Formula E to debut on streets of Beijing
BEIJING — As Formula E, the global race series featuring single-seat, open-wheel battery-powered race cars, debuts this weekend on the streets of Beijing, series boss Alejandro Agag insists Formula E is not trying to take on Formula 1, but rather should be seen as complementary.
Twenty of the nearly completely silent cars, designed with input from F1 teams McLaren, Williams and Renault, will compete on Saturday in a two-heat race run on a 2.1-mile, 20-turn course laid out in Beijing's Olympic Park, home of the "bird's nest" stadium from the 2008 Olympic Games.
Is Mr. Agag's plan to eventually replace Formula 1 as the pinnacle of motorsport?
“I think that would be the wrong approach,” the Spaniard insisted. “We want to be a complement to Formula 1 — it's not about doing things better or worse than them. We are an independent racing series with our own profile.
“To put us in a race with Formula 1 would not be fair,” he added.
Undoubtedly, though, while F1 is arguably locked in an identity crisis at the start of its new, quieter turbo era, Formula E's vision is clear and modern.
“We are environmentally friendly and fit with the sustainable approach suitable for the cities in which we travel,” Mr. Agag said. “We consume no fuel, people do not have to spend hours driving out of the city to come to the track.”
And Mr. Agag said that, while F1 is struggling at the moment to boost its television ratings and fill grandstands, Formula E will not face the same problems.
“Of that I am absolutely convinced,” he said. “Our approach is different to that of Formula 1. For example, we rely heavily on social media — the Internet is at the heart of Formula E. With their vote, the fans can give their favorite driver 50 extra horsepower in the race. As I said, it's a great show.”
All the cars — designated Spark-Renault SRT_01E — are essentially identical, running on spec treaded race tires from Michelin Motorsport.
Among the 10 two-car teams are two from the U.S. — Andretti Formula E, with drivers Franck Montagny and Charles Pic of France and Dragon Racing with drivers Jerome d'Ambrosio of Belgium and Oriol Servià of Spain.
Among the 20 drivers are 10 with F1 experience, plus several with world endurance and/or IndyCar racing experience.
Providing the electric powertrain and electronics is McLaren Electronics Systems, Formula E said, while Williams Advanced Engineering supplies the batteries producing 200kw, the equivalent of 270hp. This powerplant will be linked to a five-speed paddle shift sequential gearbox, supplied by Hewland, with fixed ratios to help reduce costs.
Races will begin by standing start and last approximately one hour with drivers making one mandatory pit stop in order to change cars. Each driver has two cars at his or her disposal, since the battery package can't support full power for the full race.
“Changing a car halfway through a race is quite strange,” said McLaren driver Jenson Button. “But it might work. It's all in city centers and it might attract people to the sport that aren't interested in motor sport normally. If they aren't true racing fans, it's quite fun to watch some cars go around that are electric.”
Story based on article posted on autoweek.com, the website of Autoweek magazine, a sister publication of Tire Business, along with original research by Tire Business.
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