An Electrifying Weekend in Buenos Aires
While we count down the days to the start of the new Formula 1 season, how about watching Prost take on Piquet and Andretti? No I’m not going to be looking at all the repeats of previous races that fill up the Sky F1 schedule, but the fourth round of the inaugural Formula E Prix that takes place in Buenos Aires this weekend.
So just what is Formula E? Well it’s a new FIA single-seater championship that is in its first season and can be seen on both ITV4 and BTSport. It’s the world’s first fully electric racing series and features ten teams, each with two drivers competing all around the world in nine races on city centre circuits, with the final race taking place in London on June 27.
From next year Formula E will be an “open championship”, meaning the individual teams and manufacturers have the chance to “showcase their own electrical energy innovations.” The hope is this will lead to the development of battery technology that will filter into the everyday electric vehicle market.
The championship is all about the 3 E’s – Energy, Environment and Entertainment –and according to the official website; it’s a “fusion of engineering, technology, sport, science, design, music and entertainment- all combining to drive the change towards an electric future.”
It’s a hectic event because unlike F1, practice, qualifying and the race itself take place on the same day. There are two practice sessions, one lasting 45 minutes and the other 30 minutes. Qualifying is a straight fight for the quickest lap time and lasts 55 minutes with each driver having ten minutes to set their best time and earn themselves three points. Points for top qualifier, could we ever see that in F1 perhaps?
The race itself begins with a standing start and lasts for approximately one hour. Drivers have to make one mandatory pit stop in order to change cars. Points are awarded using the standard FIA system plus two additional points for the driver setting the fastest lap.
This really is a championship that is full of innovation. The car used in Formula E is the Spark-Renault SRT_O1E and is the first car to be homologated by the FIA. The power of each car is 150kw but before the race, fans can vote for their favourite driver and the top three receive a five-second ‘power boost’ per car per driver that increases their power to 180kw. Ok it sounds a bit like a game-show but it certainly makes it interesting.
So what’s been happening so far in the championship? Well the current leader is Lucas di Grassi from the Audi Sport ABT team who has 58 points. He’s 18 points clear of Sebastien Buemi (e.dams Renault) and Sam Bird (Virgin Racing) both on 40 points. The next two names in the championship standings are Nicolas Prost (24 points) and Nelson Piquet (22 points).
e.dams-Renault, who have Alain Prost as one of its co-founders, lead the Team standings on 64 points which is pretty impressive considering the team of Bruemi and Prost managed just three points from the first race of the season held in Beijing and that came from Prost (the son of Allain) earning pole. Since then Bruemi has finished third in Malaysia and won in Uruguay while Prost finished fourth in Malaysia. Prost has so far earned six points from his efforts in qualifying.
Second in the Team Championship are Audi Sport ABT just two points behind (it’s all a bit closer than F1 thankfully). Their team consists of championship leader Lucas di Grassi and the not so successful Daniel Abt who has only scored four points this season, and two of those were for the fastest lap in Uruguay. Virgin Racing are third in the table on 54 points thanks mainly to the Malaysian race that saw a win for Sam Bird.
So to the fourth ePrix of the season that will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Saturday January 10. It’s doubtful that Jeremy Clarkson and the rest of the Top Gear team will be in attendance I guess.
Driving for the Andretti Formula E team this weekend will be Marco Andretti who’s the grand-son of former F1 World Champion Mario Andretti. Now I usually start to feel my age when I remember watching people’s fathers competing, when it gets to having fond memories of watching their grandfather I really reach for the zimmer frame.
Andretti will be making his debut in the series. Talking about the upcoming race, Andretti, who has spent nine years racing in the Verizon IndyCar series said: “Having never been in the car, it’s a bit of an unfamiliar situation for me but the team’s pace looks solid enough for a great result. I like unknown situations; I’m up for the task.”
So if you fancy something a bit different then keep an eye on Formula E this weekend. The race is live on ITV4 with the programme starting at 6pm.
For more information about the series go to http://www.fiaformulae.com/en.aspx