Formula E: Key factors for Season 8's success
A year of stability, format changes and a nod to the future of the sport accumulated into Formula E's most successful year yet.
Up until this year, it's been easy to overlook Formula E as a season-long spectacle. Catching races here-or-there, or tuning in if one was perusing YouTube or mainstream television, but it was Season 8 that needed the full attention of its audience - and it succeeded.
It's no secret that Formula E has had to battle harder than most to be where it is now, and in less than a decade it has managed to establish a full-blown global racing championship and capitalising on the areas where the biggest sport can't go. Racing in city centres, pollution-free and without the need of earplugs has arguably been its most attractive prospect. The London E-Prix for example was accessible via the newly-launched train line, the Elizabeth Line, allowing for easy and accessible access to a major racing championship in one of the most populous cities on the planet. But all of this wasn't possible before Season 8, and its a culmination of these things that have elevated Formula E to new heights.
THE CROWDS RETURN
The most visible difference between Seasons 7 and 8 was the return of fans to the events. Tickets for Formula E are significantly cheaper than it's combustion-based sibling, with main Grandstand for the London E-Prix costing around a quarter of the price of an equivalent seat in Silverstone (£49 vs £199 according to 2022 figures). There's also a significant difference for fans when it comes to being closer, literally, to the stars of the sport - meet-and-greets with the drivers are a staple event within Formula E, and a stark contrast to the veil of exclusivity that represents the Formula 1 Paddock.
Throughout the year, Formula E recorded record crowds in Monaco, Mexico City, Brooklyn and Jakarta, a testament to the fan's willingness to embrace the sport in its entirety. In London, Jake Dennis noted that he could hear the support of the home crowd cheering him on during qualifying and the British fans walked away from the event celebrating a local winner.
A (MOSTLY) STABLE CALENDAR
After a few years of delays and cancellations, Formula E has truly benefited from its expanded, and undisrupted calendar. With the exception being Canada, which was cancelled due to Covid restrictions, Season 8 was at last able to reach long-planned destinations like South Korean and Indonesia. The success of Formula E is down to its ability to race in the city centre, and racing on the streets of Brooklyn with a backdrop of New York City was one that stood out as a reminder of that.
Despite its urban settings, the sport still manages to secure a sport in racing-royalty's crown jewel - Monaco. The only identical track to F1, Formula E demonstrated (and more or less proved) that overtaking is possible on the legendary circuit. In fact, Formula E's success in the Principality may prove to save the track long-term, which has come under fire in F1 for its lack of action.
Next year Season 9 continues the expansion to new territory, adding Hyderabad & São Paulo to the calendar. Drivers have openly expressed their wish for a race in Tokyo, a match made for the sport's modern, electrifying image.
Going into the penultimate city of the Season saw 4 drivers still in heavy contention for the driver's championship. Formula E has consistently seen tight title battles to the end of the year, and Season 8 saw arguably the strongest lineup in its history with the ability to fairly fight to the end. The changes in qualifying this year quite clearly prioritised the fastest drivers over pure drama. It was exciting to see the grid reversed in early years, but as the sport begins to take itself even more seriously, it was an ode to the top drivers that they were no longer penalised for being fast. The result in changes saw the introduction of duels for the top 8 positions, and a pole shootout that couldn't be influenced by other drivers. The overall impression felt fair and satisfying and worthy of tuning in for.
GEN 3 LAUNCH
This channel has openly criticised Formula E's graphics in the past, and whilst some of the in-race typography seems a little clunky, the use of design in print, marketing and - finally - on the car, is remarkable. When the Gen 3 car was announced and launched in Monaco earlier this year there was a true mixture of perplexity and apprehension from the drivers on the car's image. Throughout the remainder of the year, Formula E have been exceptional in hyping up audiences and the press about the car's launch, with special events that allowed for prototype close-ups in Fan Zones and livery tests at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Saying goodbye to Gen 2 became in itself, an event. The final race in Seoul was almost a testimonial to appreciate the enormous leap from the Gen 1 car. There's no doubt that it likely added to the record crowds, who themselves would have wanted to see the current cars one last time. The hype around Gen 3 has carried the conversation throughout the second half of the season at a time where it's easier to lose interest.
The car itself, whilst divisive on the design, is a statement in it's mission to be different to F1. Gen 2 was a a hybrid design of an electric vision and the then-F1 turbo-hybrid cars. Now, as the electric car industry begins to move away from the typical, traditional "curve" design to a deliberate "angles" approach, it firmly announces itself as the future of motorsport.
Finally, as we wait patiently for Season 9, Gen 3 demonstrated that Formula E is embracing its identity.