Formula E is aiming to make its new season the best yet for the electric motor racing series. In the UK, season 8 is marked by the announcement of a multi-year partnership with free-to-air terrestrial broadcaster Channel 4 to host more live racing than any previous season, taking over from the BBC. This will mean more regular broadcast spots than before, as the BBC showed most racing online and via on-demand services. But the new season includes other tweaks alongside more live exposure that aim to make it more exciting than ever.
For starters, the eighth season also ushers in a fairly complicated but potentially very fun new qualification structure. This deviates from the classic time trial format to become a four stage process. The riders are divided into two groups which start with a time trial, but then four riders from each group engage in head-to-head duels, then two semi-final duels and a final duel to win the pole position. It promises to make qualifying an exciting spectacle before the race has even started, but without the chaos of Formula 1’s controversial sprint qualifying.
Although last season saw the departure of Audi from Formula E as well as BMW and Mercedes, Porsche joined for the 2019/20 season and Maserati will compete in 2023. The 2022-23 season already has DS, Jaguar, NIO and Nissan putting their brands behind the electric racing series.
A new Gen3 car is also debuting for the 2022-23 season. The car will be lighter and smaller than the Gen2, but will be the first formula car to have front and rear motors – 250kW and 350kW respectively – which will more than double the regen capacity per compared to the Gen2, at 600 kW. The FIA says that at least 40% of the energy used in racing will now come from regenerative braking, and the car will therefore also be the first formula car without rear hydraulic braking. Power output will be 350 kW (470 hp), delivering a top speed of 200 mph, and the power-to-weight ratio will be twice as efficient as an equivalent fossil-fuel engine.
Following travel limitations for the 2020-21 season due to Covid, Formula E will begin to expand its geographical reach again. There will now be 16 races, up from 15 in 2021-22 and 13 in 2019-20. Although the new season still includes six “double-headers” with two consecutive races in the same location, such as Saudi Arabia, New York and London, the previous season had seven double-header events, which brings the series back in the right direction. . for geographic diversity.
Formula E has however been criticized for its choice of street circuits. Although these tended to be more technical than pure racing circuits, making them harder on driver skill and less dominated by sheer car superiority, this had a negative impact on the competitive spectacle. The downsides are that the street circuits tend to be harder to pass and aren’t the iconic tracks like Silverstone or Imola which are already steeped in history, which adds atmosphere.
But that hasn’t stopped viewers from tuning in to watch, with a cumulative audience of 316 million over the 2020-21 season, up 32% from the previous year. This was prompted by new distribution deals with free-to-air channels around the world, such as the new one with Channel 4 in the UK. The 2020-21 viewership also surpassed pre-pandemic levels, showing the growing interest in the sport.
Although Formula 1 remains the pinnacle of international motorsport achievement, its continued focus on fossil fuels is starting to look like a dead end. Its lack of consistent rules has also had a very negative effect on its image as a truly competitive sport rather than an empty spectacle. The continued development of Formula E brings it closer than ever to becoming a viable alternative for motor racing fans. Hopefully the partnership with Channel 4 will give Formula E greater public visibility, so that alongside Extreme E the message of a sustainable future for high-speed racing on wheels can gain strength.