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Formula E

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The Formula E season kicked off back in February to signal the start of the European racing season. The all-electric championship is now in its seventh season and boasts plenty of talented drivers and big-name manufacturers. The series is now recognised as an FIA World Championship, meaning the competition is even more brutal than ever. As the championship returns this weekend with a round in Mexico, it’s a good time to chart the season’s story so far.

De Vries Storms to Victory on Opening Night

Nyck De Vries won his first Formula E race in Diriyah

The season started with a doubleheader on the streets of Diriyah in Saudi Arabia. In race one, former F2 champion Nyck De Vries emerged victorious as he took a dominant win for his first victory in the championship. De Vries demonstrated poise and composure to manage the problematic track conditions as he powered his Mercedes EQ car to the checkered flag.

There was heartbreak for Sam Bird and Alexander Lynn as the two drivers crashed at turn one. Bird was charging through the field, and he wasn’t happy at all with Lynn’s defensive driving. More drama followed that incident as Max Gunther slapped the concrete wall that smashed his left rear suspension. The German driver lost control as he went off-line onto the dusty side of the track. Lastly, there were some phenomenal drives from Edoardo Mortara and Jaguar’s Mitch Evans, who joined De Vries on the podium. In the end, De Vries underlined his potential with a win in a premier class of FIA racing.

Sam Bird Shows His Class for First Jaguar Win

Sam Bird snatched a dramatic win in round two

Sam Bird said it was a gamble leaving the Virgin Envision Racing Team for Jaguar in 2021. The likeable Brit raced for Envision throughout the entirety of the Formula E championship. That gamble moving to a new team paid off in dramatic style as he triumphed in race two. Bird battled Robin Frijns all-race long as the two traded places consistently. It was a great battle for the race lead that got cut short due to a nasty crash for Alex Lynn. The race subsequently got red-flagged, and race control opted to declare the race result. Lynn got taken to hospital, but, thankfully, Lynn got discharged with no injuries.

Civil war once again broke out at the Techeetah team as Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix Da Costa waged a wild battle, and the two came to contact on multiple occasions. Max Gunther’s miserable weekend continued as he experienced another incident. This time, Gunther locked his brakes and sideswiped the innocent Tom Blomqvist out of the race.

Race one winner Nyck De Vries endured a challenging race two as he could only finish 14th, four places ahead of his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne. Ultimately, Sam Brid demonstrated why he is one of the marquee drivers on the Formula E grid. He kickstarted his championship campaign with a superb performance.

JEV Ends the Slide With a Taste of Champagne

Former Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne got back to winning ways in Rome

The championship headed back to Europe for races three and four in Rome. Race three was arguably the race of the championship, as several drivers were in the hunt for the race victory at various stages of the race. Oliver Rowland took the early lead until he got handed a drive-through penalty for using more than the permitted amount of battery power. It took him and his Nissan E.Dams machine out of the running. That gave the lead to Lucas Di Grassi with the likes of Robin Frijns, Jean-Eric Vergne, Sam Bird, Mitch Evans and the two Mercedes drivers chasing him.

This long snake of cars kept trading positions as each driver pulled off gutsy overtakes to shake up the order. Di Grassi and Frijns experienced a long, arduous battle as both drivers initiated contact on their respective manoeuvres. Frijns was left unimpressed after Di Grassi barged his way past and left him hung out to dry as Sam Bird passed Frijns as well. Meanwhile, Vergne was stealthily making his way through the traffic with intelligent passes.

The former Formula E champion displayed surgical skills and then held enough in hand to take the win behind the Safety Car. It was another excellent day for Jaguar. Their drivers Sam Bird and Mitch Evans finished second and third. On the opposite end of the scale, it turned out to be a fateful day for the Mercedes team as both their drivers collided in a race-ending crash while they tried to avoid the sick car of Di Grassi.

Vandoorne and Mercedes Bounce Back in Race Four

Stoffel Vandoorne tasted victory one day after crashing out

Stoffel Vandoorne won a dramatic race four at Rome. The drama began when Nick Cassidy spun off in the lead after the Safety Car came into pits. Pascal Wherlein grabbed the lead and controlled the pace in the early phases of the race. Nick Cassidy endured more misery as Oliver Rowland put him into the tech-pro barrier when Rowland decided to try an overtaking move. The big flashpoint came halfway through the race as Lucas Di Grassi and Sebastian Buemi came together.

Di Grassi tried to block Buemi; in doing so, Buemi’s front right tipped Di Grassi straight into the wall and out of the race. While all that happened, Vandoorne went past Wehrlein, which would turn out to be the race-winning move. Sam Bird, Oliver Rowland and Nyck De Vries all hit trouble on the last lap as a wild three-car incident took place. Their misery contrasts with Alex Sims and Pascal Wehrlein’s happiness as both drivers stepped onto the podium for the first time this season.

De Vries Rain Dances His Way to Win Number Two

Nyck De Vries became the first multiple race winner in 2021 with a win in Valencia

On one of Formula E’s rare outings to a racetrack, all hell broke loose in the wet conditions of Valencia. Nyck De Vries drove a sensible, controlled race to get himself into contention. From there, De Vries and his Mercedes team managed the race to perfection. He was one of the only frontrunners to have energy still left in his battery for the last lap. De Vries drove away from the rest of the pack to win in sodden conditions. Drivers got challenged as staying on the track was almost impossible.

Max Gunther ended up in the gravel as the back end snapped away from him in a braking zone. Sergio Sette Camara was another driver that ended his day in the gravel. Finally, Vandoorne was another driver who saved enough energy on the last lap. He charged to third position on the final lap to get the second Mercedes on the podium. Again, Mercedes played the strategy to perfection; I feel like I’ve heard that before.

Jake Dennis Dominates in a Crushing Performance

Jake Dennis took a lights to flag victory for his maiden Formula E win

Jake Dennis bagged a maiden Formula E win with a commanding lights-to-flag victory. The BMW I Andretti Motorsport driver outclassed and outpaced the field to win. However, this race was nowhere near as dramatic as the previous race. Alexander Lynn drove a composed race to take third place, just behind Porsche’s Andre Lotterer. The former sportscar ace needed a positive race in a season blighted by inconsistency until this race. Norman Nato was another of Formula E’s unsung heroes who drove a fine race to fifth place for Susie Wolff’s Venturi Racing team. Unfortunately, It was a bad day all around for several powerhouse drivers. De Vries, Bird, Evans and Frijns all finished outside of the top 12, while Stoffel Vandoorne didn’t finish the race.

Last Lap Da Costa Hits the Jackpot in Monaco

Last year’s series champion got on the winners board with victory in the Prinicipality

Antonio Felix Da Costa pulled off a last-gasp overtake on the last lap to win the Monaco E-Prix. The Portuguese driver raced his Techeetah car past the ailing Mitch Evans to take the win. Da Costa displayed solid speed throughout the race, and he managed his battery better than Evans. While the move was definitely on the borderline, Da Costa demonstrated his desire to win in Monaco.

Evans was out of battery on the last lap; he came into the Swimming Pool chicane with a train of cars, all desperate to get by. Although Evans went across the chicane to keep the position, they all needed to follow single-file through Rascasse until Norman Nato pounced to pip Evans to second place at the finish line. Da Costa was enduring a difficult season; his win at Monaco re-energized his championship campaign. There were also struggles for the Mercedes drivers, Jean-Eric Vergne and Jake Dennis.

After seven rounds of the championship, Robin Frijns is the man atop the standings. He holds a five-point lead over Nyck De Vries; however, the top five drivers are only separated by 13 points. Thus, the championship is alive and kicking. In the wild world of Formula E, anything can and will happen. This weekend, the series moves onto Mexico for another doubleheader. It promises to be another chaotic and crazy weekend.

Humorous, versatile and informative. Just three of the words I would use to describe a commentator. For me, the role of a commentator is more important than meets the eye. I have to feel their passion and excitement for the sport as much as I do. I got to speak to current Formula 1 and Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls about his experiences in the role and how he got there.

Hi Jack, could you please tell me about your main role as a commentator within motorsport, particularly the ABB FIA Formula E Championship?
I have been commentating on Formula E since it first started back in 2014, and I also cover Formula 1 for BBC Radio 5 live. I’m lucky enough to work with 3 times Indy500 winner Dario Franchitti, and it’s our job to bring this new form of motorsport to people and try and get them excited about it!

Have you always been a big fan of motorsport? If so, does it help with commentating when you’re talking about something you’re passionate about?
I started watching motorsport when I was 6 and got obsessed pretty quickly after. I used to watch every F1 race and went to my first British Grand Prix when I was 7. My dad and I then started travelling to races when I was a bit older, to tracks like Spa, Valencia and Monza, and I even saved up and went to Melbourne in 2009 by myself when I was 19!

Have you always wanted to be a commentator? How did you break into the industry?
I did always want to be a commentator. I loved Murray Walker, and the idea of just shouting and getting excited by the racing always really appealed to me. I used to write my own commentary notes at the start of each season from about the age of 8! But it was never something that I actually thought about pursuing until I had a gap year between my A-Levels and University. I started marshalling at my local race track at Snetterton and heard that they had commentators there, so I asked if I could try. I started doing more and more while I was at Uni, to the point where when I graduated, I could become a full-time commentator.

Was there anyone you looked up to in terms of commentating?
Ben Edwards is the best. Clearly, everyone’s hero is Murray Walker, but in my really formative years, it was Ben commentating on British Touring Cars and A1GP that made me the commentator that I am now. He has incredible knowledge but manages to get that across to the audience without sounding smug, and he is so good at reading races and conveying that to the viewer.

What is your favourite track to commentate on?
Monza and Monaco are my two favourite tracks to commentate on. I love the history of Monza and the atmosphere. You climb up some rickety old stairs to the commentary booths, which are on top of one of the grandstands, and then the cars flash past you at 220mph. The atmosphere there is like nothing else. Of course, Monaco is a very different type of atmosphere, but the buzz around a Grand Prix weekend is fantastic. The commentary boxes back onto the harbour, and they overlook the whole pitlane. As with everywhere in Monaco, space is at a premium, so there’s barely room for us in the booth, but it adds to the chaotic nature of the weekend.

What advice would you give someone who wants to commentate on motorsport in the future?
ESports are a great place to start. It’s actually where I started commentating; then, I was able to show my work to people in the real world to try and get work. The most important thing is to be yourself and let your personality come through. The audience wants to get a sense of who you are, not of who you’re trying to be. Don’t feel you have to do things that other commentators do; find your own path.

What does a typical Formula E Race Weekend look like for you?
I will usually fly to a race on the Wednesday, then start work on a Thursday. Thursday is mostly production meetings and technical checks. Friday, I spend a lot of time in the pitlane talking to teams and drivers to find out the latest news, and I will walk the track. Walking the track is much more important in Formula E because they often change each year. Then Saturday is race day! They are long days, so my alarm will usually go off about 6 am; we then get on a bus and travel to the track arriving about 7 am, then first practice starts at 8 am! There is very little time between sessions, so I try and speak to as many people as possible in the 45 minutes I have! Then there is qualifying; I eat some lunch, then prepare for the race by looking through the grid sheet and making some notes. Then the race starts, and we finish work at about 6 pm!

How do you prepare for a race?
I make quite extensive notes before each race for Formula E; because I am the voice of the championship, I feel a lot of responsibility to get things right, and there is much less information available. Whereas with Formula 1, there’s so much more discussion about it in the wider world that I don’t feel the need to do as much preparation.

Motorsport is a very opinionated sport for everyone! Do you ever find it difficult to try and show unbiased opinions when commentating?
I don’t find it difficult at all, because all I want to see is a good race! I am more friendly with some drivers than others. For example, I’ve done a lot of work with Robin Frijns over the years, but if he is racing, I don’t want him to win more than anyone else. I just want to see a good fight and a good race!

You’ve worked on several different racing series, Formula 2, Formula 1 and of course Formula E – does your commentating style differ from series to series?
The biggest difference is between TV and Radio. When I commentate on Formula E for the TV, I am watching along with the audience. We are enjoying the action together. But on radio, you have the be the conduit for them to know what is going on, so you have to explain things a lot more, and I am more of the narrator of the race. On TV I can talk less, but radio, if you stop talking then it’s silent, which isn’t great radio!

On behalf of the Grid Talk team, I’d like to thank Jack for agreeing to talk to me and contribute to our Working In Motorsport series. I hope you’ve enjoyed this incredible insight into the role of a commentator in motorsport.

James Calado, a name you’ll have heard within the world of motorsport, and if you haven’t, where have you been? The British racing driver is currently competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship for AF Corse. James is no rookie when it comes to racing; his experience as a driver expands from single-seater series such as GP2, Formula E and Formula One, and taking part, and winning 2019 24 Hour Le Mans.

I’ve always been interested in how racing drivers can adapt to different series and, ultimately, different cars. James Calado was the perfect person to sit down and speak to about his motorsport experiences.

Now, I’ve often seen the WEC vs F1 debate floating through the motorsport hemisphere, which has always made me wonder whether single-seater racing is, in fact, more complex. “I would say no car is harder than the other”, James told me, “It’s more about the level of the championship that we are competing in. If anything, single-seaters are easier in the fact they are lighter and have more downforce.”

There are some main differences between the two series, “I think it’s clear that endurance racing is more about the long-distance and working with a teammate with who you share the car. It’s important to have a good strategy, and obviously not always the quickest driver will win.” Many endurance drivers have said that preparing for long stint races can be more ‘mind over matter’ than the physical demands expected from Formula One drivers. “Le Mans is very demanding, and it’s important to keep the car in one piece and to rest as much as possible as it’s a long week, but with experience now, I find myself able to manage 24-hour races in a good way.”

Since 2014, Formula E has slowly begun gaining popularity with not just racing fans but with manufacturers too. Although it doesn’t take the spotlight of Formula One right now, it does provide closer racing without a dominating world champion. James Calado raced in Formula E with Jaguar in the 2019-2020 Championship; he told me, “(It) is certainly unique, and very software related. They are different to drive and very complex machines. Formula E was always an interest as I saw it as one of the most competitive championships to be involved in. Unfortunately, with the covid situation, I only did a handful of races, and that didn’t work in my favour despite scoring points in most races.

Alongside Formula E, James had retained his seat with AF Corse in the World Endurance Championship; I asked him whether it was challenging to switch between them. “Both cars are completely different”, James stated, “Driving the Ferrari is second nature to me; I have been at Ferrari a few years now, and I’m used to the car and the Italian Culture. Formula E was completely new; it wasn’t so much about knowing how to drive the car quick, more about getting on top of the energy management and how to be efficient in a race.

It was exciting to gain an insight into James’ career, which has spanned across a range of different racing series. I couldn’t let him leave without asking which series he had enjoyed the most and what his dream would be. He replied: “The series I have enjoyed the most is WEC, there is a great atmosphere within the championship, and sports cars produce great racing. I was the third driver at Force India, and I competed in many FP1 sessions”, he recalled, “So, I had my taste in F1, but for political reasons, I wasn’t able to get myself a seat although offers were on the table. I’m extremely happy to be working with Ferrari and really enjoy the racing. I wouldn’t change anything.

Thank you to James for talking with me; we wish you the best of luck in the World Endurance Championship this season. WEC kicks off next week at Spa Francorchamps on the 1st May 2021.

I’ve given you the reasons why you should watch Formula E, and you’ve decided to give it a go, but now you’re wondering, “Charley, what actually is Formula E?” Well, don’t you worry, here is my Formula E Guide to give you all the information you need for this weekend’s doubleheader in Rome.

Like everything, there are rules and regulations to keep the sport from being absolute chaos. So, what are the hard fast rules of Formula E? Let’s break it down.

Race Format
Like Formula 1, there is practice, and qualifying sessions are very different from the format we are used to. Formula E has two practice sessions, an opening 45-minute session followed by a further 30-minute session. However, this is reduced when it’s a weekend doubleheader to just one 45 minute practice session on the second day. Like F1, this is the first time that teams and drivers will take to track and get a feel for their lap times. It is just a practice session, so nothing from these sessions count towards the final result.

Now, qualifying in Formula E is quite different – If you’re like me and dislike change, it does take a little while to get used to. Firstly, the qualifying session lasts an hour, and the drivers are divided into four groups of six cars, which is defined by their position in the championship. Once that group is out on track, the drivers have six minutes to set their time and obviously, be the fastest. Once all the groups have had their runs, the top six drivers proceed to the Super Pole shoot-out in a bid to secure the Julius Baer Pole Position and an additional three points (we’ll talk about that later). During the Super Pole, the drivers go out one by one, with the sixth-fastest driver going out first and so on.

It’s worth noting that between both the practice and qualifying sessions, 250kW is available throughout.

We have our grid, and we’re ready to race. So how does a typical E-Prix work? The drivers line up on a dummy grid, a short distance behind their grid slot, to slowly file into before the race. A standing start, meaning the cars are stationary until the lights go green. Every E-Prix is 45 minutes plus a lap.

The lights go out, and Formula E offers incredible racing from start to finish; from the 2018/2019 season, Attack Mode was introduced into the series. This lets every driver pick up an extra 35kW of power at their own risk to get their attack mode – it requires the driver to steer off the racing line and through the activation zone. It does usually pay off. It gives drivers that extra edge to keep ahead of any competition. On top of that, there’s Fanboost. This gives you the chance to impact the race. This has had some negative feedback from fans of the sport, saying that it’s ‘gimmicky’ – it gives fans the chance to gift their favourite driver with a significant boost of power, which they can deploy in a five-second window during the second half of the race. Only five drivers get this honour.

The majority of races take place over a single day to minimise disruption to the host city.

Championship, Standings, and Points
Again, just like Formula 1, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship consists of two separate titles. One, which is dedicated to the driver, and the other that is dedicated to the teams. The drivers’ championship is awarded to whichever driver has racked up the most points throughout the season, simple! The team’s championship is decided by calculating their driver’s scores. In terms of these points, Formula E follows a standard points system used in other FIA series – awarding points to the top 10 finishers. As mentioned earlier, additional points are also rewarded for getting Pole Position and the fastest lap in the race.

Other Things To Mention
Charging the car is not allowed during both qualifying and the race, and throughout parc ferme.
The Formula E cars use 18-inch treaded all-weather tyres used by every single team which Michelin supplies.

So there we go! A quick-fire guide to Formula E, now you have absolutely no reason not to watch. I feel like I could be hired to turn fans to the electric side (Formula E, if you’re reading this, I am available)

ABB FIA Formula E is a single seater racing series, composed of twelve teams with two cars each – this equals to 24 drivers in total, some of which include ex Formula 1 drivers. They race around the track for a total of 45 minutes plus one lap, and the first driver to cross the finish line – wins! Easy right?

So, why is Formula E considered to be a “lesser” series of motorsport? I’ve heard plenty of reasons why people won’t give Formula E a go, but it generally boils down to two main issues. These are, that the sound of the cars and that the electric engines are not fast enough, however..

The future is electric.

After being a fan of Formula 1 for many years, I really wanted to start branching out into different racing series, I already watched F2 and F3 so a friend suggested Formula E – and I fell in love. The series is so underrated and I really feel it deserves more credit, more people talking about it so.. here are my reasons why I think you should be watching Formula E.

All of the 24 Gen 2 cars are powered by electricity, the series acts as a platform to put newly developed technology to the test with an extra competitive edge. Each car has a base power of 250kW and a top speed of 280km/h. The knowledge gained from the race track will go into developing better electric road cars for the future.

Formula E gives you wheel to wheel action in every race, with the added help of Attack Mode. This provides an extra 25 kilowatt power boost by going away from the racing lane and driving through the specific zone – this can mean giving up a little bit of lap time or sometimes even a position to collect the power boost, however most of the time – it does pay off!

Formula E is the only event in the world that lets fans play an active role in the outcome of the race, this is through Fanboost. The audience vote for their favourite drivers online or through hashtags on Twitter and the five drivers who come out on top will receive a significant boost of energy. This has had mixed reviews from viewers, claiming that it is just an unfair popularity contest, however, I think that it’s a really nice way to keep the audience involved with the sport.

Okay, i’m going to be honest with you here – yes, the sound is so much different to what you would expect and the first time you watch you will wonder where on earth that high pitched screech is coming from. Many people are drawn to motorsport to hear the sounds of roaring engines and Formula E, well, is definitely not that. However, it really isn’t enough to put you off the incredible racing that unfolds at every track.

Formula E turns streets into unforgiving race tracks, in some beautiful cities around the world. I already know what you’re thinking.. “Street circuits? Boring! No overtaking!” Well, you would be wrong. Surprisingly, these circuits definitely do not leave the races short of overtaking. The courses are narrow, which is why it makes it even more exciting that 24 cars are able to race around them. You can always count on some drama which is why the results can be super unpredictable.

I really would urge anyone who hasn’t watched a race to do so and please let us know what you think! Formula E have all their races archived on their website. Practice Sessions, Qualifying and the Race are all available to watch for free on the Formula E Youtube page or BBC iPlayer. The next race is scheduled on Saturday 10th April in Rome – give it a watch, I promise you won’t regret it.

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