Formula E is currently the red headed step child of the motorsports world. It’s growing up fast, yet everyone still refuses to take it even remotely seriously. Or at least that was the case. Now it seems the undesired Formula E may be shaping up to be the series to watch in a not so distant future.
One of the largest names in racing, Porsche, has just jumped ship. They announced they will be leaving the dwindling LMP1 class to pursue, you guessed it, Formula E. This announcement sent shockwaves through the community like a sonic boom. It was official, LMP1 was dead. And Formula E killed it. While many will be enraged to think of all electric cars replacing the premier prototype class, we shouldn’t be surprised. LMP1 has been suffering for years, with the 2017 24-hours of LeMans becoming one of the worst showings the class has ever had. It wasn’t if, it was merely when.
We should actually be thankful. That’s right I said it, who wants some? LMP1’s recent issues were in no way caused by Formula E. In fact, if we didn’t have a viable up and coming series like this it is quite possible we could have still lost LMP1 with nowhere for the manufacturers left to go. One of the many appeals to the all electric series comes in the shape of cost. To put it frankly, it’s just that much cheaper. When the FIA first organized the series they established a cap, limiting each team to just 3.3-million dollars. Sure that’s a hefty sum for most, but in the racing world that is chump change. With LMP1 running a tab north of 100-mil to get yourself on top of the podium. If that were your wallet you might be thinking of ways to squeeze a few pennies as well.
The other appeal for manufacturers is what made LMP1 great for so many years. Development. Sure, Formula E is riddled with rules just like its big brother Formula 1. But there is still lots of time for R&D, allowing for a lot of trickle down room. Not familiar with the trickle down effect? Basically, a company like say, Porsche, designs a system for racing, tests it through a couple seasons, and then finds a practical home for it somewhere in a production sense. The trickle down effect has been present in premier racing for ages. Hell, most of the technology on the car you drove to work was designed and used in Formula 1 in some capacity. Yet with the world moving faster and faster into energy conservation mode, it’s a wonder than an all electric series has taken this long to launch.
So why is everyone upset about the end of LMP1 and not happy about the growth of Formula E? Well, admittedly, the racing is currently a little wonky. It’s not bad, just wonky. First and foremost, the cars are much, much quieter than their dino powered brethren. For many of us that is one of the main reasons we watch racing, the incredible sounds. There is no replacement for having your eardrums rattled like paint shaker from a thundering V10. But let’s face it, the last of those breeds have long been extinct. The cars of today are ultra refined examples of perfection, and unfortunately, perfection doesn’t sound great. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we must endure and move on. Which brings me to my next point, the racing.
Formula E’s next biggest pitfall is definitely their lack of speed. With a top speed under 140mph, it’s safe to say it’s not winning anyone in the speed demon category. Which is a shame, because top speed doesn’t always make for better racing. Need proof? All you need is one race weekend with a 8-hp go kart and 30 other competitors and you will never look at racing the same again. You will also have a serious addiction, but that is beside the point. What I’m saying is sure speed is great, but tight racing is even better. And Formula E has the potential to be one of the best series for extreme racing. Right now the cars are incredible equal, making it a drivers challenge. Unfortunately, the drivers that are currently competing in the series are, let’s say, just a little green. With big manufacturers comes big name drivers, which could drastically change the landscape of competition.
So with Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Fiat Chrysler all joining the ranks of the soon to be fastest growing series in motorsports, maybe it’s time you do too. I mean, if it’s good for some of the greatest names in the game, I’m sure its good enough for us to at least watch. Right?