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SBD Global/February 21, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Bernie Ecclestone Says FIA's New All-Electric Racing Series, Formula E, Is 'A Bit Of A Joke'

Rome, Italy is one of two confirmed host cities for the newly created Formula E.
Formula E is expected to debut in ’14 and hopes to change the perception of electric cars, which have a stigma of being impractical, slow and only a limited range, but so far the pitch isn't working on the F1 circuit's big boss. F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone seems skeptical of motorsports governing body FIA’s new all-electric racing series and called it “a bit of a joke.” Ecclestone reckons that Formula E is politically driven by people who “thought they ought to do something in motorsports.” So, how do you attract the average motorsports fan who loves the roar of a powerful engine and the distinctive smell of burning gasoline to watch, as Ecclestone described it, a “little car, which doesn’t make any noise?” One way is to use a veteran racecar manufacturer such as McLaren to provide the drivetrain and electronics for the new series. McLaren Racing Managing Dir Jonathan Neale said, “I think it’s a great opportunity for McLaren Electronics to use a lot of the know-how that we have. To have high-performance electric vehicles racing in city centers will attract a lot of people. It will entice people to look at racing and the high technology aspects and see what great leverage there is for racing pushing relevant technologies.”

KEEPING THE F1 FEEL: Formula E cars will look very similar to the single-seat, open-wheel F1 cars. The similarity between Formula E and F1 could become the new racing series’ downfall, as F1 is “moving to be a much more energy constraint series,” Neale said. “We move from V8 to V6 technology next year, direct injected, turbo charged and with a much more powerful energy recovery and energy storage system, which is much more relevant to the automotive manufacturers. We will continue to push in that direction, we will be limited on the amount of fuel flow that can happen.” While Neale does not see Formula E as a competitor to F1 in the short term, he said he sees “the nature of Formula E and the direction that Formula One is going as congruent.” Formula E is still a work and progress and nothing has been firmed up yet, however, the series has already two confirmed host cities, Rio de Janeiro and Rome, as well as one confirmed team, Drayson Racing. Lotus F1 Team Principal Éric Boullier said that it is too early to make any predictions, but “being involved in my previous life in many different racing series, I didn’t see many of them surviving, so let’s wait and see." Meanwhile, Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag did not respond to requests for comment on Ecclestone's remarks or the latest plans for the series.
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