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GP Week : Issue 183
F or a championship that is setting its sights on bright lights amidst towering, vibrant cities, Silverstone seemed like an odd place to meet the powerbrokers behind the FIA Formula E Championship. Unlike London, Rio, Los Angeles or Rome, the home of the British Grand Prix – neatly bordering the counties of Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire – is a tranquil venue indeed. Outside, an early summer evening draws in and chills develop as the natural light dims and a breezy calm takes hold. Almost typical for the region are the weighty grey clouds, which have still to decide whether to spill their contents or merely threaten. Inside Silverstone’s new Wing auditorium and conference room, a very different atmosphere is gaining ground. Leaning for ward under spotlights, Alejandro Agag thinks for a moment, considering his words carefully: “We have to be modest.” The 42-year-old business draws a somewhat shallow breath, before adding, “We are not going to fix the world, [but] we think we can contribute a little to fix the CO2 problems in cities...” When the European Commission asked the FIA to introduce a racing championship for electric cars just over two years ago in order to increase awareness of the technology, President Jean Todt, alongside former BMW director Burkhard Goeschel, set about laying the foundations of what would eventually become Formula E. Determining that this new series needed to be single-seater in nature in order to feed public interest, Formula E Holdings (FEH) was launched in August 2012 with the aim of taking the category to select city centres around the world. With former MEP Agag heading FEH as CEO, things have moved quickly for the series. So far nine cities have signed up, following the recent announcement of Bangkok as a host city. Specific dates will not emerge until September at the earliest, following a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council. The car design – penned by Spark Technologies – recently reached completion, with Dallara expected to begin building up to forty chassis units in the coming months. Earlier this month, Renault were announced as the series’ technical partner, while Tag Heuer will present timing and scoring and last week, MediaCom was unveiled as Formula E’s marketing and communications agency. Like it or not, Formula E is coming. Meanwhile, at Silverstone, it soon becomes clear that there is a confidence to Agag as he acknowledges the category’s manifesto. When asked why single-seaters represent such a key image for Formula E, the Spaniard is clear and forthright. “We think the single-seater aspect is very important for our championship. We want single-seater racing in city centres, because we think the electric cars have a problem, which is perception.” As owner of the Addax teams that compete in the GP2 and GP3 Series respectively, Agag is by no means a novice to motorsport. If anything, his credentials have ser ved to add weight to the vision of Formula E. “To change perception, we wanted to show cars that are cool, fast and racey and that, we think, may change – this may have a very relevant effect on the perception people have about electric cars. We want to increase the number of electric cars in cities – that is the endgame of this championship and for that we think the showcase of single-seaters is a good one.” Aston Martin chairman and Prodrive boss Dave Richards agrees: “The interesting thing about motorsport and the general public and people buying motor cars is that they only buy things that they think will be an advantage to them and motorsport is a wonderful environment to demonstrate technologies that become part of every day motor cars or a period of time. It will be a new form of technology, especially for those living in cities.” Naturally, the series has had its critics. Due to limited battery life, drivers will need to complete a mandatory pitstop mid-race to change into a second car – a feature that 24 GPWEEK.com // 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: >>> FEATURE