Following a weekend of drama, intrigue, confusion, elation and frustration … not to mention the mandatory high-speed thrills and spills … Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jnr was crowned the inaugural Formula E champion
Previous rounds had taken the drivers and their battery-powered cars on a nine-month world tour as they tackled twisting city centre circuits from Miami to Moscow. Now it was England’s turn to put on a show with London’s Battersea Park playing host to 60,000 fans over the two-day finale.
And what a show we got! With spectators using social media to give their favourite drivers an extra boost – quite literally – and ticket prices starting from just £15, this really was high-speed thrills for the masses. They may have massive batteries at their heart but these cars can still hit speeds of 140mph and rocket from 0-62mph in around three seconds.
“I think in four or five years you’ll find Formula E taking over from F1 in terms of number of people.” – Sir Richard Branson
Little had made it into the mainstream media about Formula E since the opening round in China way back in September so I was curious to see if the spectacle of battery-powered cars whistling their way around a park was as dubious as it sounded.
The obvious difference between this and any other form of high-octane motorsport is just how quiet the whole thing is – even walking down the pit lane they have to blow a whistle to let you know there’s a car coming. And to me that makes it so much more family-friendly … you can actually hold a conversation as the cars are racing by. Walking the circuit really is a walk in the park at Battersea where, because of the lack of pollution from the cars, the only things you can smell are the trees.
So it was interesting to hear the views of someone who has been involved in both Formula E and F1. On Saturday, just ahead of the penultimate race of the season, I sat in on a press conference where Sir Richard Branson made some bold statements for the sport.
The head of Virgin Racing, one of ten teams taking part in the competition, said:
“I think in four or five years you’ll find Formula E taking over from F1 in terms of number of people.
- Sam Bird in one of the Virgin Racing cars at Battersea Park
“This competition has captured the imagination of the public and while I still think there is a role for Formula 1, it’s only a matter of time.”
There’s no denying the fact that electric cars being able to race through city centres in the shadows of such icons as Big Ben and the Kremlin is a massive draw. And the accessibility of the sport is another huge positive.
But while I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of Formula E, I just wonder whether Sir Richard is being a little ambitious and that there’s still plenty of miles left in the F1 bandwagon.