I recently found myself watching Round 4 of the Formula E season and it was immediately obvious that this series was nowhere near the popularity of Formula 1. This got me thinking, why has the world not taken to Formula E and will it ever be able to reach the heights of F1?
The first notable difference was the sound of the cars or lack thereof, I know this is obvious given the fact that the point of this motor series is for the cars to be electric, but I don’t think I fully appreciated how much this takes away from the overall experience. The sound of a Formula 1 engine cutting through the air as the cars race around the track is a fundamental part of the sport and the machine-like sound of the Formula E cars takes away from the excitement and overall atmosphere of the race. Whilst the sound of the cars is not the most important factor in determining whether Formula E will be able to gain any traction in the mainstream, it does slightly hinder its appeal to Formula 1 fans as it cuts out one of the most recognisable F1 components that perfectly encapsulate the Formula 1 soundscape. From the V6 of the hybrid era to the V8 of the 00’s to the V10 of the 90s, the sound of a Formula 1 car is one of the first things that come to mind when you think of F1, so the much softer sound of Formula E creates a disconnect as it doesn’t feel like what we have come to expect from a race weekend.
Another talking points that has posed an obstacle for Formula E are the tracks, the constant street tracks don’t offer the same excitement as Singapore or Suzuka but instead offer the same mind-numbing monotony of Monaco without the prestige. The narrow tracks of Formula E offer no variety and make it easy to lose the audience as there is nothing going on to grab their attention. Whilst Formula E cars cannot compete on F1 tracks, due to the imbalance that this would create, a slight departure from the current street tracks to a more traditional racing circuit could be an improvement that would raise people’s interest in the sport. Now, a complete reinvention of the Formula E calendar cannot happen over night and may not even be what the sport needs, but testing out new circuits for Formula E may aid in pushing forward the popularity of the sport providing they have the resources to do so.
The final talking point that could greatly assist in raising the profile of Formula E is an increased social presence, as we’ve seen with Formula 1 and sports such as tennis, an increased social profile has been a game changer in attracting more eyes to the sport. I think this aspect has gone overlooked by Formula E as now would be the perfect time to gain traction towards the sport as everyone is already so focused on Formula 1 and the world of motorsport. If you were to ask people to name at least one driver in Formula E the chances are they wouldn’t be able to, this is because the sport has not been able to expand their reach socially and in the social media era this could be holding them back. The introduction of Netflix shows, such as ‘Drive To Survive’, introduce the world of Formula 1 to an audience that had never previously given it much thought whilst simultaneously granting access to the personalities in the paddock. Formula 1 have been able to expand so quickly as people have been able get to know the drivers and have someone to route for during the season. Formula E may benefit greatly from a similar series as at the moment the world of Formula E is relatively unknown to the wider public and even some motorsport fans.
I don’t think that Formula E will ever be able to reach the heights of Formula 1, but if they are able to address the issues above and create a more enjoyable fan experience they may be able to benefit off of the current motorsport resurgence that appears to be in full swing. Using social media to expand the audience of the sport look as though it is the way forward as other sports, such as tennis, have seen the success of DTS and are keen to replicate this with their own series, ‘Break Point’. Formula E has the potential for growth but at the moment it appears to be lacking in a few aspects which are holding the sport back from reaching the heights that it is capable of.