A NOTE ON FE - SEASON 8 PREVIEW
Formula E returns in January for Season 8, but will the final outing for Generation 2 emerge from the cloud that continues to hover over the sport's governing body?
For the record - I've really enjoyed the last few seasons of Formula E. So when the Motorsports Fan Survey was published earlier in the year I was disappointed to see the drop in viewership. Now, in the final weeks before the season opener in Saudi Arabia I have an incline that audiences will want to tune in. For the racing? Sure, but with Season 8 being the final year for the current car generation there aren't many significant upgrades compared to last year. I for one am looking forward to any coverage involving Venturi Team CEO Susie Wolff, whose comments about the FIA just weeks ago were the strongest of all the reactions in the wake of the F1 debacle in Abu Dhabi.
The Diriyah E-Prix marks the return of an official FIA event since that momentous day. A day which, for me, shot so hard that the bruises still linger. The lack of trust in the sport's governing body cannot be healed by a new sporting season alone, but their actions over the course of the coming races will be watched with scrutinising accuracy. It gives me hope that the E-branch of motorsport will have a few extra eyes on it, but the sport also needs changes of its own if it wants to grow.
"The beauty of good iconography is that it already tells us everything we need to know, a lesson in simplicity that I hope translates into the live broadcast."
The return of Formula E also marks the return of the London-2012-Olympic-logo-style type face that, I'm sorry to say, I have a hesitancy warming to. I do though think that the Rob Clarke branding for Formula E is superb for print - the glyph iconography is something straight out of i-D magazine, but bringing these modern-emojis to life in the form of flashing chevrons on the timing screens is headache inducing at best. The branding itself may be award winning, but converting the graphics for live sports needs more refinement. The beauty of good iconography is that it already tells us everything we need to know, a lesson in simplicity that I hope translates into the live broadcast.
In terms of car development, much is riding on the new Generation 3 cars that will launch in 2023. Early reports and the launch in December showed that they are smaller, lighter and faster - all the boxes ticked on a race-fan's Wishlist. In what will be McLaren's final year as battery-suppliers, this season does however feature the best yet in terms of prolonged battery life. The 10% increase compared to 2021 will (ideally) increase the number of overtakes or slightly reduce the efforts of energy conservation towards the end of a race. Remember that unlike tyres in Formula 1, batteries in Formula E cars cannot simply be swapped out to get the car to the end so any additional energy will surely be seen as a positive. We also know from the 2021 Monaco E-Prix - arguably the highlight race of last season - that Formula E cars can attack even on the tightest of circuits.
And as for predictions? Well, similarly to Formula 1 it would be unwise to rule out the Mercedes. In what looks to be their seemingly-final year in the sport, the talents of reigning Champion Nyck De Vries is one that will likely need to be beaten in order to gain the title. Perhaps fresh-out-of-F1 Antonio Giovanazzi can make an impression? He for one will be keen to demonstrate his skills to potential teams before the door on his F1 future is firmly closed. Rumours are that Merc EQ are looking to Jaguar to take over the running of their team for Generation 3, but these are yet to be confirmed - what is conceivable is Mercedes will want to end their year on a high.
The 2022 season will also (for now) see the sport's newest city added to the calendar, Seoul. Twice delayed due to the global pandemic, the new Jamsil-based circuit reaches to a corner of the world largely ignored by many motorsport calendars. It will, like all other locations, hold a double-header, including this season's finale in the summer month of August - vacation anyone? The official calendar still to this day states that all races are subject to change, but I sincerely hope the sport is able to navigate the complexities of travelling throughout the ongoing pandemic.
In the wake of the quarrels that continue to linger from Formula 1, it looks as though the return of Formula E is a welcome one for a lot of motorsport fans. It's an auspicious chance for the sport to plunder the lost motorsport fans still reeling from Abu Dhabi - a chance unlikely to come round again. However, the sport needs more than some adrift fans looking for somewhere to put their love for season 8 to be successful. From new cities to closely-guarded stewarding, it'll be the on-track action more than anything that'll keep folks returning each week.