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.”