The return of Formula E


Five reasons why season 5 will make Formula E famous

As Formula E starts its biggest ever season, Paul Garbett – who leads our Global PR account for the all-electric championship - gives five reasons why Season 5 will see Formula E come of age.

At 12.04pm on Saturday afternoon the lights will go green here in Ad Diriyah to signal not just the start of another thrilling new season of Formula E, but a bold new era for the sport. Saturday’s landmark race in Saudi Arabia’s ancient capital will see history made both on and off the racetrack: Formula E’s ground-breaking Gen2 car makes its race debut, there is a new race format, new manufacturers and high-profile drivers aiming to take the all-electric championship to dizzying new heights.

Here’s five reasons why Season 5 could be a tipping point for the rapidly-growing sport, as it seeks to move from motorsport’s most exciting start-up to a major international sport followed by millions.

The electric arms race

There’s little doubt that Formula E is now the most road-relevant championship in motorsport, with the sport boasting more manufacturers than Formula 1 and IndyCar combined. The automotive industry’s interest goes to another level on Saturday, as BMW and Nissan – the world’s biggest electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer – join the grid as fully-fledged factory teams, competing alongside brands such as a Jaguar, Audi and DS.

As the automotive world and consumers embrace electrification, Formula E has become an important development platform, with competition on the track mirrored by the arms race to produce the best EV on the market. Sports fans love great team rivalries, and with Mercedes and Porsche already signed to join the sport in Season 6, Formula E will become more competitive than ever – helping fuel interest in the sport from both traditional motorsport fans and mainstream consumers in the market for their next car.

Household names entering the fold

The major news in the offseason was that Brazilian racing legend Felipe Massa was joining the Formula E paddock. Massa retired from Formula One last season after a fantastic career for Ferrari and Williams which included 11 Grand Prix wins. The 37-year-old will join his former Williams teammate Susie Wolff at the Monaco-based Venturi Formula E Team, where Wolff was recently made Team Principal.

The addition of Massa, Wolff and other familiar motorsport names such as Stoffel Vandoorne adds further star quality to a championship which already boasts the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Sir Richard Branson as interested parties. With new drivers joining Formula E from the pinnacle of motorsport, the all-electric series is increasing its reputation as the most competitive drivers’ championship in world motorsport.

Engaging a younger audience

At a time when many sports are talking about the need to attract younger fans, it’s refreshing to see Formula E taking action. The sport’s playful tone of voice and tech-savvy content has already helped attract a younger audience on social media, with data earlier this year showing a 347% rise in 13-17-year-old fans engaging with the sport digitally.

This is supported by a strong gaming presence on and off track, with Formula E available on hugely popular iPhone game Real Racing, and fans offered the chance to race against Formula E drivers on simulators at every E-Prix. The growth in young fans will only accelerate in Season 5, as Formula E launches a brand-new influencer-led YouTube show called Voltage, which will broadcast every race live on the platform – led by top talent such as global YouTube star KSI.

The drive to attract a younger audience will be further helped by the move to a 45-minute timed race, perfect for those with a short attention span or wanting to ‘second screen’ races online. And the potentially revolutionary ‘Attack Mode’, which will see drivers forced to move off the racing line at least twice in a race to secure a limited-time speed boost, will offer something never seen before to fans - and keep the drivers on their toes.

The people’s race

Formula E’s unique selling point is its city centre racetracks, which offer fans the opportunity to get much closer to the action and experience live motorsport in some of the world’s most iconic locations. Ticket prices are cheaper than most major sporting events, and the Allianz E Village allows a free place for fans and families to experience Formula E – with a festival atmosphere involving music, entertainment and gaming.

The move to make Formula E the people’s motorsport is mirrored by the sport’s approach to broadcasting – with a reach over revenue business model, seeking to get the compelling action in front of the biggest audience possible. In addition to the new innovative YouTube show, Season 5 sees a new digital and TV rights deal with BBC Sport in the UK – bringing live motorsport back to BBC screens for the first time since 2015. In Germany, public service broadcaster ZDF is also taking races live – whilst major broadcaster Mediaset covers Formula E in Italy, bringing the sport to huge audiences in motorsport’s heartlands.

A bold new look – with attitude

Perhaps the greatest change for Season 5 is the introduction of the Gen2 Formula E car, with a striking design to match the futuristic feel to the growing championship. The Gen2 car has been likened to the Batmobile but its dramatic looks are not the only improvements. Formula E was well known for its mid-race car swaps, but this has now been eradicated thanks to the battery doubling in capacity in just four seasons.

This bold new style for the series is matched by a more confident new brand position. The Fiercely Driven campaign, which was launched by Formula E ahead of the new season, aims to focus consumer attention more firmly on the exciting racing product. Season 5 has been referred to as ‘the graduation’ of Formula E, and 2019 could be the year when the future of motorsport becomes very much the present.