At a time when almost every sport is looking for new ways to contribute towards a more sustainable future, motorsport has charged forward with an electric idea. It’s fast. It’s furious. It’s Formula E, the world’s first all-electric single-seater racing series. But how was this young sport given life? What does it mean for racing and racing fans? How does the technology work? What makes Formula E so unique? As the Founding Partner and Official Timekeeper of this game-changing championship, we’re here to help answer all these questions. So strap in, get those electric engines revving because we’re coming in hot.
Two dreamers, one blueprint
All great ideas start somewhere. In this case, the idea for an all-electric street racing championship began as a series of scribbles on a napkin. The setting? A Parisian restaurant. The date? March 3, 2011. The FIA president at the time was dining with Alejandro Agag, now Formula E chairman. Here they hashed out their thoughts, their blueprint for what would become the world’s first all-electric racing series. Together they built out their ideas on a founding mission: to race through the streets of the most iconic cities in the world, with a grid packed with the who’s who of motorsport. And all of this to show the world the power of sustainable mobility, and to create a path towards a cleaner, better future.
Formula E made its debut at the Olympic Park in Beijing in 2014. Since then, the sport has evolved and grown into a global entertainment brand. It’s a wonderful marriage of motorsport and sustainability. Today Formula E consists of 12 teams and 24 drivers on the grid. The sport captures the zeitgeist and its drawing a captive audience.
The rules of the game
You’re probably wondering, “How different can the rules of Formula E be?”. Well, there are some similarities to other motorsports, but there are also a lot of new and exciting features in Formula E. Let’s see how it all works.
Championship and standings
The Formula E World Championship comprises 2 separate titles. One for the drivers and one for the teams. The drivers’ championship is awarded to whichever driver has accumulated the most points over the campaign. The team championship is decided by calculating both driver’s scores throughout the season. So far, it’s quite similar to Formula One.
How points work in Formula E
Formula E follows a standard points system, used in other FIA-sanctioned series. Points are awarded to the top 10 finishers.
- 1st – 25pts
- 2nd – 18pts
- 3rd – 15pts
- 4th – 12pts
- 5th – 10pts
- 6th – 8pts
- 7th – 6pts
- 8th – 4pts
- 9th – 2pts
- 10th – 1pt
You get additional points if you secure pole position and clinch the Fastest Lap in the race.
Pole position: 3 points
TAG Heuer Fastest Lap in race: 1 point (if in a top-10 finishing position)
Race day format
Most E-Prix have a shakedown session on Fridays. That is, the day before the main event. However, this is dependent on the streets being available. During shakedowns, drivers ride at reduced speeds. They get to check their electronic systems and the reliability of the car. Their power is limited to 110kW.
Each E-Prix has 2 practice sessions – an opening 30-minute session followed by a further 30-minute session. This is reduced to only one 30-minute session on the second day of a double-header. This is the first time the teams take to the track under timed conditions. Here, they get a feel for the track and adapt to the car set up. The timers are on, but none of them count towards the final result. It’s just a practice session. Power-wise, drivers have 250kW available to them throughout.
This part of Formula E is set to change. The Season 8 qualifying format has 4 stages: the Group Stage, the Duels Stage, quarter finals, semi finals and a final. The Group Stage sees 2 groups of 11 drivers, ordered based on their drivers’ world championship positions. Each group battles at 220kW to set lap times in a 10-minute session. The fastest 4 from each group move into the Duels Stage. Those 8 drivers will then face off in the quarter finals, competing against one another head to head in a knockout at 250kW. 8 get whittled down to 4 in the semi finals. And finally it’s down to 2 in the final. The winner seizes pole position and 3 precious points.
The semi finalists will line up 3rd and 4th. The quarter finalists between 5th and 8th, based on their lap times.
The 5th to 12th-placed drivers who competed in the polesitter’s group will fill the odd positions on the grid. The drivers from the other group will be given the even grid slots. So, if the pole sitter comes from Group 1, the 5th placed driver in Group 1 will line up 9th on the starting grid. And the 5th placed driver in Group 2 takes 10th and so on. It sounds complicated, but you’ll get the hang of it once you watch a qualifying session.
Every race begins as per usual: with a standing start. The cars are stationary until the lights go green. The drivers line up on a dummy grid – a short distance behind the actual grid – and slowly file into position to start the race. An E-Prix lasts 45 minutes. Once the 45 minutes are up and the leader has crossed the finish line, there’s still one more lap to go until the race finishes.
The race calendar
Formula E aims to stage its electric spectacles at the world’s most iconic cities. The 2021/22 calendar includes cities like Marrakesh, Rome, Seoul, New York, Berlin and London. There are 16 races in total. It’s a worldwide ride to the finish.
That brings us to the end of part 1. Stay tuned to discover how Formula E has evolved plus a glossary of terms fans use while talking about the sport.