Saturday was a new era in motorsport; the start of an all-electric open-wheel racing series. Formula E kicked off in Beijing and had plenty of shocks for the viewers.
Lucas di Grassi took victory in the inaugural race after a last-lap collision between Nico Prost – who was leading – and Nick Heidfeld at the final corner on the final lap.
But how good was the opening race around the Bird’s Nest Stadium? There were, of course, plenty of positives to take from the event. And, as to be expected, there were some negatives too.
A tight street circuit full of the 90 degree corners was always going to prove difficult to overtake but that did not stop people having a go. The first main point was the almost coming together of Franck Montagny and Charles Pic – somehow Pic did not hit the wall despite Montagny diving up the inside of him.
It was a very good race with some hard but fair racing. Except, perhaps, for what happened at the end of the race with Prost and Heidfeld.
With Prost looking to his right, Heidfeld went to his left. Prost then moved to his left before hitting Heidfeld – forcing the German onto a kerb and his car airborne into the catch fencing. Luckily, he was fine.
Bar the major incidents, it was a fairly decent race. The cars can run very close to each other in corners that can lead to overtaking.
Perhaps the most controversial part of Formula E is the style of pit stops. It’s not often, after all, that a driver changes cars mid-race. However, the issue with electric cars is that batteries don’t last long. Give the series a few seasons and, with advanced technology, this may well change. It could be, in 2017, for example that changing cars is a strategy choice rather than a compulsion.
The other main complaint, if you like, was the minimum pit stop time. Drivers had to take 57 seconds for a pit stop even if they were finished by then. This meant that drivers were just sat in the pit gazeboes until they would reach the minimum time.
Obviously, it’s done for safety reasons and it is fully understandable why. After all, it was the first season and the first race. However, it is a racing series. The idea is to go as fast as possible.
It would be nice to see drivers not have to wait around in the pits for a while. Obviously the fact drivers have to change cars is a huge contribution to this; making sure they are strapped in properly is vital. Much like in Formula One, teams and drivers will get quicker at pit stops.
The TV production of the race was excellent bar a few minor issues. Music in replays was used frequently and took away from the pictures. When watching racing, people want to watch cars not listen to music. The sooner this practice is stopped the better.
It was also used when showing drivers entering the pits. This made it a bit difficult to hear the commentators talking. This is part of the experience of watching the racing on TV. The commentators have more information available to them than we do watching. They can provide information we cannot see.
Once again, the sooner this practice is stopped the better.
The on-screen graphics were brilliant for this race. It was clear to see who had what left with their battery – except for the one glitch that said one driver had twice as much battery as the car in front and had not stopped. Obviously there will be some minor hitches in any sport – it’s still seen in Formula One!
Noise is not something that should concern us. However, it does concern some. The main idea when watching racing is to watch the racing. If the cars are silent then why should that suddenly make the racing awful? It doesn’t.
However, the noise of the Formula E cars is not that bad. At all. That is all that needs to be said. Somehow, making the noise of the car louder won’t be an issue like it is elsewhere.
After all, noise doesn’t change the racing.
You can follow Jack on Twitter @JackAmeyMedia.