Spotlight on Formula E – 21st Century Entertainment

Alejandro Agag Formula E

Covering the latest sports formats and businesses trying to impact global audiences, SBC’s Sam Cooke details the development of FIA Formula E championships as it enters its last month of competition in its debut season…

Formula E is a motorsport for the modern age. It is a pioneering and an exciting addition to competitive racing. It’s the world’s first fully electric racing series, and moreover it is FIA backed.

Its ethics are unquestionably pure; profit aside, the aim is to promote clean-energy and sustainability, and help develop electric vehicle technology, by promoting an interest in these types of cars. Its main site states that the championship is centred around three core values; ‘Energy, Environment, and Entertainment.’

In charge of the Formula E project is Alejandro Agag. A former politician in his native Spain, businessman, short term QPR chairman, and a man who’s been involved in Formula 1 TV rights and sponsorship, Agag has an extensive and impressive record.

A BBC article compared him to George Clooney’s character in Ocean’s Eleven based on his ‘magnetism and charisma’, and ability to attract the best. Indeed this seems to have some truth to it, with the famous names he’s attracted to the series (more on these later), as well as convincing major cities to shut down some central streets for the purpose of the races. At London’s e-Prix for example, the circuit goes around Battersea Park.

London ePrix Promo 

Agag was also pivotal in securing broadcasting deals with major channels such as Fox Sports, ITV, BT Sport, and China’s main sports channel. Sponsors and partners include Visa, TagHeuer, and DHL amongst many others.

The first 10 race season will come to a close in London on June 28th 2015. It kicked off proceedings in September 2014, and locations thus far have included some of planet earth’s most prestigious cities; Moscow, Miami, Berlin, and Beijing. Races are one hour long, and currently all the cars have the same technical specifications, though this will change from season two.

For all future championships, teams will be able to develop their own cars, within FIA guidelines. At present the batteries can sustain the cars for half a race, meaning racers actually switch cars halfway through.  The innovative aspect of tinkering with the design of the cars is of course a major feature, and draw, of Formula E, and the hope is that it’ll come into its own, and blossom off the back of this decision.

The fear is that it could go a similar route as the A1 GP, the so-called ‘World Cup of Motorsport’, which went into liquidation after a well-received first few seasons. At its height it was being shown in 66 countries around the world, and had audiences of around 20 million.  The difference between it and Formula E stated Agag, is that Formula E “is not competing with Formula 1.” Virgin driver, Sam Bird, echoed these views in an interview with SBC News earlier this year.

“Formula E is unique and that’s what makes it so great to be involved in,” said Bird.

It certainly is unique in that one of the main skills the drivers must engage in to succeed is battery maintenance. Drive too fast from the first green; the battery will be flat before you know it, drive too conservatively, and you risk losing too much of a gap on the other drivers. As things stand all cars are capable of the same speeds, meaning driver skill is a more directly proportional factor in victory than in other racing series.

The short city based circuits are also ideal for ensuring audiences do not lose their focus, and this too has the potential to attract a whole new audience; in the vein of Twenty20 cricket.

starsFamiliar faces

  • Leonardo DiCaprio was a major PR coup for the sport. He’s a part owner of the team Venturi, his environmental activism seemingly a factor in his support.
  • Bruno Senna is a nephew of the late Ayrton Senna, the legendary F1 racer, and he currently races for the Mahindra Racing team.
  • Alain Prost is another Formula One legend, having won the world championship four times. Prost co-owns the e.dams-Renault team, on which his son, Nicolas, is a driver.
  • Sir Richard Branson is very involved, in that he has his own team in Virgin Racing. Indeed he’s listed on the team site as a ‘ (very) reserved driver’.

What’s the latest?

Tickets have been selling well. Monaco was a sell-out, and it’s proven popular across the board.

This could be something to do with the financial feasibility of attending; the ticket pricing structure is very fair, and as such, it caters to a far larger audience. General admission at Miami cost $25 (£16), whilst the ePrix in Long Beach, California was free entry, prices for London are around the £20 mark. There’s also the obvious factor that it’s convenient; due to the city based circuits. The official FIA Formula E Twitter account meanwhile has over 65,000 followers, whilst Virgin racing themselves have over 10,000, and Venturi over 6000.

Team leaderboard

Points Drivers leaderboard



187 Nelson Piquet (NEXTEV TCR) 128

Audi Sport ABT

143 Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT) 111
NEXTEV TCR 132 Sebastien Buemi (e.dams-Renault)


Dragon Racing

116 Nicolas Prost (e.dams-Renault) 82
Andretti Formula E 104 Jerome D’Ambrosio (Dragon Racing)


Virgin Racing 98 Sam Bird (Virgin Racing)


Formula E teams


Sources index

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