• The Inside line

Marketing Formula E

Kate Walker
July 13, 2013
Plans for Formula E are taking shape © FIA

One of the things that has never made sense to me about the Formula One calendar is the way we race from March to late November, returning to Europe when the weather is at its worst.

For a sport that spends its time chasing the sunshine around the world, it seems like an odd decision. Why not race from September to June, with time off and testing over the summer, and the factory shut-down over Christmas?

It's an idea that's also occurred to the Formula E promoters, who will be racing from autumn to spring, when the rest of the motorsport world is entering shutdown mode. Public shutdown mode, at any rate.

The likely success - or failure - of Formula E has been a topic of hot discussion in the F1 paddock in recent months, with many wondering whether electric racing will take off, and whether this is the right concept with which to launch it.

I'm of the opinion that as long as Formula E doesn't expect existing motorsport fans to be its target audience, it's in with a fighting chance. While motorsport fans might take a curious look at the new series to get a sense of what's what, I fear that the driving standards alone will not be enough to really excite those who associate racing with the roar of engines and the smell of motor oil.

But to urbanite hipsters with G-Wizzes and electric scooters and racing games downloaded onto their iPad thingamy-bobs, Formula E could be just the ticket. It's got green credentials, the potential to be a catalyst for interesting technological developments, and it's shiny, new, and urban, with short races ideal for attention spans developed in the age of the internet.

Whether or not Formula E is successful will, in my opinion, depend on how well the promoters do at reaching this target market of avid technology computers more interested in screens than engines. Given that they won't be missing the roar of a V8 engine in the first place, it won't matter that the cars sound different, that races are characterised more by the squeal of tyres.

We petrolheads can be very dismissive of electric racing. But it's not for us, and perhaps it wasn't ever meant to be.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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