cool discipline, for young people
With electric vehicles becoming more and more popular, the world is getting used to the melody of their new engines, especially the younger generation who compare the sound of FEs to the sounds emitted by some Star Wars ships.
Thus, according to representatives of the FE, the discipline tends to attract many more young people who, precisely, associate these racing cars with pop culture. In addition to the roar of engines, the design of Formula E has been intentionally inspired by the Batmobile since 2018. As Frederic Espinos, race director of Formula E explains, the goal of the discipline is to attract a new population of spectators.
The whole point of Formula E is to kind of reach out to a new population and bring new people into motorsport. It is linked with the very essence of the electric vehicle. The property of Formula E is to race in the heart of cities, because it is in the heart of cities that there is the market for electric vehicles. […] We also have a bit of a desire to link it to video games, to link it to new things to attract and convince the public once again.
Frederic Espinos, Formula E race director
The discipline even incorporates “an attack mode” which aims to make the on-track strategy much more interesting. This mode is called “Mario Kart” and allows a power gain of 25 kilowatts in order to overtake more easily. For this, the pilots must deviate from the ideal trajectory to recharge this external battery. As in the crazy races of the mustached plumber, you have to move away from the “ideal” track to be entitled to bonuses.
“The attack mode takes the name of Mario Kart, because it’s completely inspired by video games. At the start of Formula E, there were two cars per driver. It was pretty cool because there was that phase in the middle of the race where you could change cars. After all the technological development, we said to ourselves: what are we going to do now that we have only one car? What are we going to do to take something to the race? Everyone’s basic answer was that we were going to pitstop [arrêt aux stands]. But in the end, it had stayed in people’s comfort zone. We looked a bit at video games and we thought it would be nice to have an area of the circuit where we have a disadvantage first and then we will have more power. So that’s how this idea of Attack Mode came to be ” explained Frederic Espinos.
The FE, ultra-connected!
It’s that time of the week …
FANBOOST is 𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙣 ⚡️
– ABB FIA Formula E World Championship (@FIAFormulaE) May 5, 2021
Formula E is not just avant-garde in its engines. It does not appeal to young people only with its references to pop culture. The category is also ultra-connected allowing fans to directly influence the race before the start of the latter.
The five pilots who obtain the most votes receive the much appreciated FanBoost. The latter allows for the allocation of a surge of power that riders can employ within a five-second window during the second half of the race. Fans can vote for their favorite driver during the three days before each race and up to 15 minutes after the start of the race.
“It also allows pilots to mobilize their community, to promote this FanBoost. And so, thanks to the votes of the fans, we can have an advantage on the track which is more power for a while ” Frederic Espinos explained to us.
An interesting concept that allows spectators to have influence in the race. But can we be sure that this system is fair? And that there is not a risk that it is always the same pilots who are advantaged?
“Not necessarily since we have the example of Stephen Vandoorne the year he arrived, he came from F1 with a big community, he continues to be among the best who have FanBoost. I think it’s more related to the fact that it’s a little something that we want to give to the drivers and that they really have to mobilize their fans and their community. So it’s a little job that they also have to do and it’s pretty cool, because there are some who have original ideas and who do cool things ” he commented.
But of course, this idea of FanBoost is debated in the paddock and some drivers are not really “fans”. This is the case of Jean-Eric Vergne, the French driver from DS Techeetah, double Formula E world champion (most successful driver) who likes the idea of allowing fans to interact on the race, but for which the concept is not fair.
“I think it’s great that the fans can step in, interact in the race, but not for the sake of a performance. It’s like in football fans can vote for a team and have a twelfth player for five minutes. So I find that it is not correct for the sport, and it is not correct also in the sense that a lot of pilots pay the votes to have that ” said Jean-Eric Vergne at our microphone.
Formula E in eSport
In 2020, Formula E is the first discipline to take advantage of the health crisis and containment. When the championships are interrupted, the “FE” launches the “Race at Home Challenge”. A series of races on the rFactor2 game allowing pilots to compete online on simulators. From this idea will be born the “Accelerate” Challenge. A highlight of the Esprot well before other motor sports.
Hannah Brown, Business Development Director of Formula E and a great actress in setting up these virtual races, explains a little more to us the idea behind these two competitions.
“The idea of ’Race at Home’ came about when everything stopped. We were able to put together a full grid of Formula E drivers, all 24 drivers participated and we went to the SimRacing community and allowed them to qualify to take part in the race. We have great support from our broadcast partners and have come together on a very short notice for a series of eight pretty cool virtual races. […] Then we kicked off the Formula E “Accelerate” and ran six more series of races earlier this year. The ‘Race at Home’ was the start and we are now looking at new possibilities to evolve the virtual racing experience with real racing and real drivers. […] Containment presented an opportunity, but that’s really just the very beginning of what we want to do with it ”.
Faced with this success, a second edition of Accelerate is already in preparation for the 2022 season. The idea will be to “move up a gear” and create a real event connected with the fans who will have the authorization to return to see the races.
“I don’t think it has been announced publicly, but we are working with our Chinese partner to license the Accelerate brand, so that our Chinese partner can adapt it in China in the third and fourth quarter of the year. […] For next season, we’re looking at how we’re going to level up. Fans will be allowed to return to the races and we will see how to integrate virtual racing into the real experience on race days with a live event. To create in a way a really cool experience for the fans and for the pilots, who want to participate ”.
Formula E: The future of motorsport?
It was a busy and very interesting weekend in the heart of Formula E in Monaco. The opportunity to discover many facets of this young discipline which has a bright future ahead. A big thank you to Formula E for this opportunity, to Fanny Margoux for the organization of the stay and the planning of the various interviews to complete our file and our video.
Do not hesitate to discover the entire weekend in a special video. From arrival in Monaco, including a visit to the paddocks, a visit to the Envision Virgin Racing garage, a circuit tour in the BMW i8, a visit to the starting grid of course the race… It’s up to discover right here to experience Formula E as if you were there.