The fourth season of Formula E kicked off in Hong Kong at the weekend and before the action had even started, there was much more hype surrounding the championship than ever before. With big manufacturers now starting to fill out the field and prominent names in motorsport beginning to descend upon the paddock, the all-electric racing definitely has much more credibility as a watchable motorsport than ever before.
Unfortunately for Formula 1, it comes just after a dud of a season finale in Abu Dhabi. The actual F1 race was even overshadowed by the eSports final that took place prior to the real thing. Yes, a group of teenagers on simulators made for a more enjoyable watch than what is supposed to be the peak of motorsport. And last weekend's Formula E was so action packed and dramatic that it produced a highlights video that even an entire F1 season round-up couldn't hope to match.
To start with, Jean-Eric Vergne (TeCheetah) managed to take pole position for Race 1 while spinning over the finish line through sheer effort. Throughout the weekend, the final sector saw numerous drivers getting massively sideways in search of an extra few tenths in a fashion never normally seen in current Formula 1. Vergne however took the biscuit in terms of brashness and showed that these cars can be thrown about if needs be.
After a surprisingly clean first corner in Race 1, a red flag was soon flashed due to a blockage of the race track in true public online gaming form. Along the same lines was the amount of body contact - giving someone a proper nudge at the apex of any corner (even if it's your teammate) appears to be very much accepted in Formula E, while in F1 it is seen as dangerous and irresponsible driving. There may be a time when the FIA has to step in and calm the EV racers down, but for now it's very much a welcome sight.
Race 1 winner Sam Bird of DS Virgin Racing also managed to take the victory despite serving a drive-through penalty for nearly running over one of his race engineers in the pits. Many cynics have slammed the car-swap that takes place mid race (something that will be replaced by better batteries next season) but there's no doubting the potential drama that it can lead to.
Every overtake during the race seemed to be a mass of car squirming and brake locking, making for much more rash overtakes than you'd ever see in an F1 race. This is probably because the cars are more robust than their V6 hybrid counterparts seeing as the lower speeds make for less of a development emphasis on aero. If Vettel loses the slightest of components on his front wing, it's a major issue when it comes to cornering speed. Nelson Piquet Junior on the other hand can shunt his front end into an opponent in an attempt to make a crucial overtake and the world can keep spinning.
Race 2 further proved just how hard these drivers push their cars to the limit - after taking pole position, Felix Rosenqvist completely outbraked himself at the first hairpin, causing a huge lockup and forcing him wide. It then looked like the relatively unknown Edoardo Mortara would take the victory, but he himself made the same error, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. It seems that Formula E cars have a certain threshold for fairly sudden and rash inputs but the regenerative braking has its limits that can lead to race-defining mistakes.
It was then Audi Sport's Daniel Abt that took the chequered flag, raising ominous eyebrows across the grid that the automotive superpower was already winning at its first try in the sport. But, as if the motorsport gods still weren't satisfied with their weekend's work, Abt was later disqualified for a 'technical infringement' after post-race scrutineering.
This meant that the race went full circle, with our old friend Rosenqvist taking the win! Jaguar Racing also managed to achieve their first ever podium thanks to Abt's dismissal, furthering the grip of the heavyweight manufacturers in the Formula E field.
Phew...did all of that make sense?
The next round of the championship takes place through in the street of Marrakesh on 13th January. And if you weren't already planning on tuning in, Hong Kong couldn't have done more to convince you. So if you have a motorsport itch to scratch after the somewhat lacking F1 season, get Round 3 of the Formula E Championship in your diary. You won't be disappointed.