Could the new season of Formula E take electric racing further towards mainstream?

Formula E aims to make the new season the best yet for the electric motorcycle racing class. In the UK, Season 8 will be marked by the announcement of a multi-year partnership with free-to-air terrestrial broadcaster Channel 4 to host more races live than any previous season, and take over the BBC. This means more regular broadcasts than before, as the BBC presented most of the races online and via on-demand services. But in addition to the larger live exposure, the new season contains even more adjustments that should make it more exciting than ever.

For starters, the eighth season also ushers in a new, rather complicated but potentially very nice qualifying structure. This deviates from the conventional time trial format to become a four-stage process. The drivers are split into two groups that start with a time trial, but then four drivers from each group advance to head-to-head duels, then two semi-finals and a final duel to win pole position. This promises to make qualifying an exciting spectacle before the race has even started, but without the chaos of Formula 1’s controversial Sprint Qualifying.

While Audi left Formula E last season, as did BMW and Mercedes, Porsche joined for the 2019/20 season and Maserati will compete in 2023. In the 2022-23 season, DS, Jaguar, NIO and Nissan will all have their brands behind the electric racing series.

There is also a new Gen3 car making its debut for the 2022-23 season. The car will be lighter and smaller than the Gen2 but will be the first formula car to have both front and rear engines – 250 kW and 350 kW respectively – more than doubling regenerative power compared to the Gen2, to 600 kW . The FIA ​​claims that at least 40% of the energy used in the race will now come from regenerative braking, and the car will therefore also be the first formula car without hydraulic rear braking. The power delivery will be 350 kW (470 hp), giving a top speed of 200 mph, and the power-to-weight ratio will be twice as efficient as a comparable fossil fuel engine.

After travel restrictions until the 2020-21 season due to Covid, Formula E will once again expand its geographic reach. There will now be 16 races, up from 15 in 2021-22 and 13 in 2019-20. While the new season will still feature six “double headers” with two consecutive races in the same venue, such as Saudi Arabia, New York and London, the previous season had seven double-header events, so this puts the series back on track. direction for location diversity.

However, Formula E has been criticized for its choice of street circuits. While these tend to be more technical than pure race tracks, making them more challenging to the drivers’ skills and less dominated by pure car superiority, this has had a negative impact on the competitive spectacle. The downsides are that street circuits are often harder to overtake and not the iconic ones like Silverstone or Imola that are already steeped in history, adding atmosphere.

But that hasn’t stopped viewers from watching, with a cumulative audience of 316 million in the 2020-21 season, a 32% increase from the previous year. This has been prompted by new distribution agreements with free-to-air channels worldwide, such as the new one with UK’s Channel 4. Audiences for 2020-21 also surpassed pre-pandemic levels, demonstrating the growing interest in the sport.

While Formula 1 remains the pinnacle of international motorsport achievement, the continued focus on fossil fuels is beginning to seem like a dead end. The lack of consistent rules has also had a very negative effect on the image of a truly competitive sport rather than an empty spectacle. The continued development of Formula E brings it closer than ever to becoming a viable alternative for motorsport fans. The Channel 4 partnership will hopefully give Formula E greater visibility to the public, so that alongside Extreme E, the message of a sustainable future for high-speed competition on wheels can get even more traction.

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