Formula E generates fresh spark in racing
Green technology’s answer to Formula 1 is preparing for the green light in Beijing despite many saying it would never get off the start line, and although it may not have the glitz and glamour of its illustrious counterpart, it’s succeeded in attracting i
Green technology's answer to Formula 1 is preparing for the green light in Beijing despite many saying it would never get off the start line.
Alejandro Agag, the man leading the world's first all-electric car racing series, laughingly describes himself as an 'old petrolhead' who likes a bit of noise.
The joke stops there, however. The 43-year-old chief executive has silenced the doubters who only two years ago were questioning whether he could turn his 'Formula E' plans into reality and next week he hopes to show he is on to a winner.
The first race, or 'ePrix', will be held in Beijing on September 13, sanctioned by the International Automobile Federation and broadcast around the world, and Agag is smiling at how perceptions have changed. "Many people thought this (series) was not going to happen because it was a really difficult project to put together. There were no cars, no cities, no sponsors, no television," the Spaniard told Reuters in an interview. "Now people have seen the testing, they've seen the cars, they can walk in the Olympic Park in Beijing and see all the fences and walls so the race is happening. So that really changes the minds of people." If Formula One remains in a league of its own, with the glamour of Ferrari coupled with the allure of tracks like Monaco and Monza, Agag has a different audience in mind - one that is younger and more interested in social media than motorsport.
"We have one thing in which we are the best. We are the cleanest," said the chief executive.
"And for the world today, that's probably the most important thing.
"The world is changing and the world is not any more so concerned about the fastest or the noisiest. But it is concerned about who is doing things that are better for the environment. And in that Formula E is unbeatable."
Agag is used to comparisons being made with Formula One, even if Formula E will race in city centres, over shorter distances and with very different cars.
The Spaniard is in any case perfectly placed to deal with them, having been involved in both.
As well as a longstanding involvement in Formula One feeder series GP2, he was a business partner at London soccer club Queens Park Rangers with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore.
"We are big fans of Formula One and whoever tries to compete with Formula One will fail," said Agag.
"From Fangio to Fittipaldi to Senna to Schumacher to famous racetracks, the glory and the drama; All that Formula One has behind it is so important for motorsport that it's impossible to fight with that.
"What we try to build is something complementary, which may be smaller, and at the