Formula E is a new FIA single-seater championship and the world’s first fully-electric racing series. The first race was held in September on the streets of Beijing.
Ali Russell is Formula E’s Director of Media and Strategic Partnerships. Ali’s job is to ensure that there are Formula E teams with cars and drivers ready for the championship. He has been travelling the world arranging city centre race venues and also securing TV and media deals for the championship.
We were fortunate to be able to meet up with Ali when he was in Edinburgh in between the Beijing and Putrajaya races and here are some of the questions we put to him…
Dukosi – What was the reaction to the first Formula E race and were you surprised?
Ali – The reaction was amazing, real racing and fans were able to watch real racing! Not surprised as we expected a good response. The surprise was 25 million people watching the race internationally as that was an increase of 25% on our projections.
Dukosi – As all the cars are currently the same, what are the key tactics drivers need to use to win?
Ali – Drivers need to be good as there is no run off areas like tracks. One bad move will cause a crash and an exit from the race. In addition energy management is the key part of Formula E as well as regeneration through the skill of the drivers. These variables really add to the strategy of the championship.
Dukosi – What’s the thinking about FanBoost and does it influence the race outcome?
Ali – Fanboost is fundamental to Formula E involving fans in the the outcome of the race and targeting a younger more digitally active audience – Watch, involve, participate in Formula E.
Dukosi – Are there plans for more interaction with the fans?
Ali – Yes we are releasing more live streaming including a 360 degree camera which gives fans the opportunity to become the race director and watch their driver, their camera angle and all in real time. In addition we have a game being launched which allows fans to play against real cars in real time i.e. Drive against your favourite driver during the race!
Dukosi – In what ways do Formula E push technology to the limits?
Ali – Formula E is an Open Championship and therefore technology development is key to the competition but also key to the development of future electric car technologies or technology that supports the wider society e.g. phone batteries that last longer.
Dukosi – Going forward, what particular areas of electric vehicle technology innovation will be the focus?
Ali – We focus in 3 main areas – electric motors, battery technology and charging systems.
Dukosi – How will these technology developments pull through to the mainstream electric car market?
Ali – The technology is built to be cost effective. That enables manufactures to reduce the incubation period between race technology and consumer car tech usage. We enable this through regulations that limit aerodynamic changes available and incentivise teams and manufacturers to concentrate on areas which have the biggest benefits for the industry.
Dukosi – The city circuits are a great way to get attention for high performance electric vehicles, are there particular cities you would like to see Formula E in the future?
Ali – Formula E’s DNA is to race in the center of cities where fans can access tracks easily, and help to illustrate the benefits of electric cars in city centers from a sustainability point of view. The best locations are cities that struggle with pollution and in areas that create a dynamic backdrop for the television audience. This allows us to communicate our message across continents and in a dynamic manner.
We cannot wait for the Formula E second round action from the Putrajaya ePrix in Malaysia on Saturday 22nd November. There will be live coverage on many channels around the world including ITV4, Fox Sports, TV Asahi and CCTV-5, and there are also live streamed Internet services available in some countries.