What’s the difference between Formula 1 and Formula E? If you ask that question to a layman, not many might even know that Formula 1 has an electric racing concern. Although in its fifth season, Formula E has not gained a lot in popularity, despite the cars being almost as fast as Formula 1 cars. The top speed for a Formula E car is 174 miles per hour (280kph), whereas a Formula 1 car can clock up to 230 miles per hour (370kph). But with the Formula 1 becoming more or less the same every year—the same people are winning and nothing would change until the rule changes of 2021—fortunes may change. The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body for a lot of global auto racing events, has now announced that it will be elevating Formula E to the championship status.
Although this does not mean much in terms of money—sponsorship deals are mostly based on views—it does bring Formula E to the big boys’ table. More importantly, it allows players from Formula E to be showcased as “stars.”
While it is a smart move from the FIA—given that the viewership for Formula 1 has been dwindling—it is even better for sporting fans. It is about time that Formula E becomes a major focus. With the interest around electric vehicle technology and electric cars growing, Formula E is bound to attract more people.
More importantly, Mercedes and Porsche taking interest in the sport is also expected to make it better. The only thing missing, however, is the stars. Racing in Formula E is very competitive. The format, in fact, is so competitive that you can get a different winner in each race. As cars are mostly the same, it all boils down to the driver and the strategy employed (by the team). This is, however, both a plus and a minus. While it certainly makes the sport more competitive, it ensures that no driver takes the spot lightly. In addition, Formula E has not been able to attract drivers from Formula 1, those who can bring the star power with them. Stoffel Vandoorne is the only addition from the Formula 1 stable.
This is where Formula E can learn from football clubs. When China wanted to build a fan following, its clubs tie-up with retired football professionals like Hulk and Renato Augusto. The US has done the same; Formula E might as well try such a strategy. A Vettel or a Raikkonen, post-retirement, would not only boost the profile of the sport, but also give it the much-needed push towards viewership. Who knows, after a while, Formula E may have stars of its own, those that Formula 1 will then have to poach.
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