What it’s like being a Formula E fan who grew up during the V10 era of F1
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Growing up in the V10 era of Formula 1 was insanely cool. Schumacher, Montoya and Coulthard continually kicking the crap out of each other, reaching speeds well over 200mph with engines spinning north of 18,000rpm. So it might not be immediately obvious that I'm also currently the biggest Formula E fan in the DriveTribe office, without a spark plug in sight.
When you think about it, anyone born in the mid 1990s will have been able to string together thoughts and feelings well enough to have remembered and become fans of F1 during those ten-cylinder glory days, but will now be in their mid twenties and tuning into the all-electric race series that is shaking up the motorsport establishment.
So why is that? Why – having grown up when engines were screaming our heroes to victory back in the day – are millennials like myself more than happy to embrace the whir and hum of Formula E?
I think the first and most crucial factor is that good racing is good racing. The lack of reliance on downforce and the tight street circuits of Formula E mean that driver skill shines through strongly when someone is making a charge up the field.
Guys like Lucas Di Grassi, Mitch Evans and Jean-Eric Vergne are the current pick of the bunch for me in terms of tuning in to some of the greatest car control and pure racing talent in motorsport right now. Overtaking on a Formula E circuit is an incredibly tricky business compared to the wide open expanses of other series, and yet these guys make it look effortless.
With close racing and fine margins comes drama, something that this series is definitely not short of. Last-to-firsts, huge carbon fibre-shattering pileups, oversteery brushes with the walls; if you want to get your money’s worth in 45 minutes of racing, Season 6 of Formula E should be your next port of call.
That kind of action used to be the norm in F1 back in the early 2000s – the cars were slippery, the tyres weren’t slicks velcroed to the track and flat-out driving was a given. Now we’re faced with a clusterfumble of tyre degradation, incredibly fragile aero and fuel saving, with DRS being one of the only things that makes F1 anything other than uninspiring.
Some of the trusty circuits like Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring have managed to inject some adrenaline back into the season, but it’s safe to say that the FIA has a battle on their hands to keep fans as engaged in F1 as when the rulebook opted for the 10-cylinder formula over 20 years ago.
In general, there are three different strains of Formula E watchers. There’s the fully converted, who have only ever known electric racing and have grown up without the attraction to F1. At the other end, there’s the ‘they need V12s’ bunch who no matter what will never get on board with the space age whir of electric motors and jet engine scream of regenerative braking.
And then there’s the V10 children like myself, who have seen both sides of the motorsport spectrum and – with the current rule set – are caught between embracing the spectacle and excitement of Formula E while not wanting to fully let go of the other single-seater series that first made us fall in love with racing.
Something personal that tilts that balance and has me putting my feet in Formula E’s camp is actually taken directly from the V1O era of F1. I am a Jaguar Racing fan and have been since I first set eyes on the leaping cat on Eddie Irvine’s engine cover.
So when the team entered Formula E in Season 3 with James Barclay at the helm, there’s no way I couldn’t tune in to see how they fared. And from Mitch Evan’s first points in 2016 to his pivotal race win in Rome earlier this year, I’ve been hooked.
With Season 6 comes Porsche and Mercedes, two manufacturers that couldn’t bring more motorsport prestige to the FE paddock. And with them may come a whole new stream of LMP1, GTE and DTM fans that simply want to follow the German giants wherever they set rubber to track, much like myself with Jaguar.
I know it may put a chill down many people’s spines to hear it, but I believe there are a surprising amount of similarities between 2000 F1 and 2019 FE, especially in terms of the emotions encountered during a race. Through two very different approaches, they achieve similar results that get the adrenaline going.
If you are in the same camp or not, I’ll be waiting in the comments for you. Especially if you’re in the millenial age bracket, I absolutely want to hear from you guys on this topic.
So please, don’t be shy.