Sophie Clare interviewed Jack Aitken, former reserve driver for Williams and Renault in Formula 1 and a current rookie for Formula E’s Envision Racing team.
This season Jack Aitken is competing in the European Le Mans Series, the ADAC GT Masters and the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup. Within this busy racing schedule he was also in Berlin for Formula E’s Season 9 Rookie Test. During a conversation at the Berlin Tempelhof street circuit, Aitken shared his thoughts in the run-up to the testing session.
Sophie: How did you find being out of the driver’s seat this weekend? Are there lessons that the drivers have applied with the changing conditions, track surface, which you can apply tomorrow?
Jack Aitken: Yeah, I mean so I came a couple of days early just so I could see what was going on and try and absorb some information. To be honest, it’s not my favourite activity to be just hanging around at the track, spare, with no driving to do, because I did a lot of that when I was in F1. But yeah, I did pick up some useful things and everyone’s been really really helpful in helping get me up to speed.
S: Do you think that Formula E has a particular appeal to drivers like yourself, who may have been reserve drivers or in feeder series? What do you think has attracted a lot of you to the rookie test?
JA: I think yeah it’s not so much to do with my reserve stuff, it was more just because I’ve been trying a lot of different cars lately, and Formula E is something that was an option, something that I’m interested in. So I’ve wanted to try the car for a long time now, just to see what it’s like because I’ve heard it’s very different. The opportunity came up with Envision, who are obviously doing very well at the moment, so I’m just quite happy to join in for the rookie test and get a taste for it.
S: There’s been this amazing fan atmosphere here this weekend, so much overtaking and racing action — what do you think is the unique selling point for Formula E which makes drivers and fans alike so enthusiastic about it?
JA: Well Formula E just has the opportunity to do things from the ground up a little bit more differently, and that goes for things like the qualifying format, also the way that the racing plays out with strategy, and even the way that they set up things like the paddock. I think it’s a refreshing thing to see it done a bit differently. I will hold comment on the car until I’ve driven it, but at least from the simulator it is also something that also has a unique style to it. I think it’s a very interesting challenge, because the car has a lot of power but relatively a lot less grip. You know, usually when you move up from single seater cars, from a lower grade to a higher grade, grip and power go up the same amount relatively. And here we have a very powerful car that relatively has not much grip. So it’s a different style for sure.
S: I’m sure that energy management will also be an interesting challenge and something new to take on.
JA: Yeah, of course, that’s a big part of it as well. I’ve played with it a little bit in other series with fuel – I mean energy saving whether it’s fuel or electricity is kind of the same concept. So that’s less different, it’s just more intense here [with Formula E].
Both Aitken and the Envision Racing team were pleased with the results of the rookie testing. Damage to the chassis of Sebastien Buemi’s vehicle during the race weekend meant that Aitken and fellow rookie Jonny Edgar had reduced time on track, however the team was focused on gaining insight, collecting data and understanding before the second half of the Formula E season.
From the Envision team’s outstanding performance in the Monaco E-Prix just two weeks after testing in Berlin, their hard graft is continuing to pay off. Nick Cassidy executed a remarkable 10 overtakes during the Monaco E-Prix’s 29 laps, even overtaking on the outside which is almost unthinkable in the Monte Carlo street circuit. Cassidy’s victory in the Principality marked his second consecutive race win following on from Berlin, bringing himself and the team to the top of both drivers’ and constructors’ standings.
With the rookie testing complete for this season, it remains to be seen whether any of those rookies will take the step up into Formula E in the future, but it is certain that the opportunity to spend time on track in the GEN3 was valuable for teams and rookies alike.
Sophie Clare details her experience attending the second Berlin E-Prix race and Formula E’s Season 9 Rookie testing.
The second round of the SABIC 2023 Berlin E-Prix began with a rainy morning, quite the contrast to the sunshine on Saturday. After arriving on-site at Tempelhof, I sheltered from the weather in the media centre to watch qualifying (although we ventured into the rain to watch parts of the Duels!). Qualifying saw an amazing front-row lockout for the ABT CUPRA team, with Robin Frijns and Nico Müller putting in two stand-out performances despite wet and variable track conditions, as drier lines appeared during the course of the session. The ABT CUPRA team’s excellent result in the very first wet session of the GEN3 era was also voted as Formula E fans’ Moment of Berlin and marked the team’s first points of the season.
After qualifying we enjoyed some time in the pit lane, where the rain certainly wasn’t dampening anyone’s spirits… The Jaguar TCS garage had a fantastic playlist featuring Umbrella by Rihanna! I was pleased to have a tour around the garage from Emily Hogg, who discussed her role as Senior PR and Communications Officer and showed us the behind-the-scenes of the team’s setup. Emily explained about the different responsibilities within a communications role, in particular how these vary between race weekends and the more typical work-week in the office. When behind a desk, her role focuses on developing communications strategies for upcoming race weekends, such as planning engagement with regional markets. During the weekend, the strategies and plans are put into effect with the production of social media content, writing of press releases, hosting VIPs and influencers and often collaborating with local Jaguar teams with a presence in each race location. Each race provides unique opportunities, for example the Monaco E-Prix is a valuable chance to connect with publications in the lifestyle, fashion, travel and luxury consumer spaces; bringing Formula E and its teams and drivers to new audiences beyond the motorsport world.
The Abt Cupra drivers had been hoping for a wet race to continue their excellent performance from quali, but the weather nonetheless started to warm up and dry out. We therefore watched the race start from our trusty trackside vantage point, with a sunny atmosphere that mirrored the previous race. The racing action was not quite as chaotic as on Saturday, although there was still a whopping number of overtakes and tense moments. After a few laps we were quickly rushing through the paddock to watch the majority of the race from the DS PENSKE team garage! Nathalie Dumas, Communications Manager from DS Performance was kind enough to invite us. It was amazing to observe the action from the garage alongside Femme Speed’s Gracie Talia Ross, and Lena Ferle from Formula Nerds. With our headsets tuned into the team radio, I especially enjoyed hearing some of Jean-Eric Vergne’s messages to the team in French: helping ensure the weekend counts towards my Year Abroad language immersion! It was a wonderful insight into how the trackside team members experience each race.
Excitingly, Jean-Eric Vergne secured a third place podium and maintained his third place position in the drivers’ championship – reducing his gap to the leader Pascal Wehrlein. Stoffel Vandoorne also scored valuable points for the DS PENSKE team, which maintained its fourth place in the teams’ championship. As the cars returned to the pit lane and the podium finishers parked in the Allianz Fan Village, we followed the DS PENSKE team members across the track and enjoyed the celebratory atmosphere of the podium! It truly was an exhilarating experience and a highlight from another historic Formula E weekend. Following the podium celebrations, it was once again time for the press conference and media pens. As well as familiar faces from the Formula E grid, there was also the opportunity for the media to speak with drivers taking part in the Season 9 Rookie test the following day. I had the chance to talk with Jack Aitken about the Rookie test and his thoughts on Formula E – read more here!
The rookie test quickly rolled around on Monday which had a very different, peaceful atmosphere once the site was empty of spectators. Staff were starting to unpack the track, and the pit lane and paddock was a lot quieter. This was a great opportunity to explore the grid away from the hectic atmosphere of the main race weekend, especially because events like Rookie testing place an emphasis on practice, experience and data collection rather than competition. I enjoyed meeting Viktoria Wohlrapp, who is Motorsport Communications Spokesperson for Porsche and gave me a tour of their team garage. It was interesting to observe as Yifei Yi prepared for the practice session, particularly watching all the small details that go into getting the car and driver out on track.
Viktoria also took me over to the Avalanche Andretti garage, where it was lovely to meet their Formula E and Extreme E Communications Manager Lewis Mitchell. I watched the rest of the testing session from the Andretti garage and it was nice to hear the Communications staff – albeit working for competing teams – discussing their plans for the upcoming Monaco E-Prix and working together towards shared goals. This is something which consistently strikes me about the Formula E paddock is the wonderful feeling of community. Even though the teams are competing for the Championship, there is a great sense of camaraderie and collaboration across all aspects of the sport; from media to engineers, drivers to race officials. Everyone involved dedicates hard graft to produce high quality sport and entertainment, as evidenced by the cumulative growth of fan engagement and a whopping 20% year-on-year increase to a cumulative audience of 381 million during last year’s Season 8. Overall, Formula 2 champion Felipe Drugovich scored the fastest lap time of the rookie test, setting a fastest time just two tenths of a second off the best time set in practice by Maximilian Guenther during the main race weekend – in the same Maserati MSG Racing car.
To conclude the race weekend it was time for a final wander through the pit lane with Abi Jackson and Soph Upton, some of a lovely and talented group of motorsport influencers who I met during the race weekend as well as Ashley Eleanor, Monique Adriana and Antonia Rankin. It was great to learn more about working as an influencer and how each of them are achieving exciting milestones: they were also taking part in the launch of Formula E’s new simulator racing series Accelerate Amped, which will continue at the oncoming E-Prix rounds in Rome and London.
Ultimately, being back in the Formula E paddock was a highlight of my time here in Berlin. It was a wonderful opportunity to get up close to the racing action, which I won’t forget any time soon.
Sophie Clare reports on her highlights from an action-packed race day in Berlin.
To kick off the 2023 SABIC Berlin E-Prix race weekend, I was pleased to be invited to Envision Racing’s Race Against Climate Change event. This was hosted at a rooftop venue in City West, which allowed us to enjoy some unexpected Berlin sunshine. We first heard from Claire Williams, who called in over video conference to share her experiences growing up in the Williams motor racing dynasty as well as discussing her own career path: “I still pinch myself today that I had the opportunity to run an F1 team.” She also highlighted the value of Formula E as a platform for change, which “inspires because of its sustainability credentials.”
This importance of sustainability was echoed by the other panellists, including Alice Powell (currently Development and Simulator Driver for Envision Racing), Sophia Flörsch (Formula 3 driver) and Julia Pallé (Formula E’s Sustainability Director). Julia Pallé revealed insights into the sustainability strategy which has ensured Formula E’s net zero carbon footprint since its inception. In particular, she explained the importance of creating a “culture for sustainability” and embedding environmentally friendly practices in every aspect of the series, from manufacture of the GEN3 car to the local projects the series supports at its race locations. Alice Powell echoed the importance of sustainability – and women’s inclusion – highlighting that “it’s not just about the driving… it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, you can go and participate.”
Sophia Flörsch has been racing since she was 4 years old, and during her 18 years since starting with karting, she has noticed that things are changing. At a grassroots level, she explained, it is just as important that parents can see motorsport as an option for their daughters as it is for young girls to see role models in the sport.
Following on from this, the New Scientist’s Alexandra Thompson hosted a panel discussing the intersection of technical roles, sustainability and gender equality. Marija Lazic shared about her role as a sustainability officer in a male-dominated sector. Eva-Maria Hirschieper discussed her role as Public Policy Director for Sustainability at Meta, and both women detailed the importance of normalising female participation in STEM roles. As Claire Williams had mentioned, once she reached a certain level of seniority in motorsports, people suddenly appeared surprised to see her there. It made her wonder why the presence of high-profile female leaders is “[considered by some as] such a different and strange thing.” The biggest learning I found from these panel sessions was the importance of community and purpose-driven, grassroots work to improve access to STEM – and motorsport – for all. Indeed, as Hirschieper stated, “with smaller changes you can make scalable effects.”
After a thought-provoking and fascinating selection of panels during Friday’s event, Saturday brought on a completely different learning experience, with my first full day in the Formula E Media Centre. The race weekend began with a beautiful sunny day, which greatly contrasted my previous Formula E experience at last year’s London E-Prix when most time was spent inside the ExCeL centre!
After familiarising myself with the paddock and finding a desk in the media centre with Gracie Talia Ross from Femmespeed, we watched the second Free Practice session and the Qualifying duels from the pit lane entry. This was an excellent vantage point to admire the new GEN3 design up-close. After this, I enjoyed exploring the paddock and made the most of some time in the pit-lane. There was a very lively atmosphere with many fans coming over for autograph sessions with the drivers and other groups being taken on tours around the paddock. It was lovely to talk with Alexa Rendell, who is a digital presenter and producer who you might recognise from her work with Formula E and Extreme E. Soon she was off again darting in and out of the team garages, finding opportunities for content capture and seeking authentic moments from the race weekend to communicate with fans watching from home.
Later in the afternoon I also enjoyed catching up with Izy Rekiel, a friendly face in many paddocks including Extreme E, Formula E and F1. Not only the resident DJ of Formula E’s BOSS|Emotion Club, Izy is also an impact correspondent, presenter and content creator across a breadth of racing series and other events. It is always interesting to learn about the experiences Izy has gained through her career: particularly the people she meets and stories she gets to share.
Endeavouring to make the most of the sunshine, I then enjoyed watching the race from a great trackside vantage point between turns 4 and 5. With a media pass, you don’t have access to watch the race from the grandstands (which are probably the most comprehensive viewing location – no matter where your grandstand is, you can listen to and watch the curated commentary and live video). Happily, there was a screen opposite us serving the BOSS|Emotion Club VIP lounge and commentary being broadcast behind us, so we could follow the action elsewhere while also watching the cars take the corner right around our position. It is also possible to watch the race directly from the Allianz Fan Village, which has very affordable tickets and contributes to making Formula E more accessible (particularly for new fans or first-time attendees).
Round 7’s race saw a record breaking number of lead changes, with the front-runners all conscious of draining extra energy if they were in first position for too long. The importance of being in the frontrunner’s slipstream combined with the close competition typical of Formula E resulted in a series of dramatic events and two periods under the safety car. The race saw 190 overtakes with a record 20 at-the-line lead changes and eight different race leaders. During lap 20 Dan Ticktum – unsighted – squeezed Stoffel Vandoorne into the wall right opposite our vantage point. Fortunately both were okay, although both drivers had enough damage to result in a DNF. Hearing the crunching of carbon fibre and watching contact between cars as it happened was incredibly surreal, as was observing the marshalls as they cleaned up the track and swept away wayward carbon fibre during the safety car.
After a whirlwind race, which always seems to go by even quicker when you’re watching live, the podium saw a historic 1-2 result for Jaguar TCS Racing’s Mitch Evans and Sam Bird. Maximilian Günther brought home his debut Formula E podium, having raced up the inside past Sébastien Buemi to take 3rd position on the final turn. Not only did he secure the first podium position for Maserati in Formula E, but he became the first driver in Maserati colours to make a single-seater podium since the iconic Juan Manuel Fangio in 1957.
While the whole paddock was processing the incredible race (and counting up the record-breaking number of overtakes!) we headed back to the Media Centre where the post-race press conference took place. Once the champagne has been sprayed this gives the podium finishers a chance to share their thoughts on the race. Shortly after is the media pen, where most of the drivers will speak with the media in a merry-go-round situation, with journalists making their way around and drivers accompanied by an array of PR and communications staff. If you end up watching an interview filmed in the media pen, you may notice other drivers or journalists in the background. There is a great hustle and bustle as everyone seeks out the on-demand drivers, especially those who had a major role in the day’s racing action!
With the last official proceedings of the day concluded, all that remained was another exploration through the Allianz Fan Village before heading home and getting ready for more exhilarating racing on Sunday!
Sophie Clare looks forward to exciting electric action, as the 2023 SABIC Berlin E-Prix marks the midpoint of Formula E’s 9th season.
As we near the halfway point of ABB FIA Formula E’s 9th Season, it is all to race for as the series returns to Berlin. So far this year, 11 teams have raced across the world from Mexico City to Diriyah, Hyderabad to Cape Town. Following the most recent action in Sãu Paulo, the current standings see TAG Heuer Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein hoping to continue his Championship-leading performance at his (and his team’s) home race.
Jake Dennis, Nick Cassidy and Jean-Éric Vergne are currently placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively, with just 2 points between them – all will be aiming for strong performances here to consolidate their positions in the Championship lineup. At the other end of the pack, Robin Frijns, Nico Müller and Maximilian Günther will be hoping to secure their first points of the season at the 10-turn Tempelhof track. Considering no one driver has scored points in every race this season, there is certain to be exciting, unpredictable and closely-contested racing in store.
Perhaps the most significant change for Formula E this year was the introduction of the GEN3 car, which has undoubtedly contributed towards the tightly fought races in Season 9. The three race weekends preceding this round also took place in brand new locations for the series, which provided tactical challenges for the teams when deciding their strategic approach with the new vehicles.
In this weekend’s familiar setting, however, teams and drivers will be able to draw on their previous experiences to shape their strategy, which could give the winning edge. In Berlin, the race site’s former use as an airport has several implications for the teams. The track surface consists of concrete slabs which cause more wear and tear than a typical street circuit. This will call for strategy choices which can help drivers optimise tyre management and energy conservation during the race. Alice Powell, Simulator and Development Driver for Envision Racing, explained some of the important split-second decisions which drivers are responsible for. These can make or break a driver’s race performance, particularly when it comes to managing energy levels. Alice described how there are so many buttons and switches that “the manual book for the steering wheel is something else!”
With a top speed of 200mph, the GEN3 has a smaller chassis which has been optimised for close-fought street racing. The regenerative capacity of the previous GEN2 car has been doubled, meaning that more than 40% of the energy used in-race is regenerated from braking. Energy management (including when to employ the extra 50kW of energy gained from Attack Mode) is a fundamental part of race strategy and the flick of a switch has changed the fortunes of many on track. It remains to be seen how the collaboration of strategists, engineers, and drivers will unfold this weekend, but they will be sure to draw on data collected in the racing simulator by drivers like Alice to continuously fine-tune their performance.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Berlin race is its unique location at the former Tempelhof Airport, which in particular played a pivotal role during the Berlin Airlift from 1948-49. Supply aircraft transferred much-needed resources to the West of the city during a blockade by the Soviet Union, providing necessities to two million citizens in a monumental operation. All flight operations were discontinued in 2008, with the site giving way to the Tempelhof Park; not only the biggest in Berlin, but one of the largest inner city open spaces in the world. This unique location also allows for a racetrack which is wider than a typical Formula E street circuit. The extra overtaking opportunities will be sure to provide many exciting wheel-to-wheel battles.
The once abandoned hangars of the Tempelhof airport will also feature the Allianz Fan Village, the launch of CUPRA’s new Tavascan electric SUV, a Formula Student showcase and a wealth of fan engagement activities. Building upon years of both advocacy and implementation when it comes to sustainability, the E-Prix will be powered using 100% renewable energy, showcasing EcoCups in the Fan Village and celebrating Earth Day 2023 throughout the weekend. Plus, to top it all off, Monday will see a host of talented drivers (who haven’t yet participated in a Formula E race weekend) who will be taking to the track for Rookie tests in the GEN3.
Formula E has visited Berlin more times than any other city; with the races here having seen 10 pole-sitters and 13 race winners over 16 E-Prix events. Given the close competition over Series 9 of Formula E thus far, it is clear that there is much to be excited for as the teams, drivers and fans prepare for this weekend.
Stay tuned for Sophie’s coverage of the race weekend on our blog and social media.
Formula 1 has come a long way since its inception in 1950, but the ultimate goal of the sport has stayed the same: going from A to B as fast as possible. But the way in which we consume content from the sport has completely changed; the very first Grand Prix, held at Silverstone, wasn’t even televised, so certainly wasn’t featured in any Instagram posts or Netflix documentaries.
Just like everything else in the 21st century, Formula 1 is dominated by intense media coverage, whether it be through commentary, interviews, social media, or blogs run by student societies. This coverage has not only influenced how we watch the sport, but also influenced its overall success.
While the sport has always been a spectacle, the focus within management over recent years, more than ever, has been on creating an entertaining product, with the aim of drawing in viewers. Since the takeover in management by Liberty Media in 2016, we’ve seen multiple changes in race and car regulations, all with the aim of bringing the field closer together in order to create more exciting races with more passes, more penalties, and more crashes. If you found yourself on Twitter following the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, then you’ll know that any situation that creates controversy or drama is guaranteed to get more people talking about Formula 1 online, and increase the hype surrounding the sport.
Drive to Survive
The primary way that drama has been capitalised on recently, is, of course, Drive to Survive. In case you’ve been living under a rock, DTS is the Netflix-run documentary-style series which covers all the major event in each season of Formula 1, starting with 2018. The main reason the show has been such a success is that it provides a real insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of the sport, giving you a flavour of the politics of the paddock, and how much work and strategy goes into each and every race. A key component of this is getting to know all of the major players within the world of Formula 1, including both the drivers and the team principals. Making the sport more personable this way gives the viewers a stronger emotional investment in it and its high stakes, helping retain viewers and make it more successful overall.
A new audience
Arguably the most significant impact that DTS has had is how it’s brought Formula 1 to a wider audience. Traditionally the sport has attracted a slightly older viewership, with the technical jargon littered throughout commentaries making it feel confusing and incomprehensible to new, younger viewers. Through the production of DTS, Liberty Media has not only made Formula 1 more appealing through adding a personable quality, but also provided a platform through which new fans can learn about the sport (from Will Buxton, of course), as well as increased their exposure to the sport in the first place.
Moreover, the traditional Eurocentricity of Formula 1 has been turned on its head, with viewership in the US skyrocketing since DTS’ inception. Brandon Snow, the managing director of commercial at Formula 1, said the following at the DTS premiere last month: “The U.S. market has become our No. 1 market for social engagement across all of our platforms, (and for) all of our teams and all of our drivers,” describing the US as an engine for success “across the business”. The result of this success has been the introduction of new US circuits being added to the calendar, the most significant of which is the Las Vegas street circuit, which will make its debut this season on 18th November. It will be joining the two pre-existing US circuits in Austin and Miami, the latter of which was introduced to the calendar in 2022, after the rapid increase in popularity of the sport in the US, thanks to the success of DTS.
The circuit for the Las Vegas Grand Prix will see the drivers racing right down the infamous Las Vegas Strip (Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons via creative commons license)
With the recent revival of the sport being such a success, in no small part due to the modernisation of media coverage, different companies will be wanting to get involved in the Formula 1 arena in any way they can. One example of this is the announcement of a new partnership between Red Bull Racing and Ford, starting in 2026. Ford was a key manufacturer of Formula 1 engines for approximately 40 years, starting in 1963, and during this time they secured 176 victories, 13 drivers’ titles and 10 constructors’ world championships, which makes it one of the most successful engine manufacturers in the history of the sport. Their return marks another step in the journey of Formula 1 to the success and glory of old, and to a new, thrilling age of modern racing.
In 2023, embracing the influence that modern media has on the way we consume entertainment is vital for the success of any sport. Few have managed to run with the opportunities that this provides quite as well as Formula 1 has, and its future has never looked so bright.
The FIA recently approved the long-awaited engine regulations for 2026, the biggest overhaul since the 2014 introduction of the V6 turbo-hybrids. Following the finalisation of the regulations, Audi has confirmed its entry into the sport in 2026 as an engine manufacturer, with its buyout of Sauber as well as Porsche’s Red Bull partnership expected to follow shortly. With such big changes coming for the whole of F1, let’s take a look at what the regulations actually involve.
The big talking point of the new regulations, and F1’s future more generally, is sustainability. The new engines will run on 100% sustainable fuel made from municipal waste and have the same power output as the current generation, at around 1000 horsepower. Another major difference will be the increased reliance on electrical power, with the batteries now providing up to 50% of total power output. This is all in the name of a more sustainable sport with better applications for road cars, which are shifting ever more towards electrical power. However, this will not impact the racing we know and love.
The other change, which is even more significant on the technical side, is the removal of the complicated and expensive MGU-H. The MGU-H is an engine component which uses exhaust gasses to spin a turbine and create energy. This energy is then stored and used to artificially spin up the turbocharger’s air compressor under acceleration. This eliminates turbo lag (the period between acceleration starting, and the turbocharger starting to work to create additional power) and increases the efficiency of the engine. It is, however, a very complex and expensive part to develop, so much so that it has little real-world application and has been a major barrier to new engine manufacturers entering the sport. Its removal was essentially a necessity for Porsche and Audi to agree to enter the sport.
Other changes to the regulations go along with the current drive to reduce costs and improve close racing. There will be a cost cap on engine development (separate to the overall cost cap) of $95m per year from 2023-25 and some parts of the engines, including the engine block and crankshaft, will have development on them tightly restricted. This should help to ensure that performance is relatively similar between engine manufacturers, and that the new manufacturers can enter and be competitive right from the outset.
Unfortunately, the side effect of all this will be a familiar one in F1’s recent history, and that is increased weight. This year’s cars are already 50kg heavier than the previous generation, and the new engines will have much larger battery packs and a move away from expensive, exotic (and lightweight) construction materials. The loss of the MGU-H, on the other hand, will only be worth around 4-5kg.
All of this means that the new engine regs will essentially bring three things: more sustainability; more manufacturers; and more weight. Some drivers and teams have already voiced concern about the weight issue (not to mention the extra money allocated to new manufacturers for development), but on the whole a more sustainable and competitive Formula 1 can only ever be a positive thing. As fans we will just have to accept that the quickest cars in the sport’s history are, at least for now, behind us. If the new engines create close, exciting racing, that seems to be a sacrifice worth making.
Sophie Clare reviews her first Formula E race experience, reflects on the racing format and details some of her favourite memories from a busy race day.
On Saturday 30th July I was excited to attend the Sabic London E-Prix, my first Formula E race weekend. After an early start and a succession of trains and tubes, Aakash, Marina, and I arrived to the distinctive noise of electric engines, enjoying a glimpse of free practice from the DLR station.
Our train had slowly but steadily filled with easily recognisable fans, showing support for their teams with baseball caps and polo shirts. Entering the Allianz E-Village gave an overview of the activities on offer, revealing the true scale of the race site. The unique track winds around – and through – the ExCeL convention centre and adjacent to the Royal Victoria Dock. The indoor/outdoor layout poses the challenge of differing light levels and track conditions, it is fascinating to watch during the race and see the drivers negotiating in and out of the indoor track, trying to use the transition to their advantage.
After exploring the site, Marina and Aakash checked out the grandstand and track while I paid a visit to the Media Centre. This provides working space for the array of team representatives, journalists, photographers, and Formula E officials who bring the racing action to fans via. print and online media. It was a quiet and focused space, definitely a contrast to the crowds of fans who were attending the race and enjoying the activities on offer in the E-Village. It’s also where the pre and post-race press conferences and media pens take place, so I enjoyed getting a glimpse behind-the-scenes. I also took the opportunity to explore the paddock, where I had the chance to chat with Sophie Liger, PR manager for the DS TECHEETAH team. It was great to see inside the garage as the team, drivers (and indeed the cars!) were getting prepared for qualifying. Later in the day we also saw Izy Rekiel, who Aakash and I first met at the Extreme E Jurassic X Prix last year. Izy kindly caught up with us in between providing a musical backdrop to the race weekend as DJ in the BOSS|EMOTION Club.
Qualifying consists of a group stage followed by a series of Duels, where pairs of drivers go head-to-head to decide the qualifying order. We found that this format – along with the accessible race length of 45 minutes + 1 lap – is a crucial part of Formula E’s growing appeal, particularly to fans who might not have engaged with motorsport before. For new viewers at home or first-time race attendees, Formula E’s almost bite-sized format provides fast-paced, punchy racing action interspersed with a range of activities, including music performances by Nina Nesbitt and Jax Jones. Additionally, the race still provides the tension and excitement of strategy calls, overtaking and battles for position, just concentrated into a shorter race time. With thousands of fans cheering along in the grandstands, waving flags to support their favourite teams, it was a truly unforgettable atmosphere.
Watching the race itself – round 13 of this year’s championship – was an incredible experience. Almost every lap when the cars whirred down the straight and through turns 1 and 2, we watched a slightly different succession of cars passing by our grandstand. Lights on the halo of each car indicated whether the driver had initiated Attack Mode, a sort of DRS equivalent for the Formula E cars. This gives a 6-minute power boost and can be activated twice during the race, with each team and driver working to build a strategy which could best employ the power boost to their advantage. As the race continued, it was particularly exciting to watch the battle for third place between Nick de Vries and Nick Cassidy, a tight battle which saw de Vries cross the line first but Cassidy taking third position, with de Vries taking a five second penalty post-race. Perhaps most noteworthy was Jake Dennis’ dominant run to a podium position for the Avalanche Andretti team.
I asked some of the CUMFS members who attended the race about their experience and their responses were unanimously positive. It was the first live motorsport event that most of them had attended, with the range of fan entertainment and sustainable racing being big factors behind their enjoyment. Izzy thought that “it was such a fun (and fairly affordable) way to see the skill of drivers and support a more sustainable mode of racing.” Several members particularly enjoyed seeing British driver Jake Dennis British top the podium. Aakash also appreciated the unique track layout, in particular how it “took great advantage of the Formula E cars.” He reflected my own thoughts on the racing: “it was close and hard fought, and I really enjoyed the fact that the commentary was broadcast into the crowd.”
Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of a Formula E race weekend, both in the grandstands and behind-the-scenes. It was great for so many of our members to attend an in-person motorsport event, many of us for the first time!
Has the London E-Prix piqued your interest in the sport? We’ll be incorporating further coverage of Formula E into our blog and social media, so stay tuned for more articles in the future. If you’re interested in writing for the blog, please get in touch with Libby, our Social Media officer.
Sophie Clare reviews her time spent trackside at the 2021 X Prix in Dorset, hosted by Extreme E, and recaps her favourite moments.
On the weekend of December 17th & 18th, I was lucky enough to attend the Extreme E Jurassic X Prix in Dorset with Aakash, our Speakers and Events Officer. Not only were we representing CUMFS, but we were also able to attend on behalf of Volta Future Positive. Our fantastic behind the scenes access to the inaugural season finale of the innovative off-road electric racing series made this a day to remember.
I arrived on the Saturday morning – this meant that I had plenty of time to explore the race site, get my bearings, and prepare for race day on Sunday. My first port of call (after receiving my accreditation and wrist-bands) was a tour of the paddock. The team garages, storage units, canteen, media centre, medical structures and the Command Centre are all formed from inflatable shelters created by Airshelta. This means that much of the race site can be packed up and shipped between race locations via the St Helena, the series’ floating paddock. During the race weekend, the St Helena was docked in Poole harbour; it was great to talk to some of the crew members from the ship over the course of the weekend.
After exploring the very muddy paddock and getting a glimpse into the teams’ trackside operations, I was able to speak with Catarina Silva from Continental Tyres, and Adam Bond, CEO of ASC Energy. Continental provides unique, ultra-high-performance tyres for Extreme E, designed to provide optimum performance across the range of conditions encountered during the season. These have included extremes of both heat and cold in Saudi Arabia and Greenland respectively, as well as the variations between sandy, muddy and icy terrains. It was particularly interesting to hear about Continental’s plans for recycling and repurposing the tyres Extreme E has used over the course of the year. AFC Energy provides the Extreme E paddock with hydrogen fuel cell technology. As a result, the race fleet is charged off-grid, using sustainably generated zero-emission energy. The only by-product of the process is water, which can then be used elsewhere on the race site.
The racing action we got to watch over the course of the weekend included Qualifying, the Crazy Race, Semi Finals and Final. The Crazy Race was particularly fun to watch because it provided the three slowest qualifying teams the chance to fight for a single spot in the Final. Andretti United rose to the occasion and the Semi Finals then determined the rest of the final line up: x44, Rosberg X Racing, JBXE and Acciona Sainz XE. One of several opportunities to hear from the drivers involved in the championship was a Q&A session with Jamie Chadwick, Sébastien Loeb and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, who discussed not only the racing, but their thoughts on Extreme E’s Legacy Programme- this included their learnings about the environment and climate change. They were interviewed by Extreme E Impact Correspondant Izy Rekiel, who has been living on the St Helena ship and reporting on the progress of the championship. If you want to find out more about the different behind the scenes aspects of the St Helena, Extreme E in general, and how the Legacy Programmes are carried out in each of the different race locations, her reporting on this is invaluable.
On Sunday, Aakash and I set off to the race site ready for a busy day. First we went down to the fairly quiet paddock, where we could watch as the teams prepared for the Semi Finals. Our early-morning exploration also proved fruitful as we were able to speak with Nico Rosberg, team principal of Rosberg X Racing and 2016 Formula 1 World Champion! He gave us an insight into his experience being team boss rather than driver, as well as sharing his enthusiasm for the sporting series and its focus on taking action on issues relating to the environment and gender equality, amongst other things. Over the course of the day we were also able to interview the founder of the series Alejandro Agag, as well as several drivers such as Dakar legend Jutta Kleinschmidt and the brilliantly funny Christine GZ.
We got to watch in the paddock as drivers from each team took part in Grid Play proceedings – one of the range of fan engagement opportunities utilised by Extreme E. Fans vote for their favourite drivers and the team with the most votes gets the first choice of starting position for the Final. This then filters down to the other teams, with the Crazy Race winners getting last choice. The teams which don’t make it through to the Final still get to use their votes, by donating their votes to one of the finalist teams. Track position made a big difference in the Final, since a starting position which avoids the muddiest areas would give drivers the traction necessary to make a strong start to the race.
We grabbed some lunch after this – a delicious Christmas dinner in the canteen with Clare from Volta Future Positive. It was a nice chance to take a breather following a busy morning, and again demonstrated the actions Extreme E takes to “race without a trace” – everyone brings their own reusable cutlery and plates, which they then have to wash up in a designated area before returning to the paddock. This saved a considerable amount of single use plastic being used because items such as disposable drinks cups, cutlery and plates were not necessary.
Soon, the stage was set for the culmination of a year of closely fought racing – the Final. Five teams were vying for a coveted place on the podium, but the focus was on Rosberg X Racing and Lewis Hamilton’s x44. Each team had the chance to win not only the Jurassic X Prix, but the inaugural Extreme E championship. Ultimately, x44 did indeed top the podium, however RXR finished 4th, leaving both teams equal on points in the championship standings and delivering victory for RXR based on count-back to their previous race wins.
Watching this tense battle unfold on large screens across from the switch zone and viewing platform was exhilarating! The atmosphere was fantastic and the excitement of everyone watching was palpable. We could see the start line in the distance and had a good view of the ending stage of each lap, but our main vantage point was of the switch zone. This is where the two drivers of each team swap out following the completion of their first two laps of the three lap race. There were some very entertaining tactics so that the drivers avoided picking up too much mud on their race boots, as well pouring jugs of water over the cars to clean mud away from the windscreen.
Seeing the electric SUVs up close emphasised the huge scale of these vehicles – the car’s peak 550bhp output is capable of bringing the 2.3-metre wide vehicle from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, at gradients of up to 130 per cent. Each powered by a Williams Advanced Engineering battery, the distinctive electric whine when they charge away from the switch zone is really striking. When driven at slower speeds, however, the Odyssey 21 is almost silent – meaning that a few honks of the horn are used to notify those in the paddock that the car is turned on!
It was a very surreal experience to watch the podium celebrations in person, instead of on the TV, particularly when the national anthems were played and champagne was sprayed. x44 celebrated their first podium after qualifying fastest in every race weekend, while Rosberg X Racing were crowned inaugural Extreme E champions and celebrated with a mud fight!
Just in time for the post-race Press Conference, we picked up some hot chocolate in reusable coffee cups produced by Lyfecycle. These perhaps demonstrate the attention to detail in implementing Extreme E’s environmental message: these are the first fully biodegradable coffee cups which decompose completely without leaving microplastics in the environment. Armed with our hot chocolate, we took our seats in the media centre and heard from Alejandro Agag, as well as the drivers from Rosberg X Racing, x44, JBXE and Andretti United. It was great to ask them our questions and hear their reflections on the race weekend and the series as a whole. We made one last trip back to the paddock which was particularly atmospheric in the dusky, misty evening. George Imafidon, an engineer from x44, gave us a tour of their garage – a particularly exciting experience for Aakash as the resident engineer on the CUMFS committee. He took the opportunity to ask some technical questions while we were looking around. My quest for an x44 beanie was also fulfilled – ending the weekend on a high note. Bundled up in our college puffers (naturally) and mud-covered wellies, it was time to start the journey home after an incredible weekend!
Do stay tuned for more of my writing on the race weekend and Extreme E, which will be published by Volta Future Positive. Thank you to Extreme E and Volta Future Positive for the opportunity to attend my first ever race weekend – it’s an experience Aakash and I are very grateful for! Do let us know your thoughts about Extreme E – we will be holding watch parties for the upcoming races of its second series, the first of which will take place in Saudi Arabia on the 19th-20th February 2022. We’re hoping to plan some exciting events (virtual and in-person) with Extreme E in the near future, so if you have any suggestions please do let us know!
For more information, check out our Instagram – where we posted about our experience. The Extreme E website (https://www.extreme-e.com/) is full of information about the racing format, drivers and teams, and the Legacy Programme. Check out Izy Rekiel’s reporting from the St Helena, which is most easily found on her Instagram @izyofficial.
Alex Pennington provides his penultimate article in the F1 2022 prediction series, this time expanding on two of F1’s old-timers: McLaren and Ferrari.
It’s been a season of two halves for McLaren. They started solidly, with Lando Norris even holding P4 in the championship for quite some time, and always seemed to be one step ahead of rivals Ferrari. This culminated in their stunning 1-2 finish in Monza, with Daniel Ricciardo taking his first win since leaving Red Bull.
Since then, they’ve seen a bit of a rough patch in form. During the recent triple-header they scored just three points, all courtesy of Norris, and with the exception of his P3 in qualifying for this weekend’s season finale, they haven’t quite seemed to have the same pace as earlier in the season.
Looking to next year, however, there are reasons to be optimistic. Firstly, the team’s recent financial struggles seem to have been resolved, with a new leasing agreement on their HQ and factory, as well as a massive influx of sponsors over the last two seasons. This gives them a stable platform to work from in F1’s new era in their push back to the top of the sport.
Then there is their driver line-up. Lando Norris has truly come of age this year, a transformation which started during the final year of his partnership with Carlos Sainz. He has been consistent and hugely quick, and heading into Abu Dhabi he remains just 4 points away from P5 in the championship, despite the team as a whole sitting 39.5 points behind Ferrari.
The cause of most of that deficit is, unfortunately, Daniel Ricciardo. He has had perhaps one of the toughest seasons of his career so far, being outpaced and outraced by his teammate more often than not and struggling with the McLaren’s handling in the mid-corner. Next year, however, is a blank slate, with every driver starting from zero: for Ricciardo, it’s in a car which he will now have had development input into. It’s been a tough season for sure, but Ricciardo is an absolute top-level driver, and the combination of these two should be a dangerous one in the new car.
The team’s leadership is also one of the strongest on the grid, with the enigmatic Zak Brown its figurehead, and Andreas Seidl providing a calmer, more reserved Team Principal, but one who commands respect and is very well-liked within the team. They are in very good shape heading into 2022, and I think we’ll see them fighting for podiums and wins more regularly, with at least a P3 constructors’ finish on the cards.
It’s been quite the turnaround for the Scuderia in 2021. Off the back of their worst constructors’ championship placing since the 1980s in 2020, they have bounced back in style: they lead McLaren by almost 40 points heading into Abu Dhabi, almost certain to take a convincing 3rd in the standings.
So far in this series, it’s been normal for me to write a small section on a team’s finances, but this is almost not worth doing here. As is well-known, Ferrari are one of the wealthiest teams on the grid- even with the new cost cap in force, they will have had a substantial head-start on spending when the regulations were announced in 2019, before the cap was implemented. This immediately gives them a boost going into next year.
Then, there is the driver line-up. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have both been superb in 2021. There have been mistakes, of course, with Leclerc’s crash in Monaco which cost him a potential race win being the most obvious of these, but on the whole they have been one of the best pairings on the grid. Sainz has been particularly impressive, almost matching his teammate in his first year at Ferrari and showing that he will not accept being a definite number two drive going forward. With the possible exception of Mercedes, I think that this is the strongest pairing on the grid for 2022. Editor’s note: Carlos went on to beat his teammate in the driver’s standings, topping off his year with a 5th place overall.
The team also has momentum, both in terms of results and development. Coming into this year, Ferrari’s engine was woefully underpowered and likely the worst on the grid. Now, they are solidly competitive, with what several other teams believe to be the best hybrid system on the grid, allowing them to deploy energy earlier, and for longer down the straights, than any other car. This year’s engines are carried over to next year, and development then frozen until 2025. This puts them in a good position going forward.
Other kinks and weaknesses have also been worked out this year. Their famously inconsistent pit stops have been mostly resolved, with competitive times in the box now being the norm. The strategy team also appears to be in good shape, with clear instructions to the drivers and a smooth double-stack allowing them to pull off a one-stop in Qatar while their rivals were hit with punctures.
This year has been one of redemption for Ferrari, and of course for Mattia Binotto, whose job was in question heading into it. He has seemed calm, collected, and in control, even while splitting his responsibilities between the track and Maranello, putting his engineering expertise to use on development of the new car.
Make no mistake, Ferrari is a team on the up again. At the risk of jinxing them with the famous ‘next year…’ phrase that has become so common when talking about the prancing horse, keep a serious eye on them. I would not be surprised to see them fighting for – and maybe even winning – both championships next year.
Next week, it’s the final article in the series. With this year’s championship decided, we look at its protagonists, and what to expect from them next year. Have they pushed too hard and compromised themselves? Or will the two-team dominance seen since 2010 continue into F1’s next era?
Bella Manfredi recollects her affinity for Scuderia Ferrari, describing how she got into Formula 1 whilst sat in her grandparents’ living room as a child.
When I think of my Grandad, I always remember him with his paint-stained work trousers, his wide-eyes, and his Ferrari caps. As a child I was fascinated with them, and I attribute my love affair with Ferrari to him. My Grandad was born in Italy and lived in Setterone, a mountain village in the North of the country. He moved to the UK when he was an adult for work purposes and met my Nana. They had three children, the oldest of which was my dad. The love for F1 runs through my dad too, as well as his younger brother, and over time it percolated to me and my own siblings.
I fondly remember visiting my grandparents’ house most Sundays. For those of you that are familiar with F1, you’ll know that most race days occur on Sundays, so we frequently watched Alonso and Massa trying to capture points whilst crowded in their living room. I myself have three younger brothers, all of whom show some degree of interest in the sport. Whilst a couple of them adore Lando (let’s be real, who doesn’t?) due to his streaming away from race day, the one thing that unites us is the fact we always want the same people to get podiums. I’ll leave it to you to speculate who we prefer, but given that we were brought up by a family of Schumacher fans…have a guess!
Has it always been easy loving Ferrari? No. There have been some frustrating years, especially the times where Ferrari have been good but not quite good enough. Sebastian Vettel was a force to be reckoned with during his days at Red Bull, and I vividly remember how infuriated that living room would be when he just won and won and won. Schumi won his last Driver’s Championship (DC) when I was three years old, so I don’t really remember this- is anybody surprised? It’s been a painful drought for Ferrari fans, and there have undoubtedly been times where I’ve felt annoyed that I couldn’t have just supported Red Bull or Mercedes.
Although Kimi Raikkonen won Ferrari their last DC in 2007, and I do remember this, there have been many times where drivers should’ve perhaps seen silverware. Massa and Alonso defined my childhood, and their short-comings were painful. Growing up I adored Fernando, most likely because my favourite Liverpool player was also coincidentally named Fernando Torres. Both Liverpool and Ferrari have been used to coming close but not close enough for most of my lifetime… it’s annoying, I know. So why stick with them? Why endure the pain of knowing that the most you can really hope for is third place in the Constructor’s Championship?
Under the guise of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, two incredible drivers, the Scuderia unit are becoming fun to watch on and off screen. Yes, some results may not align with the hopes that the team may have, but both Leclerc and Sainz have had some stand-out performances this season. Not many cars can come close to the Red Bull and Mercedes units at the moment, but the Ferrari duo are on an upwards trajectory. Are the days of DNFs and poor pitstops behind them? There’s no guarantee, but you’d think so, given the impressive back-to-back stop executed at Qatar a few weeks ago. Not only this, but the team have the new regulations to look forward to next year. Could this pull them back into line with Mercedes and Red Bull? You’ll get a better answer to this from Alex Pennington’s upcoming article, I’m sure. Development is ongoing for the 2022 car and progress on the year’s vehicle was halted in June, so hopefully there’ll be something to smile about for Ferrari fans in the future.
McLaren are also a force to be reckoned with, with British star Lando Norris and the experienced Daniel Ricciardo, who has taken a little longer to adapt to the new team but has still had some decent performances. A challenge should emerge between the two sides to secure third in the CC, although it appears that Ferrari will beat them to it this year. However, there are concerns about funding entering 2022, with the Italian side normally one of the ones with more money to dispose; I’ll forgo speculation for now and just nervously anticipate what next year could look like.
The reason I can’t abandon the team is my Grandad. He was fiercely proud of his Italian heritage, and it’s the reason I support Italy when watching football too. Some may laugh at the idea of supporting an F1 team based on being 1/4 Italian, but others would understand the link. My Grandad meant the world to me and introduced me to F1, and sticking with Ferrari is the least I cam do to make him proud.
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