In its inaugural season, Formula E expects to reach a worldwide television audience of hundreds of millions – an impressive tally for a debut series. Although there are no confirmed figures of the global average from its opening year, fans appear to have taken to the first fully electric racing series.
It is estimated that Formula E’s maiden race in Beijing attracted a global audience of 40 million, while 75,000 spectators were at the track and a total of one billion social media interactions flourished on the internet during the race, according to motorsport’s governing body the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.
Putting fans first is one of the key aims of the sport; this can be seen through the way it has given fans and media accessibility to the drivers, tracks and events throughout a racing weekend. “It feels like everyone involved in Formula E has a unified goal of working together and making it a success,” says Formula E’s pit lane reporter Nicki Shields. “Even the drivers who have had bad days, the last thing they really want to do is give an interview, but 99 per cent of the time they will.”
Fox Sports broadcasts Formula E to more than 80 countries worldwide, while ITV delivers the race action live to the UK. As a free-view channel, ITV gives the public access to all rounds without an annual subscription fee, allowing for larger audiences.
“The sport needs to grow and appeal to people who aren’t fans yet,” says ITV’s Jennie Gow. “It’s all about reaching out to new people and a new generation; taking Formula E to schools and getting them to join will be key in appealing to new fans.” It would be an innovative way of growing grass-roots interest in the series and there is a lot to attract it.
Formula E isn’t just a new series, it is pioneering and that will always polarise opinions. The electric motors produce little noise and the drivers need to change cars during the races due to limited battery life. It has angered some hard-core racing fans, but drawn in a lot of new ones.
Perhaps the greatest power fans have comes through its ‘FanBoost’ system which allows them to vote online for their favourite drivers with the winner getting an additional boost of 50bhp for five seconds during the race
“The most common feedback I’ve heard is that the racing is great,” says Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls. “Despite whatever the [hard-core race fans] might think of the series itself, they can’t deny that the racing has been great.”
The series is leading the way in the use of social media to involve an international fan base. Amlin Aguri currently have the largest Twitter following with more than 12,000 backers, while championship leaders e.DAMS Renault have about half that. Amlin conduct weekly competitions, engage with their fans and share information that no F1 team would dream of doing.
Mahindra Racing even let their fans choose the name of the car that drivers Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok would pilot – Mahindra Nitro.
Perhaps the greatest power fans have in Formula E comes through its “FanBoost” system which allows them to vote online for their favourite drivers with the three winners getting an additional power boost of 50bhp for five seconds during the race. “As a hard-core motorsport fan, I should be opposed to it, but in general I think it’s a great way to get the fans involved,” says Mr Nicholls, “FanBoost doesn’t turn a rubbish driver into a race winner, but it does provide an extra small edge over the competition.”
Formula E has grasped the growing popularity of social media to share the best of what it has to offer and bring fans closer to the action.