Formula E: Everything you need to know about this electrifying motorsport

In recent times, Formula E has drastically risen in popularity – be it for its eco-credentials or the exciting wheel-to-wheel action that occurs in every race. Established in 2014, the all-electric racing series is now in its sixth season.

Having been granted World Championship status for the coming 2020/21 season and recognised by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) as one of the highest levels of motorsport, it’s no surprise to learn that Formula E attracted over 411 million TV viewers worldwide during the 2018-19 season.

To better understand the motorsport, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the race format, outline the current race calendar and even dive into the technology that powers a Formula E racecar.

Read next: FIA publishes provisional 2020/21 Formula E race calendar

Formula E: The racecar

The current generation Formula E racecar is solely made by Spark Racing Technology (SRT). Unlike in Formula 1, where manufacturers have a lot of input in the aerodynamics and operation of their racecars, in Formula E, everything is standardised – this makes for a level playing field.

Inside the single-seater SRT05e (Spark Gen2) racecar sits an electric motor that outputs 250 kW (335hp) of power; that might not sound like much when pitted against a Formula 1 racecar that has over 745 kW of power (1,000 hp), but the latter still manages 0-62 mph in under 2.8s.

Formula E technology
Credits: ABB Formula E

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To give it the juice it needs, Spark Racing Technology houses a 54kW battery pack made by McLaren Applied Technologies. The battery pack, which resides within the racecar’s carbon fibre and kevlar body, lasts the entire race – there’s no pitting or ‘refuelling’ in Formula E. Once the battery has fully depleted, the racecar will come to a standstill; there have been times where drivers have pushed too hard and not tactically conserved their battery, and as a result, have had to forfeit the race.

Thankfully, Formula E racecars have active regeneration braking technology, where around 30% of power gets transferred back into the battery pack.

In terms of the racecar’s design, the SRT05e is made to have a low drag coefficient – this helps it be as efficient as possible and maximises the battery’s output. By comparison, in a Formula 1 racecar, downforce is prioritised over any other design element; as such, these two racecars behave differently on track.

For safety, Formula E vehicles are fitted with the Formula 1-style Halo cockpit; the Halo system is also used to denote different driving modes – Attack Mode and Fanboost, which we’ll get into, below.

Formula E cornering
Credits: ABB Formula E

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As for the tyres, all Formula E racecars have 18″ Michelin Pilot Sport all-weather tyres. Only two sets of rubber are permitted for the entire racing weekend; in Formula 1, teams have a multitude of different tyre types and compounds to choose from over the same period.

Finally, there’s the infamous spaceship-like noise. Due to Formula E racecars being powered by an all-electric powertrain, they have a noticeable high-pitched whine, which comes from the racing transmission. The sound isn’t too dissimilar to an all-electric road car, such as the Tesla Model S or Porsche Taycan Turbo S.

Due to their comparatively quiet operation, Formula E racecars can race around inner-city circuits. The same couldn’t be said about Formula 1 vehicles which have a thunderous turbocharged V6 hybrid petrol engine, instead.

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Formula E: Gen1 SRT 01E vs Gen2 SRT05e racecar

The Formula E vehicle – now in its second generation – has undergone a few changes since its inaugural season in 2014. Introduced in the 2018-19 seasons, the Gen2 SRT05e all-electric racecar is now more powerful, efficient and will last longer on a single charge over its first-generation predecessor, the SRT 01E.

 Gen1 (Season 1-4)Gen2 (Season 5 to present)
Top Speed140 mph (225 kph)174 mph (280 kph)
Acceleration (0-62 mph)3.0 seconds2.8 seconds
Power in Race Mode180 kW (240 hp)200 kW (270 hp)
Power in Attack ModeN/A250 kW (335 hp)
Battery Capacity28 kWh (x2)54 kWh
Battery Voltage700 Volts900 Volts
Battery weight320 kg385 kg
Minimum Weight880 kg900 kg
Race lengthDependent on track45 minutes + 1 lap

The most notable change comes in the vehicle’s battery pack, where a singular 54 kWh power unit will now last the entirety of the race. Prior to Season 5, Formula E drivers had to come into the pits to quickly swap into another vehicle.

Formula E racecar back
Credits: ABB Formula E

Read next: Williams to supply battery system for Gen3 Formula E racecar

Formula E: Race format and rules

In terms of racing, the E-Prix is dissimilar to what you’ll see in Formula 1. Rather than driving over the course of an entire weekend, where free practice, qualifying and racing are split into separate days, in Formula E these all take place on the very same day.

Formula E: Free Practice

At the start of the day, there are two free practice sessions, which are broken into Practice 1 (45 minutes) and Practice 2 (30 minutes). During this time, drivers have access to the full 250 kW (335 hp) power of their vehicles.

Formula E: Qualifying

Full power remains in qualifying. Here, the 12 teams are broken down into four groups; each contains six drivers, totalling 24 in total. Groupings are defined by the drivers’ position in the Championship standings; in the first race of the season, last year’s Championship positions are used to set the groups.

Once the drivers have been given their groups, they leave the pits in ascending order – each group has six minutes to set a time. Following the times set by all the drivers, the top six times are then given another chance to fight for pole position; much like Formula 1, the fastest cars go against each other.

Named ‘Super Pole’, the six fastest drivers have a lap to prove their worth; the fastest of the bunch not only gets to be at the front of the grid, but also receives three additional Championship points.

Formula E racing
Credits: ABB Formula E

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Formula E: Racing

Formula E has an interesting race format, in that drivers have 45 minutes of continuous racing followed by an additional ‘hot lap’ after the timer runs out. This is triggered by the race leader crossing the finish line and going around the circuit one more time to complete the race.

Aside from the unconventional race format, all vehicles are limited to 200 kW (270hp) of power, where an additional 50 kW can be attained via ‘Attack Mode’ and/or ‘Fanboost’, where combined, they unlock the full 250 kW of power to a Formula E driver.

Formula E race
Credits: ABB Formula E

Attack Mode

To get access to 25 kW of extra power, all drivers can run through designated run-off areas across the circuit; these areas are often considered disadvantageous as they’re off the racing line.

Once a driver has unlocked ‘Attack Mode’, they’ll have a short designed amount of time to use the additional 25 kW of power; the FIA reveals how much time the drivers receive during the race in order to prevent teams from strategising.

Fanboost

The other method to get a boost in power is ‘Fanboost’. Here, drivers rely on the general public to vote for them through the Formula E app, Formula E’s website, or via Twitter using hashtags #FANBOOST + #DriverName. This controversial feature grants five drivers a five-second boost in power.

Voting starts six days prior to the race and remains open up until the 15-minute mark of the race. The additional 25 kW of power can then be utilised by the five fan-favourite drivers after the 22-minute mark. It’s a single-use boost, but can be pivotal in an overtake, whereby combined with ‘Attack Mode’ a driver will have access to the full 250 kW of power.

When either ‘Attack Mode’ or ‘Fanboost’ is used, a driver’s Halo cockpit is illuminated to indicate which mode they’re using; blue for ‘Attack Mode’, purple for ‘Fanboost’.

Formula E cars
Credits: ABB Formula E

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Formula E: Points

After the race, points are awarded to the first ten finishers – they are as follows: first gets 25 points, second 18 points, third 15 points, fourth 12 points, fifth 10 points, sixth 8 points, seventh 6 points, eight 4 points, ninth 2 points and tenth gets 1 point.

Furthermore, there’s an additional point up for grabs for the fastest lap set by one of the top ten drivers. Additionally, there are three points available to any driver that sets the fastest qualifying time.

Formula E crowds
Credits: ABB Formula E

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Formula E: Teams and manufacturers

In the 2019-20 season, there are 12 teams competing for the AAB FIA Formula E Teams’ Championship, and among the teams are 24 drivers looking to take the Drivers’ Championship.

TeamManufacturerDrivers
Envision Virgin RacingAudiSam Bird (2)
Robin Frijns (4)
NIO 333 FE TeamNIOOliver Turvey (3)
Ma Qinghua (33)
Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E TeamMercedesStoffel Vandoorne (5)
Nyck de Vries (17)
GEOX DragonPenskeBrendon Hartley (6)
Nico Müller (7)
Audi Sport ABT SchaefflerAudiLucas di Grassi (11)
Daniel Abt (66)
DS TecheetahDS AutomobilesAntónio Félix da Costa (13)
Jean-Éric Vergne (25)
TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E TeamPorscheNeel Jani (18)
André Lotterer (36)
ROKiT Venturi RacingMercedesFelipe Massa (19)
Edoardo Mortara (48)
Panasonic Jaguar RacingJaguarMitch Evans (20)
James Calado (51)
Nissan e.damsNissanOliver Rowland (22)
Sébastien Buemi (23)
BMW i Andretti MotorsportBMWAlexander Sims (27)
Maximilian Günther (28)
Mahindra RacingMahindraJérôme d'Ambrosio (64)
Pascal Wehrlein (94)

Formula E: Race Calendar 2019-20

The sixth season of the FIA Formula E Championship started on 22 November 2019 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. It was due to finish on 26 July in London, United Kingdom. However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, Formula E will now have a six-race showdown in Berlin to conclude the remainder of the season.

Race 6 to 11 will take place at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, with six races from 5 August to 13 August, which will help decide who will win the 2019/20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship.

Formula E Berlin

Jamie Reigle, Chief Executive Officer of Formula E, said: “Since taking action to suspend our season in March, we have emphasised a revised calendar which places the health and safety of our community first, represents Formula E’s distinct brand of city centre racing and offers an exciting conclusion to the compelling season of racing we had seen so far.

“We’re heading to Berlin Tempelhof, a venue that our teams, drivers and fans love, to stage a nine-day festival of racing with three back-to-back double-headers. The festival will feature three track layouts, presenting a new challenge and creating the conditions for an unpredictable and drama-filled climax to our season.”

Race NumberRace LocationDate
1Diriyah (Saudi Arabia)22 November 2019
2Diriyah (Saudi Arabia)23 November 2019
3Santiago (Chile)13 January 2020
4Mexico City (Mexico)15 February 2020
5Marrakesh (Morocco)29 February 2020
6Berlin (Germany)5 August 2020
7Berlin (Germany)6 August 2020
8Berlin (Germany)8 August 2020
9Berlin (Germany)9 August 2020
10Berlin (Germany)12 August 2020
11Berlin (Germany)13 August 2020

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Formula E: How to watch

There are numerous ways to watch Formula E for free. In the UK, you can watch it through the BBC – BBC Red Button, iPlayer and the BBC website. Elsewhere, you’ll be able to stream or watch it on live television; depending on where you live, you’ll find the best service listed on the FIA’s website.

That concludes our in-depth guide to Formula E, if you found this guide useful or would like to ask us a question, let us know in the comments section below. Alternatively, reach out to us via social media: we’re on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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