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Formula E starts with a bang
Formula E hosted its first event in Beijing this weekend, proving that an all electric motor racing championship can be just as thrilling to watch as Formula 1. The most talked-about twist was Nicolas Prost’s final corner crash, but the racing model itself has the potential to disrupt motor sports for good.

Rather than taking place at a dedicated venue, Formula E is a “pop up” racing event, taking over a different city centre each time for a short period of time to carry out practices and the race itself. And then there are the cars; quieter than traditional F1 cars, as you might expect, the overall sound of the race is closer to a bunch of kids playing with remote control race cars, the roar of engines replaced by the whirring of gearboxes.

“We expect this championship to become the framework for research and development around the electric car, a key element for the future of our cities,” says event co-founder Alejandro Agag, who came up with the idea alongside motor sport executive Jean Todt back in 2011.

There is also an extra layer of competition to Formula E, as each driver is behind the wheel of exactly the same Renault motor. Usually each team does its best to gain the advantage through innovations in engineering on their own cars. “That leads to two variables affecting the outcome of the race,” says Kabir Chibber at Quartz, “the quality of the car and the quality of the driver. Without a level playing field on the former variable, it’s impossible to evaluate the latter – and tell who is really winning.” There are two cars assigned to each team; as yet, the charge on one electric motors doesn’t last the entire race, and so a pit stop lasting a minimum of one minute is enforced, to maintain this level playing field.

Unfortunately, this fairness is unlikely to last, as it looks like teams will be able to design their own cars as early as next year. Still, it was nice while it lasted.

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