This Saturday, a revolutionary new type of motorsport will spark into action in Beijing. Here is your ultimate guide to the all-electric FIA Formula E championship.
Formula E is the first series of its kind. It is an FIA-sanctioned, fully electric single-seater series, representing a vision for the future of the motoring industry and acting as a research and development platform for electric road cars. It will see 20 drivers battle on 10 street circuits for the world title.
For the inaugural 2014/2015 season, all of the cars lining up on the grid will be identical. The Spark-Renault SRT 01E is a zero emissions single-seater capable of reaching speeds of up to 150mph, with a 0-62mph time of just three seconds.
The carbonfibre and aluminium chassis has been constructed by Dallara, while the electric powertrain and electronics have been supplied by McLaren. The 200kw (equivalent of 270bhp) batteries have been provided by Williams Advanced Engineering, while the gearbox is from Hewland.
Renault has joined the series as the official technical partner, while Michelin will supply specially designed 18-inch all-weather tyres. For the second season onwards, the series will operate as an ‘open championship’ allowing other constructors to join and build their own electric machines, but of course all to within FIA regulations.
10 teams from nine countries will each field two drivers in the championship. As the car batteries are not big enough to last an entire race distance, each driver will have two Spark-Renaults. They will change cars at mandatory pit stop, jumping out of one and into the other. Which, from an entertainment perspective, could provide some hilarious car swap fails.
American outfits Andretti and Dragon Racing both compete in the IndyCar series. Virgin Racing brings Sir Richard Branson’s famous brand to the championship. Amlin Aguri is a Japanese squad with F1 history, while Audi Sport ABT is best known for its success in DTM.
e.Dams-Renault is a joint venture between French team DAMS and four-time F1 champion Alain Prost. Mahindra Racing is the only Indian outfit on the grid, Trulli – you guessed it – is run by former F1 driver Jarno Trulli and Venturi is a Monaco-based team co-founded by actor Leonardo DiCaprio (yes, really) and Gildo Pallanca Pastor, who is the founder of Venturi Automobiles.
The field for the inaugural Formula E season is packed full of well-known names. Bruno Senna – nephew of three-time F1 champion Ayrton – and Karun Chandhok will compete for Mahindra Racing. Katherine Legge is one of two female drivers on the grid and will race for Amlin Aguri alongside DTM driver and Red Bull Racing F1 reserve Antonio Felix da Costa, who will miss the first ePrix and be replaced by Takuma Sato.
Ex-Virgin Racing F1 driver Lucas di Grassi and GP2 racer Daniel Abt will compete for Audi Sport ABT, while Franck Montagny is the only driver so far confirmed for Andretti. Nelson Piquet Jr and Ho-Pin Tung will driver for China Racing. Jerome d’Ambrosio and Oriol Servia will be at the wheel of the Dragon Racing cars.
Nicolas Prost, son of Alain, and Red Bull Racing F1 reserve Sebastien Buemi will drive for e.Dams-Renault. Jarno Trulli will drive for his own team alongside Michela Cerruti. Nick Heidfeld – another name familiar to F1 fans – and Stephane Sarrazin will be at the wheel of the Venturi Spark-Renaults, with Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird and Jaime Alguersuari completing the grid.
The inaugural 2014/2015 Formula E calendar features 10 races on street circuits:
13th September 2014 – Beijing, China
22nd November 2014 – Putrajaya, Malaysia
13th December 2014 – Punta del Este, Uruguay
10th January 2015 – Buenos Aires, Argentina
14th February 2015 – TBA
14th March 2015 – Miami, USA
4th April 2015 – Long Beach, USA
9th May 2015 – Monte Carlo, Monaco
30th May 2015 – Berlin, Germany
27th June 2015 – London, United Kingdom
There will also be two in-season and two post-season days of testing at Donington Park circuit in the UK – where Formula E is based.
Each round of the championship will take place on one day, starting with two morning practice sessions lasting 45 and 30 minutes. Next up is qualifying, which will see the drivers split into four groups of five, with 10 minutes of track time for each group. Full power will be available throughout these sessions.
Each ePrix will last for approximately one hour and will kick off with a standing start. Power will be restricted from 200kw (270bhp) to 150kw (202.5bhp) and there will be one mandatory pit stop per driver to change cars. Points will be awarded in the standard FIA system (25 for a win, 18 for second, 15 for third etc) with three additional points for pole position and two for the fastest race lap.
The unusual Fan Boost feature gives Formula E supporters the chance to get involved and help shape the race result. Fans can vote for their favourite driver and the top three – who will be announced 20 minutes before the race start - will get a five-second power boost (from 150kw to 180kw). When the idea was originally touted we thought it sounded a little daft, but it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out. Voting can be done here.
Can’t make it to any of the Formula E races? Never fear, plenty of big TV broadcasters are showing the series. Fox Sports will show the championship in the US, as well as in 80 other territories. ITV will broadcast Formula E on its ITV4 channel in the UK, while BT Sport will be showing highlights.
CCTV-5 will be the place to go to watch Formula E in China, while in Germany Sky Deutschland will show the races live. In France and Japan, Canal+ and TV Asahi will show the races.
Want to attend a round of the all-electric series? For ticket information, go here.
We really do hope it does. Formula E is a step into the unknown for motorsport. It is so different and so revolutionary. I personally think it will be a success. Yes, there isn’t much sound but with 20 identical cars, the racing should be close and the events will certainly be great for the fans. The grid is packed full of well-known names, there are some very successful teams involved and the locations are spectacular. I can’t wait for the series to whirr into life this weekend.