The story appears on

Page A4_5

January 20, 2024

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Sports

Formula E offers Formula One adrenalin in a muffled package

PORSCHE’S Pascal Wehrlein won the season opener race in Mexico City last Saturday to kick off the 10th season of the FIA Formula E World Championship.

Formula E, the world’s first net-zero all-electric motorsport series, will make its maiden appearance in Shanghai in May with a double-header. I visited Mexico City to familiarize myself with the championship and its particular charms, attending the opening race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit.

Intense but friendly to the ears

Unlike other motorsport series, FE has one-day practice, qualifying and racing. It is demanding for teams and drivers, but fulfilling for the fans.

At the Mexico City E-Prix, the second practice and qualifying sessions were at 7:30am and 9:40am, respectively. The race began at 2:03pm and lasted one hour, followed by the podium ceremony. During race intervals, live bands and jongleurs kept spectators entertained till 8pm, ensuring a festive atmosphere throughout the day.

Due to the leveled car powertrains, chassis, batteries and tires used by 11 teams, the race schedule and track competition are intense. Compared with hardware, battery management strategy and software ability matter more.

Wehrlein led the Mexico opener from pole to flag, only losing it briefly during Attack Mode and Full Course Yellow. The race was close until Envision’s Sebastien Buemi made a mistake and created a gap. Jaguar debutant Nick Cassidy followed Buemi to finish third.

Despite a strong start, Wehrlein, like other Formula E drivers, knows it’s too early to talk about advantage. Seven drivers won and 11 finished on the podium in 16 events last season. Three drivers competed for the driver’s title in London’s season-ending rounds.

Motorsports’ most obvious impressions are high horsepower and noisy engine sound, but the all-electric Formula E cars have minimized that irritation to the ears without sacrificing race excitement.

FE’s GEN3 car, which can reach a top speed of 322 kilometers per hour, is an elegant and nimble beast like a leopard on the circuit’s straights.

From a platform overlooking the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez’s hairpin corner, I was able to avoid the effect of formula cars’ gear shifts on my ears.

No earplugs are needed during the race, even for children. The circuit radio commentary and fan cheering are audible, which brings drivers and supporters closer to each other.

Big brands and familiar faces

Jaguar, Porsche, McLaren and Nissan are among the Formula E World Championship’s top names. Formula One drivers who had raced at the Shanghai International Circuit were also seen here.

Shanghai motorsport fans will remember Buemi. The Swiss was a Toro Rosso racer from 2009 to 2011 and a Red Bull Racing test and reserve driver since 2012.

One of the most successful Formula E drivers in 2014, he won 13 races and has earned 31 podiums.

Buemi joined Envision Racing last season and finished sixth in the driver’s standings. His 2024 partner is Robin Frijns. He will return to the Shanghai International Circuit in May as a Formula E driver.

“I have been racing there with Formula One and endurance racing for a long time,” Buemi told Shanghai Daily. “I’m looking forward to going back. It’s a good track, and it will be a very good race.”

The majority of Formula E races are on the streets. Given the relatively wide track at the Shanghai International Circuit, Buemi said a lot of overtaking possibilities can be expected, especially along the straights.

“In Formula E, we have groove tires with little downforce, so the car can move a lot ... I think it’s going to be interesting, and we need to go there to see how this car behaves.”

The Swiss acknowledged that F1 continues to be his favorite series because of his passion for speed, but he loves how competitive Formula E is.

“The competition we experience here in Formula E, with the grid being so close, it’s amazing,” he said. “You hear the crowd a lot since you don’t have an engine, but it (the car) behaves quite similarly to what you would anticipate from a typical single-seater. And our preparation for FE is more extensive.”

Other Formula E drivers on the grid that Shanghai motor-racing fans may recognize include Porsche’s Antonio Felix da Costa, Penske’s Stoffel Vandoorne, and Mahindra’s Nyck de Vries, who recently returned to Formula E following a brief stint in F1.

Bond with China

Formula E has a deep bond with China, with the first race of the inaugural season taking place in Beijing in 2014. The cities of Hong Kong and Sanya in Hainan Province have also held FE races.

Formula E CEO Jeff Dodds emphasized the significance of the new Shanghai E-Prix in discussing the long-awaited return of Formula E to China.

“It’s important for us to race in Shanghai because China is the leading country in electric-vehicle manufacturing and the adaptation of electric vehicles,” he said.

“FE technology can be applied to road cars. We will present you with the most environmentally friendly and competitive sports race in the world.”

Envision Racing, the defending champion team based at Silverstone Park, is majority-owned by Envision Energy, a Chinese wind turbine and energy-management software company.

The rebranded ERT Formula E Team is the evolution of Team China Racing, which helped Nelson Piquet Jr win the inaugural drivers’ championship title in 2015. Shanghai driver Ma Qinghua joined the Chinese team in 2019, when it changed its name to the NIO 333 Formula E Team, but was unable to finish the season.

The Chinese team has a new name and style for the 2024 season, with British driver Dan Ticktum and Brazilian colleague Sergio Sette Camara driving under the ERT banner.

Formula E’s next visit is a double-header of night races in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, on January 27 and 28. The Round 11 and 12 double-header races at Shanghai International Circuit will take place on May 25 and 26.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend