September 9th 2013 was my first involvement with Formula E. A year before the first race in Beijing, I was at the Frankfurt Motor Show to host a little series of videos explaining what the brand new series was about for the series' YouTube channel. Almost nine years and 100 races later, I am in a hotel looking out through the floor to ceiling windows at the modern metropolis that is Seoul ahead of the Season 8 finale.
French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr coined the phrase ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’, which feels perfectly apt for Formula E, because despite huge changes in so many ways since the championship’s inception, for me at its core it remains the same sporting joy that it was all those years ago.
Let me use Buenos Aires, Season 1 as an example. It was the fourth race of Formula E, it was a beautiful sunny day in the Argentinian capital, hitting 31 degrees at the start of the race. I was massively over consuming on steaks, and Sebastien Buemi was starting on pole position. Buemi led, but then with 12 laps to go crashed out of the lead.
Di Grassi inherited first, but then three laps later crashed out of the lead at the same corner. Heidfeld inherited the lead, but ending up getting a drive through penalty for exiting the pits when pit exit was closed, which he served on the final lap, meaning Antonio Felix da Costa won the race from eighth on the grid having only led the final lap.
Now, New York City, Season 8. It was the 95th race of Formula E, it was a beautiful sunny day in the United States’ biggest city, hitting 29 degrees at the start of the race. I was massively over consuming on pizza, and Sebastien Buemi was starting fifth on the grid. We were enjoying a great squabble for the lead when the rain came, and chaos ensued. Cassidy crashed out of the lead.
Di Grassi would have inherited first, had he not crashed out at the exact same time. The red flag was flown, and Cassidy still won the race having been in the barriers when the race ended.
Clearly, so much has changed between those two races. Season 1, the cars were considerably slower, and wouldn’t last a full race distance, forcing the drivers to swap cars half way through. There were only two full car manufacturer entries of Mahindra and Venturi, compared to nine last season!
Thirty-six drivers competed in 20 cars in the first year, whereas Season 8 would have had every driver complete the full season had Sam Bird not broken his hand in London last time out. The level of professionalism, efficiency and performance of the teams and drivers has increased exponentially year-on-year.
The same buzz, eight seasons on
But for all the undeniable growth Formula E has experienced, it still feels the same to me. I still have the exact same buzz before a race that I have had ever since that fourth race in Buenos Aires. That was the race that showed me what Formula E could be, and what the sporting proposition of this championship is all about; intense, unpredictable motor racing.
Electric motor racing, but motor racing nevertheless, and perhaps that is the thing that feels the most familiar after nine years in this paddock. We started with a goal to improve the perception and uptake of electric vehicles, and that goal still remains, and the best part is that whether it’s the drivers, teams or partners, everyone is united on that front and continues to work together to try and make this championship as good as it can be.
So, after Formula E began with a race around the Olympic Stadium of an East Asian capital city, we get ready to celebrate the 100th event with a race around the Olympic Stadium of an East Asian capital city. “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”.
Published on 11th August 2022
4 min read