The newest edition to the racing world has debuted with a bang. On Saturday, drivers took to the course in the inaugural FIA Formula E Round 1 in Beijing, fighting for a place in the history books as the first driver ever to win a Formula E race.
In lap 25 of 25, it came down to Nick Heidfeld of Germany who drives for Leonardo DiCaprio’s race team and Nicolas Prost of France. Heidefeld made his move, accelerating to the outside. The two cars collided, resulting in a spectacular crash that ended with Heidfeld upside down, uninjured but shaken. Brazillian driver, Lucas Degrassi, ended up taking the win for Audi Sport.
At 150mph, Formula E cars only reach speeds two thirds as fast as their Formula One brethren, yet the new electric vehicles offer their own excitement. Apart from the technological feats required to master the nascent technology of electric racers, this crash demonstrated the dynamic acceleration capabilities of these vehicles.
Formula E might be the only motorsport that is quiet enough to allow music to be played throughout the race, but clearly it is no joke. It is also clear that some Formula E drivers are not yet acclimated to the capabilities of their new vehicles. Heidfeld’s last minute decision to attempt an overtake took Prost by surprise and he has publicly apologized to his friend via Twitter, “I understand that I am responsible. I just did not see him, feel very bad.”
The winner of the inaugural race, Lucas Degrassi, is likely the driver who is most comfortable being powered by a battery. He was the FIA’s first official test driver during the development of the Formula E Series. If this first race has shown us anything, it is that we can expect even more excitement as drivers gain more experience and EV technology continues to evolve.
Given the waning popularity of open wheel racing in the US, it is no surprise that there isn’t much buzz around Formula E. Tesla has succeeded in proving to Americans that EVs can be sexy, but the company is not even allowed to sell directly to consumers in most states, and we’re all still waiting for that “affordable” Tesla Model 3 that Elon promised us.
We’ve got a long way to go before Formula E takes over our weekends, but maybe that will change once Tesla enters a car in the race, or once we’ve had it it with the National Football League. If you’re interested, the next installment of the ten-race inaugural season will broadcast from Malaysia on November 22.
Written by Sam Jackson