The next big thing … now: Formula E going far beyond expectations of founder Alejandro Agag
On the eve of season four, Formula E has extended its reach around the globe with major players in the world of motorsport all coming to the party
The surprise for FIA Formula E Championship founder and chief executive Alejandro Agag was not that the series has been a success – he was sure of that from the start – but that its rise has been so swift.
As we sit on the eve of season four – which kicks off this weekend with the second staging of the Hong Kong E-Prix – Formula E has extended its reach around globe, while the major players in the world of motorsport have come to the party, or will do very soon.
“We are far beyond our expectations,” says Agag.
What has helped the series on its way to success has been a world that is increasingly turning to new and environmentally aware technology, as well as races that seem to throw up new stars, just as the series itself has crowned a new champion for each of its three editions so far.
“Formula E is becoming the championship of the future,” says Agag. “The next big thing is already happening.”
Attention now turns to the Central Harbourfront and a double-header that will answer plenty of the questions lingering after last season – such as which team can wrest the title from three-time champions Renault e.dams, and which drivers might emerge from the pack to break the stranglehold Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler) and Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.dams) have had over the series for the past two go-arounds.
In 2015-16, it was Buemi first with 155 points and three race wins and Di Grassi second with 153 points and three victories.
In 2016-17, it was Di Grassi’s consistency that got him over the line in first with 181 points from two race wins and a string of podium finishes compared to Buemi’s 157 points from six wins for second.
Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra Racing) made his debut in Formula E in Hong Kong last season, and finished third overall with a 19th-placed finish on the Central Harbourfront track.
The two-time Macau Formula Three champion was his usual consistent self across the course of the season and during preseason testing in Valencia he said he was primed to hit Hong Kong hard – especially after last year’s disappointment here.
“Finishing third at the end of the season was a sign of strength,” says Rosenqvist. “If you have a season behind you then you return as a different driver.
“You have a confidence behind you, having been there before. That feels great and we can’t wait to get back and continue from where we left off last year.”
Seems strange to say but series one champion Nelson Piquet Jnr fell off the radar somewhat over seasons two and three as his NIO team struggled.
The Brazilian has now switched colours, and will turn out for the historic Panasonic Jaguar Racing team in season four, their second in Formula E.
“We’ve put in a lot of work and there is a lot of work ahead of us,” says Piquet. “We have to be humble because the team is still new. But we are learning very quickly.”
There are a few newcomers arriving for their first crack at electric racing in Hong Kong. The United States-based MS&AD Andretti Formula E team only announced Japanese ace Kamui Kobayashi was joining the fray on November 15.
The team have sparkled on occasion – with five podiums across three seasons while using 10 drivers – but are searching for more consistency. Maybe Kobayashi is the man to bring it.
And the racing fans who ring the Pearl River Delta will be delighted to see a familiar face under the Venturi colours this season as “Mr Macau” Edoardo Mortara turns his skills to all things electric.
The Italian/Swiss seems to win at will in Macau – he’s collected two F3 and four GT titles there, including at the most recent edition just two weeks ago.
That Mortara joins another Macau hero in Maro Engel (two wins across the water) adds a little “local” touch to the opening exchanges ahead.
Mortara said then that the best drivers down through history had made winning a habit. And it makes perfect sense.