Sam Smith goes behind the scenes with Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag in the first of a two-part special that examines the man responsible for the running of the all-electric series.
If there are still any doubts as to Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag’s suitability to run a major international sporting organisation, then you need only take a peek at the array of photographs that adorn his desk.
Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, George Bush and other statesmen are there, not in cheesy selfie poses, but in earnest discussion with Agag, during his time as a politician.
Over the last three years Agag has delivered on the vast majority of what the he and the FIA wanted to achieve with the world’s first all-electric race series, often needing to draw upon his finely honed political skills in an array of situations that have played out since the inception of the championship.
For the sophomore season of Formula E, which begins next month in Beijing, Agag wants to multiply the fanbase of the series as part of a carefully structured consolidation strategy.
The championship enjoyed a largely successful start in its first season and started to capture the imagination of a new demographic in the sport.
Speaking exclusively to Motorsport.com, Agag also stated that the coming season will be vital in ingraining the all-electric series further into its target audience of young consumers.
“We are targeting a good season of consolidation for the championship now,” said Agag. “We want to multiply the fans, particularly on the digital side. We have started it already and have a good basis.
"The objective is to keep growing and, practically speaking, to source more manufacturers and expand the TV audience, which we are doing as you have seen with the recent announcements (RTL, RAI, BT Sport, ITV, etc).”
“The attraction of what we do is that young people and families can enjoy the sport in the cities of the world,” Agag continued.
“We need to continue this but also to make it increasingly more accessible on media platforms. So far we have made many announcements to support this and with the in-race FanBoost fans can get involved directly. It is very exciting to be part of this.”
Relationship with FIA is ‘symbiotic’
The FIA is essentially the mother and father of the FIA Formula E Championship. Jean Todt has personally been deeply involved in the formation of it and attended four rounds last season, casting a paternal eye on an initiative first discussed in the corridors of the Place De La Concorde in 2008.
“The FIA have been the key actor in the birth and the development in the championship,” said Agag. “We are close, we work closely and we have a strong relationship. It is a symbiotic partnership we have.
"If we, as Formula E Holdings, do well and the product is good then it is all good. We are aligned in everything. Of course there are sometimes differing opinions, this is natural, but we discuss them and we have a Working Group to go over the key issues.
"There are quality people throughout the FIA and FEH and this is a big positive.”
Agag believes that the close relationship with the FIA is instrumental in safeguarding both the technical DNA of the championship and also keeping costs from spiralling out of control.
“On the technical side we are at the frontier so there has to be flexibility on both sides,” he said. “We are interested in making sure the costs are kept relatively low and we don’t hesitate to put our hands up and say that.
"The FIA are the ones leading the process in the technical area. They keep in close contact with the manufacturers and the OEMs.
"We are a technology-dependent championship and business in where we go in the next two, three, four and five years, so we have to have that excellent relationship and work together.”
The all-important question of battery design and supply is something that Agag appears to be comfortable about as the technical roadmap for the championship continues to take shape.
“Years two, three and four are pretty much defined in terms of the battery. Season five will have a great impact on the architecture of the car, because this is when we can make a call on if we go with four motors - one on each wheel, and do we go with one car instead of two per driver.
"It will be very challenging to do it any earlier than season five I think, but we will see. This is why we are having these discussions together to ensure we know exactly where we want to be and that we can target it in an efficient manner.”
The Bernie factor
Motorsport.com revealed last month that the unfortunate date clash between the British Grand Prix and the already planned Battersea Park Formula E finale – both being scheduled for 27/28 June – could have been a deliberate ploy by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone to scupper the event.
Agag however dismissed the notion, saying: “We had our date contracted with Battersea on the last weekend of June.
“Was it (the British GP) placed there deliberately? No, I don’t think it was. Bernie and FOM have a huge job getting all those dates in to an order. A calendar of 10 [rounds] that we undertake is hard enough.
"Twenty dates for F1 must be a nightmare. So, Bernie forming an event to clash with us? No, I don’t think we are on his agenda in that way at all.”
“Formula 1 has a preference for their dates and rightly so,” he continued. “We have to adapt to what they do, that is the reality. Unfortunately for next season they have changed a bit, so naturally that affects other series, us included.
"I have said maybe a million times, we are not competing with F1 and have no desire to do that now or tomorrow. It is just not possible on many levels.”
In part two, published on Sunday, Agag reveals how Formula E operates with major new stakeholders Discovery Communications and Liberty Global.