top of page

History of Formula E

Written by Alessandra Leporati, Edited by Simran Kanthi

Credit: Gongora/NurPhoto / Getty Images

Formula E is an automotive series created by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) dedicated exclusively to single-seater cars with electric motors. The category, designed in 2011 to promote electric mobility, began on 13 September 2014 with the Beijing E-Prix, which kicked off the first championship.

The series, based in the first season on the participation of identical cars with various standardised components, saw from the second season onwards, participation from more manufacturers. From the 2020-2021 season, the category achieved FIA World Championship status.


The proposal for an electric single-seater championship was given in 2011 by former Scuderia Ferrari General Manager and FIA President Jean Todt during a meeting in Paris with Antonio Tajani and Alejandro Agag. He presented the idea of a category reserved for electric cars competing in city circuits located between the streets of the world's largest cities to promote the dissemination and development of alternative and innovative energy. In September 2012, the ex-Formula 1 driver Lucas di Grassi was selected as a test driver and in November 2012 the first 42 cars were ordered. In the second half of 2013, some demonstration events were held to test the cars and the race format, before the official start of the 2014 Beijing E-Prix, which was the first race of the 2014-2015 season. On 9 January 2018, a multi-year agreement was signed with the Swiss company ABB, which became the title partner of the championship, taking on the name ABB FIA Formula E Championship.



Technical aspects

During the first season, the cars had the same engine, batteries, chassis, and electronics: the monocoque chassis was supplied by Dallara, the engines were produced by McLaren Electronic Systems which also supplied the electronics, the gearbox was supplied by Hewland and Williams provided the lithium battery pack. From the second season onwards, the regulations have allowed the entry of new manufacturers, especially for the production of the electric motor, inverter, and gearbox, in addition to the cooling system. Instead, the car's construction by Spark with the Dallara chassis and the battery pack supplied by Williams Advanced Engineering, remain standard; and from the fifth season, the batteries are supplied by McLaren Applied Technologies.

On 6 March 2018, the next-generation "Gen2'' was presented at the Geneva Motor Show, used from season five. On the first of June 2020, the FIA ratify the changes, in force from the 2020-2021 season, to reduce team costs: during the E-Prix, you can use only three sets of tyres instead of the four scheduled until the 2019-2020 season, the number of members in the team is decreased from 20 to 17 and is allowed the use of a remote garage with a maximum of six people.

The "Gen3" was presented in Monaco on 28 April 2022 during the 2022 Monaco E-Prix and will be used from this 2022-2023 season with a new change: the tyre supplier, provided by Hankook.


Sporting aspects

The series includes the assignment of two titles, one reserved for drivers and one for teams. The championship consists of 11 teams, each of which competes with two drivers, with four cars per team. As for the first four seasons, the battery life allowed it to run about half the race, forcing the drivers to change the car during the race. Starting from the fifth season, the new battery allowed the drivers to race the entirety of the E-Prix.


The program usually includes a Shakedown session, held the day before the race, at a reduced pace, useful for drivers to check the electronic systems and the overall reliability of the car, while at the same time, the race commissioners verify the track. On the day of the race, two free practice sessions are held in the morning, 45 and 30 minutes respectively, used by teams and drivers to set the car and adapt to the track.


The qualifying format requires drivers to be divided into four groups, defined by their position in the championship. Each group has six minutes to set a lap time. At the end of this first phase, the top six in the standings participate in the Super Pole, which is a lap thrown each, useful to determine the first six positions on the grid. To qualify for the race it is necessary to score a time less than 110% of the fastest in the group session.

But the structure of Qualifying has changed since the last edition: the 22 drivers will be divided into two groups of 11; each driver has ten minutes to establish a fast lap at 220 kW of power. After this phase, the four fastest drivers of the two groups are combined to form pairs for the Duels, which take place in the form of a race on a single lap at 250 kW of power. Qualifying will then proceed to four quarter-finals, two semi-finals, and one final.



The race begins a few hours after qualifying and foresees the start from a standstill. The duration of the races is fixed in 45 minutes plus one lap, and the maximum usable power is 200 kW from the fifth season, with the possibility of using extra power for the most voted drivers with the (*)Fanboost or using the (*)Attack Mode; from the sixth season for each minute of race in Full Course Yellow (FCY) or Safety Car, 1 kWh will be subtracted from the total energy measured from the start of the neutralisation of the race. In May 2021, after the first Valencia E-Prix ended with more than half of the cars without batteries on the final lap, the FIA ruled that in the case of Safety Car or Full Course Yellow after the fortieth minute of the race, there will be no energy removal. From season 2022, the races have a basic duration of 45 minutes but are extended up to a maximum of ten minutes, in case of the Safety Car. The available power has also been increased from 200 kW (272 horsepower) to 220 kW (299 horsepower), with Attack Mode of 250 kW (340 horsepower).


Scoring system

The rules from the sixth season provide the award of points to the top ten classified according to the classic scheme of the FIA championships. In addition: three points are awarded for the pole position, one point for the fastest lap in the race between those who finish in the top 10 (in the first two seasons were awarded two points), and the driver with the fastest lap in the qualifying groups.

Credit: LAT Images / Formula E via Getty Images

Tracks

Formula E races are held almost exclusively on urban street circuits, with a length between 2 km and 3 km. The goal of the organisers is, from the first season, to bring the category to the streets of the biggest cities in the world. The calendar of the first season included: E-Prix in Beijing, the inaugural race of the series, Buenos Aires, Miami, Berlin, Moscow, and London. In the second season, the Mexico City E-Prix and the Paris E-Prix have been introduced. The new races for the third season took place in Hong Kong, New York, and Montreal. For the fourth season, the E-Prix was supposed to be held in São Paulo, Santiago de Chile, Zurich, and Rome: Rome, was then held on 14 April 2018 on the EUR Street Circuit created for the occasion; Zurich reported, after 64 years, motor racing on the Swiss soil; and, on 7 December 2017, it was announced that the São Paulo E-Prix would be cancelled and replaced by the Punta del Este E-Prix, already present in the first and second seasons of the category. For the fifth season, the E-Prix of Diriyah in Saudi Arabia, the E-Prix of Sanya in China, and the E-Prix of Bern (instead of the one held in Zurich) were introduced. That season also marks the return of the Monaco E-Prix after an absent season. The only race present in all seasons is the Berlin E-Prix.


Pilots

Each team in the championship is allowed to field two drivers per race. The results obtained in the championship also serve to accumulate points to obtain the FIA super licence, which allows drivers to compete in F1.


To take part in the Formula E Championship, drivers must have accumulated at least 20 points over the three years preceding the application, or have participated in at least three E-Prix. If these points are not reached, the FIA judges may still allow the participation of a driver who has demonstrated undoubted quality in single-seater driving in various championships. The drivers who won the Formula E championship are Nelson Piquet Jr., Sébastien Buemi, Lucas di Grassi, Jean-Éric Vergne (only two-time Formula E World Champion), António Félix da Costa, Nyck De Vries, and Stoffel Vandoorne.


Teams

In the first season, ten teams took part in the championship, eight of which are still present. The teams that have so far participated in all Formula E seasons are Virgin Racing, Mahindra Racing, Dragon Racing, Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler, Venturi Grand Prix, Andretti Formula E, and NIO Formula E Team. At the beginning of the second season the Trulli GP team, which had raced the entire first season finishing last in the team standings, had to leave the category for some technical problems that caused the break of commercial agreements with suppliers. At the end of the second season, Team Aguri also left the category and gave the licence to new Chinese investors who, starting from the third season, founded the Techeetah team, which became part of the Formula E team, and also in the third season, Jaguar Racing debuted. Starting from the fifth season, Nissan took the place of Renault, as a partnership with the e.dams team, while BMW entered the role of manufacturer of the Andretti team and HWA Racelab, with Venturi engine, entered.

Credit: Sam Bagnall/Handout / Getty Images

Fanboost

is a system that allows fans to interact with the progress of the race, through an online vote of their favourite driver. Until the fourth season, the three most-voted drivers were allowed to use extra power on the second car for a continuous period of five seconds, useful for the attack or defence of the position on the track. Starting from the fifth season, the opportunity was given to five drivers who can use extra power on the only car available. The use of the Fanboost is indicated by the ignition of a strip of magenta LED placed on the Halo. Voting is usually open from six days before the race, until six minutes after the race.

The seriousness of the system has been strongly questioned as voting operations could be circumvented. From this season, Fanboost will no longer be available.


Attack Mode

Starting from the fifth season, a particular mode that grants extra power to the pilots is introduced, the Attack Mode. In the fifth season, it consisted of 25 kW of extra usable power for some laps of the race, crossing a special section of the track, outside the ideal racing line. The details of its use and the area where it can be activated, are provided by the Race Control only sixty minutes before the race to avoid the detailed study of possible strategies. From the sixth season, the power is increased from 25 kW to 35 kW, and drivers will no longer be able to activate it under FCY or Safety Car.

From this season, Attack Mode will only be available in races that do not have *Attack Charge.


Attack Charge

Starting this season, the drivers will be able to receive 4 kWh more through a pit-stop of 30 and will unlock the ability to activate a sort of Attack Mode. It can be activated by drivers twice in the advanced stages of the race and will allow the car to dispense 350 kWh instead of 300 kWh. The Attack Charge will be tested in the second half of the calendar in selected races.



Comments


bottom of page