Future lies in the present - visit to Formula E's Berlin E-Prix

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The future has officially arrived. F1technical's Balazs Szabo was left amazed during his visit to the latest round of Formula E's current championship season.

Having visited a wide variety of motorsport events, one could assume that there is nothing new under the sun. It is delusion. Formula E is not only astonishingly fresh with its futuristic technology, but also with its format, in fact with its entire entity.

Formula E wants to dictate, knowing no compromises. It showcases the future shapes of automotive industry, luring more and more illustrious car brands and manufacturers into FIA president Jean Todt's beloved series. While representing the electrification wave in the road car industry and across the entire mobility sector, its impact on modern racing is also undisputed.

The closeness of fans to drivers, their interaction with teams and series organizers and how they are treated and entertained stands out in the world of motorsport. It is, of course, partly down to its current size and compactness. Formula E,representing the e-mobility, runs in city downtowns. Tracks are short, circuits are confined by the grandstands, cars are still relatively slow compared to the breath-taking Formula One pace, thus allowing fans to get mind-bendingly close to the racing action.

Formula E history

The inaugural championship started in Beijing on 13 September 2014. However, its origins trace back to much earlier. The proposal for a city-based single-seater electric car motor racing championship was conceived by Jean Todt, the president of world governing body of motorsport, the FIA, to politicians Alejandro Agag and Antonio Tajani at a dinner at a small Italian restaurant in French capital of Paris on 3 March 2011. The idea was to showcase the new trend in automotive industry: the electrification which involves the development of hybrid and electric systems and aims at reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

At first, skepticism revolved around the series, but later big manufacturers recognized that this series provides them with a good racing platform, a first-class marketing sphere and a tolerable cost level. Audi, Mahindra, Jaguar and Renault are all already part of the series, but Nissan, BMW and Mercedes are also on the horizon to join Formula E in its fifth and sixth season.

Formula E village

Formula E's shocking compactness lies mainly in its special one-day format. Racing action happens over the course of one single day, excluding the special double headers.

A practice session early in the morning is followed by another practice before drivers go crazy in the qualifying session. With a pause of a couple of hours, the race crowns the event. There is no additional support series during the day, there are only a few demonstration laps. However, the whole day is action-packed.

The Formula E village invites you to an entertainment sector and a showcase of the future which becomes very much our present. There are live concerts, dance shows on the main stage. Car manufacturers like Jaguar, Audi, BMW and Mercedes use the village as a luxurious presentation of their latest road car products, of course all of them are the latest masterpieces of the sweeping electrification across the automotive industry. The Allianz tent welcomes you for having a look into how a future city will look like. Electric skates, electric bikes are free to try out. The best video gamers are invited to take part in the E race where they can measure their talent against the real FE drivers.

The village entices with its cleanness, wide variety of street food stalls, its music, atmosphere. It does not want to be bigger than it is actually, but the series is eager to demonstrate the power of electrification which is gaining ground at mesmerizing speed in the road car industry and it is adamant to lure the youth next to the already motorsport lovers.

Future

Faster, bolder, and it lasts twice as long. That is what the Formula E car of the second generation promises. Formula E is hardly more than three years old, but it is about to undergo a massive redesign. The series want to grow and follows the targets of the electrification seen in the automotive industry, of course in bigger, racing terms: more powerful cars and bigger longevity. Its new powertrain will allow drivers to get more juice from the car and forget the much hated car swap during races.

The power upgrade will increase the power output from 200kW to 250kW which is equivalent to about 335bhp. That extra power will help the new cars shave the 0–60 mph time down to 2.7 seconds. The new car has a battery made by McLaren with about double the capacity which is going to allow the cars to last the full race.

On top of that, the second-gen FE car features an aggressive design, it looks radically different from pretty much anything else out there in the racing world. The new car is still a controlled chassis, but the list of items the teams can change is growing. The powertrain, transmission, suspension, and software management are all specific to each team.

2016 Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg tried out the new car in the Berlin round as he was keen to get the first taste of a car powered by electricity, something other than an internal combustion engine which he is used to.

Formula E already features a long list of former Formula One drivers and long list of successful racers of other series. The new, radically looking and more powerful car and former Ferrari star Felipe Massa’s commitment to the series shows how rapidly Formula E is growing and conquering the motorsport world.