Inside line a visit to the berlin eprix and related musings grand prix 247 electricity 1 unit how many watts


Last year I made a brief visit to the Berlin ePrix, paid a nominal entry fee and with my wife we roamed around for an hour or two before departing. Because at the time this was a social visit of sorts, not planned, just stumbled on it and got a taste.

Last century the airport halls and the adjoining buildings, described by British architect Sir Norman Foster as “the mother of all airports”, were built as a symbol of Adolf Hitler’s world capital dream of Germania and was intended to become the gateway to Europe.

Fast forward to 2018 and the Berlin ePrix, first and foremost all I can do is lavish praise on Alejandro Agag and his team who make Formula-E happen. The whole operation is a lesson in astounding logistics, meticulous organisation, targeted marketing and slick major event hosting. Hassle-free springs to mind.

On the corporate side, there is a growing band of blue-chip companies getting involved in Formula-E. Already Audi are heavily committed with their team run by Allen McNish, as are Renault, Andretti, Penske, Citroen and Jaguar. Mercedes and Porsche are soon to be added to the ten-team list.

In the official overview for Formula-E it says: “In 2012, the concept of all-electric international single-seater racing was born. FIA President Jean Todt developed the idea as a means to demonstrate the potential of sustainable mobility. Inspired by this vision, Formula-E Founder and CEO Alejandro Agag created a global entertainment brand with motor racing at its heart.”

Race day in sunny Berlin was packed. The five massive temporary stands (probably good for a couple of thousand people seated on each) appeared full to capacity. Those who paid five bucks entry fee had to watch from the trackside through the fences. At the start of the race, without a free seat in the stands, there were two or three rows deep with spectators aligning the track fencing to get a glimpse of the action.

The fact that local German hero Daniel Abt qualified on pole created a big buzz among the crowd and then going on to win produced a lively and enthusiastic post-race celebration ceremony. Abt and his fans were happy and they showed it in style in the podium arena, by then my cameras were packed and I just savoured the celebration.

Before the race, 2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg did the first public demo laps in the Formula-E Gen2, enthusiastically describing the experience live to fans over several giant TV screens strategically scattered around the venue. A good part of the day for fans, attending an ePrix, is spent peering at the giant TVs.

I have previously watched (on TV) Formula-E races that were exciting, but this one on the day was a dull procession at the front with Abt leading home Audi teammate Lucas di Grassi by six seconds and Jules Vergne taking third for Techeetah a further six seconds adrift.

As a racing fan this is what you did: find your regular spot at your favourite section of the track, reserve places on a section of prefab stands for mates, haul out the cooler bags, spread the homemade grub and in the process watch non-stop racing from 9am to sundown, with maybe an hour lunch break for a visit to the pits.

Yes, F1 does have support races during the course of a race weekend, in most instances, they share the track with Formula 2, GP3 and Porsche Super Cup. All with high potential of entertainment, yet I always find it (sad and) remarkable how few people are in the stands watching these support races, including Formula 2!

But modern fans appear to have spoken to the marketing gurus – no doubt through social media and surveys – and fans want concerts, paddock club, fan zones, simulators, go-karts, bouncing castles, kiddie zones and (expensive) food. In other words, they can go to the ‘races’ and have a day filled with ‘fun’ but don’t ask who finished fourth.

With this in place and perhaps another junior series – a Formula 3E of sorts – they will deliver an action-packed day or two of real racing. I presume this will be the logical road they will follow into the future, to the point that I envisage a total electric motorsport world living in parallel with the traditional motorsport categories.

The new car – the Gen2 that Rosberg drove – is equally good looking, perhaps even more sci-fi looking and will be capable of running a full one hour race without a change of cars. But despite all the good stuff, the thing that stands out for me is the lack of noise.

However, the eyes defy the ears because the boys are toiling hard in those Spark chassis with ridiculously narrow rear tyres (Note to Mr Agag: Please make those rear tyres twice the width) while extracting the maximum from their performance, and let’s be honest there are some top notch drivers among the drivers currently plying their trade in Formula-E.

I am not going to elaborate but it is an impressive field of drivers: Andre Lotterer, Lucas di Grassi, Sam Bird, Neel Jani, Sebastien Buemi, Luca Filippi, Jean-Eric Vergne, Stephane Sarrazin, Antonio Felix da Costa, Oliver Turvey, Daniel Abt to name some.

As much as professional beach football (soccer for our USA mates) is fun and filled with action – plenty goals, great atmosphere, amazing skills, fast and furious – but it will always be second or even third tier behind proper first top-tier football.

I reckon, while I am still around on this planet, Formula 1 (as we know it now and how it plans to evolve) will always be a level or two up on Formula-E, but the potential exists to serve each other well and to co-exist with mutual benefits.

Formula-E has the capacity to attract city fans, not necessarily racing die-hards, who seldom have the opportunity or inclination to watch motor racing. Good marketing and reasonable prices, as well as the promise of ‘fun things to do’ on the day, attract these fans who may get ‘bitten by the motorsport bug’ and decide to explore motor racing beyond Formula-E.

Wearing my editor hat, I must admit that earlier this year I toyed with a plan to add Formula-E coverage to GrandPrix247 or create a Formula-E247 site, but that has gone out the window because the electric version of our sport does not incite the same kind of passion felt for Formula 1, which in turns inspires what goes into producing this site.