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The evolution of Formula E in 2017

By Ben Lerwill

The FIA Formula E Championship, with its mission to “reinvent racing with a new formula for the 21st century”, is a revolutionary idea. It dispenses with the standard, fuelled-up cars of Formula One and replaces them with high-tech electric-powered vehicles.

Start factoring in big-name teams, well-known drivers, a top speed of 225kph and a destination roster of some of the world’s most glamourous cities and the product is quite remarkable. Its cars are greener and quieter than Grand Prix counterparts but, at its core, it’s about two things: electric technology and fast, street-circuit racing.

Improvements in technology and innovation

So, two and a half years on from the first ePrix, how is Formula E faring? The first thing to point out is that it’s already growing and evolving. Whereas all cars were essentially identical during the first season, the second season onwards has allowed teams to innovate and develop the powertrain of their vehicles. This has helped attract the likes of BMW and Jaguar to the sport, with the overall number of teams set to expand from 10 to 12 in 2018.

Put another way, electric automotive technology is very much on the up, and Formula E has become an inventive, competitive arena in which teams can showcase and experiment with new ideas. A good example is the Avis-sponsored Mahindra Racing team, which counts former Formula One star Nick Heidfeld among its drivers and which this season has launched a new six-phase M3Electro powertrain motor. The technology has helped it to claim the fastest lap time in two of the first three races of the season.

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Formula E’s expanding fan-base

Formula E, of course, does not yet draw the same audience attention enjoyed by Formula One that has been establish for decades. That might – just might – start to change. When you’re dealing with streamlined, open-wheeled, electric streetcars that can go from stock-still to 100kph in just three seconds, the races themselves are genuine spectacles. They’re generally in accessible city-centre locations, which in turn creates atmosphere, while Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird claimed in 2016 that there was “more overtaking … in one Formula E than in a whole season of Formula One”.

One controversial element unique to Formula E is FanBoost, a form of audience participation that directly influences the action. Fans can vote for their preferred drivers via social media, with the three most popular competitors receiving a brief extra power surge during the race.

This season has already seen some memorable contests. Renault e.dams driver Sébastien Buemi sped to victory in all of the first three races, but was pushed closely on each occasion. After two events in Battersea Park, London has been dropped temporarily from the Formula E calendar, but by the time the season finishes with July double-headers in New York – on a waterfront street circuit in Brooklyn – and Montreal, the sport will have touched down on five continents since October 2016.

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Win premium tickets to the Paris ePrix

Before then, however, the FIA Formula E Championship comes to France, the country where modern motorsport was created – and you can be there. In partnership with British Airways, Avis is offering two premium tickets to the Paris ePrix on 20 May, as well as the opportunity to meet the Mahindra Racing drivers. The City of Light has a spectacular circuit that winds around the historical complex of Les Invalides – it’s one not to miss. To enter the promotion and for full terms and conditions, visit avisba.com/promotion.

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