The Business of Formula E Doc of the Week

The Business of Formula E

Now in its fourth season, Formula E is Formula 1 for electric-powered cars with ten teams battling it out for supremacy on street circuits around the world. This documentary follows the entourage from city to city and offers a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes as the various teams prepare for the next big race. eir sport 1, Mon, Feb 5th 21.30

It’s been called motor racing for Formula 1 cast-offs, but series founder Alejandro Agag is confident that Formula E will be the biggest show in town within two decades. Indeed, with all the main engine manufacturers actively looking for options beyond the use of fossil fuels, he could well be right.

There is no doubt that the motor industry is moving in the direction of electric-powered vehicles. With sustainability at its heart, the advent of Formula E is a reflection of this trend. Indeed, Agag firmly believes that Formula E will become the dominant motorsport championship because it is the one best connected to the industry.

Agag’s belief is borne out by the fact that more and more major players, including BMW, Mercedes and Porsche, are joining the Formula E bandwagon. While the engines may be quieter (which is big no-no for some motorsports enthusiasts), the quick pace of technological advancement mean that electric cars are already giving their petrol counterparts a run for their money. The future has arrived!


The 2017-18 championship is being contested over 12 rounds by ten teams in ten cities. Each team has two drivers. Hong Kong hosted the first two races of the season, with final venue New York set to host two as well.

Practice, qualifying and the race itself all take place on the same day. There are usually two practice sessions in the morning - an opening 45-minute session followed by another lasting half an hour. This is followed by an hour-long qualifying session. For this, the drivers are divided into four groups of five, with each group having six minutes to set their best lap. Each driver may only use one car. At the end of the session, the five fastest drivers go out again one-by-one to determine the top five grid positions.

The race itself takes approximately 50 minutes during which drivers are obliged to make a pit stop to change cars while pit crew assist with the change of seat belts etc. For safety reasons, there is a minimum required time for these pit stops which changes from venue to venue. Tyre changes, unless required due to a puncture or other reason, are not permitted during the mandatory pit stop.

In a major departure from traditional Formula 1 racing rules, fans are actively encouraged to vote for their favourite driver on social media. Known as ‘Fanboost’, voting starts six days before the race itself and ends six minutes after the start. The top three drivers are awarded an additional energy surge which they can use during a five-second power window in the closing stages of the race.


The point scoring system is also different to Formula 1. Points are awarded to the top ten drivers using the standard FIA system. However, three points are also awarded to the driver who wins the pole position, while the driver who sets the fastest lap while also finishing in the top ten receives an additional point.

Now four rounds in to the 2017-18 campaign following races in Hong Kong (2), Marrakech and Santiago, the next grand prix is set for Mexico City at the beginning of March. The season ends in mid-July.

It’s still early days for the sport, but Formula E has already made remarkable progress over the past three years. Racing power has been increased from 170W to 180W for the new season. That means longer and faster races and more which is sure to attract more spectators.

With a new, technologically-advanced car recently unveiled ahead of the 2018-19 season, there is no doubt that we are going to hear plenty more about Formula E in the years to come.

Images: Getty

There are plenty of great documentaries to watch out for on the eir sport pack every week. From football to golf, GAA, rugby, athletics and beyond, we’ve got something for everyone. Watch out next week for another fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the sporting world or go to for more sports news and stories or to find out more about how we're setting sport free.

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