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Agag reflects on FIA Formula E Season 2 growth, sets more goals

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As the FIA Formula E Championship prepares for its third U.S. race in its history – and first of season two – it’s worth reflecting how far the championship has already come in barely more than a year and a half.

Drivers who’ve achieved success in other series – past FIA World Endurance Championship champion Sebastien Buemi, Ferrari GT works ace Sam Bird, Audi LMP1 star Lucas di Grassi and countless others who have had past F1 experience – are growing their stature within FE as well.

More OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) are taking an interest in the championship. Jaguar announced its intentions earlier this season and others may be on the horizon.

And FE has taken several steps to ensure the virtual integration of the championship is there as well – between virtual reality and really helping to bring new fans into the series.

As FIA Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag noted in an interview this week ahead of the Faraday Future Long Beach ePrix, beyond his desire for the series to race in New York, it’s apparent FE has grown from merely an idea or “additional championship” to a destination series.

“Obviously in the beginning, people weren’t sure, is it going to last? Now after only 16 races, it’s clear: FE is here to stay,” Agag told NBC Sports.

“They can start planning long-term. It’ll happen more and more. The championship is getting stronger and makes it the first choice for a lot of teams, and for drivers.”

Agag has been pleased to see that through the first five ePrixs of the season, with the championship opening up powertrain development this season, the competition has still been strong and deep.

“It’s been a major step for the championship,” he explained. “To go from single spec to more technology was always the point… and to get there after one season is so great. Renault e.Dams has an advantage and is leading, but it’s very, very tight. It’s very competitive.

“The other ones are catching up. It’s great to see how the technologies compete against each other. I’m really excited for next year, because already Renault is preparing new powertrain, and there’s more to come from DS, Jaguar.”

The Jaguar addition may spur additional OEM interest in the series.

“It was really important to add Jaguar; it’s a huge brand with a huge racing history, as a brand that has been in F1 and other competitions. For them to go to FE was a major endorsement. It’s sparked other OEMs. We know there are other teams approaching them, and there’s other OEMs interested here.”

Agag also reflected on the virtual components of the series – between FanBoost, Race Off (where drivers race each other in simulations) and RoboRace (first ever autonomous race cars) – and how different it’s made FE.

“That’s a very important accomplishment for us. We’re pushing for all these actions around the core,” Agag said. “There’s the race of racing each others.

“We’re building a whole ecosystem of digital for fans to do in the championship. Virtual reality is very important.
“RoboRace is one of the biggest news items we’ve had since we started Formula E. Companies are talking with Kinetic (partner) about entering, and displaying their technologies.”

Agag said the series doesn’t have a say in which teams will join, but said they have been told of the process, and hope to know the teams by summer.

It’s apparent Agag and the series are visionaries and are keen to continue as thought leaders in the newest form of motorsport.

“We’ve been leaders in many regards,” Agag said. “There hadn’t been an electric championship, and this is one. There wasn’t a driverless series, and now it is.

“That’s our vision, to be pioneers. We think the car of the future is going electric, connected and driverless. We want to be ahead of the curve; then we get ourselves ahead of the trend

“It’s fantastic both Verge and Wired are coming to Long Beach – they are key technology publications. Motor racing is the heart of what we do, but we want to be at the technology movement of green and the future.”

Agag also outlined what he hopes to see for the rest of the season; Buemi currently leads the championship.

“I want to have the championship exciting ‘til the end and that the competition stays open,” he said. “It was a problem for Lucas di Grassi with the wright of the car (at Mexico).

“(Renault) have a bit of an advantage, but not much. It’s just one race. We are looking forward to Paris for the first time and we sold out the tickets. There’s a lot of expectations for that race, and for the rest of the series.”

Oliver Askew: ‘I was starting to lose confidence’ after ‘hardest hit I’ve had’

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Oliver Askew knew something was medically wrong in the days after concussion-like symptoms began from “the hardest hit I’ve ever had” in the Indianapolis 500. He’d been evaluated and cleared to race after the Aug. 23 crash, but he just didn’t feel right.

The IndyCar rookie told The Associated Press on Thursday he has been experiencing dizziness, sleeping difficulties, irritability, headaches and confusion since he crashed in the Aug. 23 race. He continued to race in four more events as he tried to “play through it” until friends and family encouraged him to seek medical treatment.

He since has been diagnosed with a concussion and is working on a recovery plan with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s sports medicine concussion program, the same place NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. received care after concussions in 2012 and ’16. Askew will not compete in next weekend’s doubleheader on the road course at Indianapolis, and Arrow McLaren SP will put three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 7 Chevrolet.

“This is all I’ve worked for,” the 23-year-old told AP. “I don’t come from money, and I’ve worked my way up and have finally gotten my shot in a good car. And then all of a sudden, the results just weren’t there in a car I knew should be performing. And I just didn’t feel like myself, you know?

“So initially I felt like I needed to stay in the car and continue to improve. And then I didn’t feel like I could do that with my condition and what was going on. I was starting to lose confidence in myself.”

Earnhardt praised Askew for going to Pittsburgh to see Dr. Micky Collins.

“Oliver is in the best hands when it comes to taking care of this problem and getting back on the racetrack. It was very smart of him to get in front of Micky so that he could understand the seriousness of the situation and begin the process of getting well,” Earnhardt said. “You can absolutely heal from this but not without taking the step of getting help. Often that’s the most difficult step.”

Athletes often hide injuries to continue competing, and even Earnhardt admittedly masked concussions during his driving career. Askew didn’t know what was wrong with him but was frightened to get out of the car.

He is a paid driver who brings no sponsorship money to the team (but did bring a $1 million scholarship for winning last year’s Indy Lights championship), and owner Sam Schmidt holds the option on his contract.

As he tried to race on, his performance suffered. Askew had finished third and sixth at Iowa — the previous two races before Indianapolis. After the crash, he was part of a multicar accident the next week at Gateway and has not finished higher than 14th in the four races since Indy.

A year after winning seven Indy Lights races, Askew has fallen from 12th to 18th in the standings and slipped considerably off the pace. He said he struggled in team debriefs, had difficulty giving feedback and has gone through a personality change that was noticeable to those close to Askew.

Spire Sports + Entertainment, which represents Askew and was among those who pushed the driver to see a doctor, noted Arrow McLaren SP did not reveal that Askew was suffering from a concussion in its Thursday announcement he would miss next week’s race.

“Oliver clearly demonstrated his talent until Lap 91 of the Indianapolis 500, and I hope this does not become another case study of why athletes do not tell their teams they are injured,” said agent Jeff Dickerson. “The reason they do that is because more often times than not they are replaced. In motorsports, there is always somebody to replace you, and whether it was Dale Jr. or Oliver Askew, there is always another driver available.

“I hope this is not a barrier to progress for other drivers — especially young drivers afraid of losing their job — to notify their teams they are hurt. I hope the team proves me wrong because the good news is, the kid has had a head injury for the past month and has still run 14th in IndyCar.”

After finally seeking medical treatment, Askew said he was relieved to learn there was something wrong. He said doctors told him the injury has a “100% recovery rate” and he believes he will be able to race in the IndyCar season finale next month at St. Petersburg. He’s been rehabilitating with exercises and tasks that strain the brain such as deliberately going to grocery stores and the airport.

“Honestly, you know, if I had not gone to see medical professionals I would probably stay in the car,” Askew said. “But now after hearing what’s wrong and that it could get worse, God forbid I have another hit, I know I did the right thing. I think I can be an example for young drivers now in stepping up and saying something is wrong, I need to have this checked out.”