OPINION – Has Formula E finally found the right formula?

In Misano, Formula E offered two facets during its two events, with a first part of the race resembling more of a cycle race, and a second half more focused on speed and competition. The right formula for the 100% electric championship?

Published on 15/04/2024 à 12:30

Michael Duforest

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OPINION – Has Formula E finally found the right formula?

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Launched in September 2014 in Beijing, China, the Formula E has always evolved in a class apart from traditional motorsport. Innovative, with electric powertrains, the category has from the start targeted a different audience, less familiar with motorsport and more focused on technology.

By bringing the great motorsport circus to city centers around the world, Formula E also wanted to be more accessible. Although the first seasons showed that this strategy could pay off, the novelty effect gradually faded as the category matured.

Gen2, which made it possible to cover the entire duration of a race without recharging, accentuated the phenomenon of “normalization” of Formula E, with races that were certainly interesting, but which were not very different from other disciplines. Too “motor sport” for new fans, too “artificial and tasteless” for purists, Formula E was in an in-between which was not the most pleasant.

Gen3, a driver of change

The arrival of the Gen3, much more powerful, then pushed Formula E to have to leave its usual framework, mainly composed of city circuits resembling turnstiles. The straights became legion, with also more permanent circuits, such as Portland or Misano, where the championship took place this weekend.

The circuit located on the edge of the Adriatic Sea was chosen to replace the Rome route, now considered too dangerous for the new single-seaters. An impressive accident occurred there last year, notably involving Sam Bird, Sébastien Buemi or even Edoardo Mortara.

The long straights of these new tracks lead to a problem of overconsumption, which drivers must circumvent by adopting an economical approach at the start of the race. The cars remaining close and on the slipstream of each other, the first laps of the two rounds of Misano were more like racing. NASCAR at Daytona or Talladega, than a race on a road circuit!

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A dynamic already seen last year in Berlin and Portland. A radically different approach to the sport, which nevertheless does not prevent the best drivers, and the best powertrains, from claiming victories at the end of a second phase of racing much more based on attack.

Formula E, which has always evolved in a certain duality, has perhaps found the formula that can satisfy everyone! Impressive, the images of the first parts of the events can attract the young public, who have little taste for "processional" races, while the second half is a real battle between different drivers, which can bring the "purist" fan back in front of their screen.

The pilots, not at all for

And the drivers hope that this kind of chaotic racing will help Formula E increase its fan base! Because from a strictly sporting point of view, their opinion regarding these package races is absolutely scathing.

“I hate this kind of racing, to be honest. It's horrible ", for example declared Jean-Éric Vergne (DS Penske) after the Saturday game. “The drivers change direction everywhere, they brake, they release the accelerator sometimes late, sometimes early, they drive five abreast, everyone hits everyone, it's a casino. I don't know if it's pleasant for the public, but for us, the pilots, it's really horrible, and dangerous too. »

An opinion notably shared by Robin Frijns (Envision): “The more risks you take, the more you are rewarded. It's not racing. Some are under pressure because they could lose their seat, they take more risks. Look at the one who won [da Costa, before his disqualification], this guy takes a lot of risks! »

An opinion which ultimately agrees with that of NASCAR drivers on the package races that they “endure” six times per season and which are not unanimous. But this new style of racing is arguably a necessary evil to bring Formula E back to prominence, and something that drivers will certainly have to learn to master.

In any case, Formula E now has a product different from the others, and it must continue in this direction, especially with the upcoming arrival of the Gen4, which will always be more powerful, and less and less adapted to urban circuits. his beginnings.

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