All charged up: The basic guide to Formula E

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This coming weekend, American race fans will largely be focusing on the start of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But also occurring then is the debut of the all-electric, open-wheel FIA Formula E in Beijing, China.

The Beijing ePrix on Sept. 13 will kick off a 10-race schedule that stretches into the early summer of 2015. Along the way, the series will make stops in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

With the debut almost at hand, now’s a good time to brush up on what to expect from a racing category that’s striving to set itself apart in numerous ways.

THE CAR

Spark-Renault SRT_01E

Capable of hitting a maximum speed of 150 mph, the Spark-Renault SRT_01E is the product of a collaboration between multiple entities with deep roots in motorsports.

The cars are built by Spark Racing Technology, with IndyCar chassis supplier Dallara also serving in that role for the SRT_01E. Inside the Dallara chassis are a electric powertrain and electronics from McLaren Electronics Systems, and batteries from Williams Advanced Engineering.

Renault will oversee all the technical integration, and Michelin is supplying 18-inch tires for the cars.

THE GRID

10 teams are part of the inaugural 2014 grid for F-E, with two of them coming from the United States: Andretti Formula E and Dragon Racing.

Each team will feature two drivers, and overall, there’s a good mix of Formula One and open-wheel veterans plus bright up-and-comers. As for Andretti, they’ll enter the season with Franck Montagny and a still-unannounced second driver, while Dragon will feature Jerome d’Ambrosio and Oriol Servia (Beijing only).

So who else is where? Here’s the remainder of the F-E grid:

Amlin Aguri – Katherine Legge and Antonio Felix da Costa
Audi Sport Abt – Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi
China Racing – Nelson Piquet Jr., Ho-Pin Tung, Antonio Garcia (reserve)
e.dams-Renault – Sebastien Buemi and Nicolas Prost
Mahindra Racing – Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok
TrulliGP – Jarno Trulli and Michela Cerruti
Venturi – Nick Heidfeld and Stephane Sarrazin
Virgin Racing – Jaime Alguersuari and Sam Bird

THE SHOW

In addition to their goal of helping the environment (which you could’ve probably guessed they’d have with the whole electric thing), F-E wants to be a good neighbor in the cities it visits.

Thus, each F-E event – with practice, qualifying, and the main event on the track and assorted entertainment options off the track – will be single-day shows.

Each event will begin with two practice sessions in the morning, followed by qualifying (four groups of five cars each) at lunch time locally.

Full power (200 kilowatts, 270 bhp) will be available in both practice and qualifying; drivers can use both of their cars in practice, but only one car in qualifying.

Winners of the FanBoost, an additional five-second power boost for drivers who win a pre-race online vote, will then be announced in the immediate lead-up to the race.

The race is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. local time and have a length of approximately 60 minutes. Power on the cars will be restricted to “race mode” – 150 kw, 202.5 bhp – while FanBoost drivers can increase their power to 180 kw, 243 bhp for the aforementioned five seconds on each of their two cars.

THE PIT STOPS

All drivers must make at least one pit stop in order to switch cars in their stalls. Minimum time periods will be enforced, and tire changes are not permitted unless a puncture has occurred.

THE CHAMPIONSHIP

Driver and team championships will be up for grabs in F-E, but how they’re determined will differ. A driver’s end-of-season points total will be made up of his or her best results minus one, while the team’s total will have all results taken into account.

Standard FIA points will be doled out: 25 points for the win, 18 points for 2nd, 15 points for third, 12 points for fourth, 10 points for fifth, eight points for sixth, six points for 7th, four points for 8th, two points for 9th, and one point for 10th.

Qualifying on the pole will get you three bonus points, and the fastest lap of the race will get you two bonus points.

THE 2014-2015 SCHEDULE

Beijing – Sept. 13
Putrajaya, Malaysia – Nov. 22
Punta del Este, Uruguay, Dec. 13
Buenos Aires – Jan. 10, 2015
TBA – Feb. 14, 2015
Miami – Mar. 14, 2015
Long Beach, Calif. – Apr. 4, 2015
Monaco – May 9, 2015
Berlin – May 30, 2015
London – June 27, 2015

CHARGING THE CARS

Charging will not be allowed during any practice, qualifying, or race session or at any time prior to the completion of post-qualifying or post-race inspection. Charging in the pits is only permitted with equipment that complies with FIA safety regulations. Charging of all 20 cars from flat to full takes about 50 minutes.

F1 aggressive on COVID-19 testing, social distancing enforcement

F1 COVID-19 testing
Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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With big hugs and wide smiles, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown exuberantly celebrated the first podium finish of Lando Norris’ Formula One career. His exuberance earned a warning from Formula One and FIA officials during the era of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent F1 testing.

“Obviously I got excited with Lando on the podium and embraced him after the race,” Brown said with a laugh during a news conference Friday. “You get caught up in the emotion and excitement of the event, but it was suggested maybe I don’t do that again if we get a podium anytime soon.”

MASK WARNING: NASCAR tells teams to avoid ‘complacency’

Now in its second race weekend of 2020, F1 has taken an aggressive approach to maintain a paddock free of COVID-19. Before teams hit the track last week for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, F1 and FIA officials said more than 4,000 tests were conducted over a week with no positive tests.

In order to enter the track, any F1 personnel (which includes drivers and team members) must have a negative COVID-19 test. Private testing was used ahead of those traveling to Austria. After entering the track, personnel are tested every five days with private medical teams at events along with extra screening.

The results of F1 COVID-19 testing also will be made public every seven days. More than 8,000 tests were conducted through Saturday.

It’s a much different tack from NASCAR and IndyCar, neither of which is conducting COVID-19 testing (and with NASCAR recently distributing that warned teams of “complacency with protocols).

Though Brown, who also oversees Arrow McLaren SP Motorsports in IndyCar, demurred when asked whether the U.S.-based series should be taking a cue, he praised F1 COVID-19 testing for being a best-in-class example.

“I don’t know exactly what every other racing series is doing, so it would be difficult for me to say they’re doing it right or wrong,” Brown said from Austria. “All I can really do is speak to what Formula One is doing, and they’re doing an unbelievable job with 5,000 tests, and people flying in from different parts of the world. The minute that someone — and there’s not been many instances – has taken a mask off, you’re getting a letter or a phone call saying put your mask back on.

“I think all sports should be looking at all sports and seeing who’s doing what and what are our best practices, but I’ve got nothing but great things to say about how the FIA and Formula One and the countries they’re racing in are executing because it feels extremely safe here.”

Brown said it’s unlikely the European-based circuit will do F1 COVID-19 testing at races in the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Canada because the events likely will be scrubbed. Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, was scheduled to play host to F1 on the Oct. 23-25 race weekend but just canceled its MotoGP race.

“We’d very much like to race at all those circuits,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, my opinion is it’s probably unlikely we’ll race at any of those venues this year. That’s obviously due to the COVID situation. … Let’s see what happens, but certainly it seems like the spikes in Texas are pretty severe and Brazil and Mexico and Canada a little less so. But if we miss them this year, we certainly look forward to going back to those venues next year.”