In Part 1 of Motorsport.com's two-part interview with Dario Franchitti, we discussed the FIA Formula E championship.
I spent about half an hour talking with racing legend Dario Franchitti with topics ranging from Formula E to the current state of IndyCar. In Part 1, we focus on Formula E, a newly formed fully electric racing. He currently serves as a commentator for the series.
A bright future
Formula E is all about the future, so why not kick off the discussion regarding just that. So does Formula E have a viable future in the world of motorsport? Dario believes so. "I do think it has a very bright future because everything is heading in that direction, a long time in the future."
"Somebody had to step out and make that first move. The infastructure is getting set up. The championship is running its first year and making sure everything works well from moving things around, building the tracks, and certainly working with the cars is the biggest thing actually."
It's something that has to happen. It's not a replacement for other forms of racing. By developing this technology as early as possible, it might just allow us to play around a little bit.
Dario Franchitti on Formula E
"Next season, when they open up the power trains, then the performance of the cars will really step up. But I have to say, I've been surprised at how good the racing's been."
On TV, the cars look out of control as the drivers push to get everything they can out of them. Dario goes into detail as to why that is. "The cars are sliding around a lot. There's not a lot of down force and the cars are all about momentum, so they are trying to carry as much as possible into the corners," Franchitti explained. "The guys are having a good time driving them, it really seems that way.
The lack of sound debate
One of the most controversial aspects of Formula E is the sound, or the lack thereof. Dario admits that it's something he had to get used to himself. "Another thing I'm hearing from the purists is the lack of noise and I'm a huge fan of V12, V8s ... I just love the sound of that power. That's something that purists such as myself are struggling with a little bit, but it does make a noise, not the most pleasing noise I have to say (laughs). It's a high-powered electrical motor and in the booth, we can hear the cars when they head out onto the track before we see them."
When the open competition comes, you're really going to see that ramp up ... Either they'll do away with the car swap or I think more likely, the cars will get a lot quicker.
"There has been a push back from some purists and the way I'm looking at it, it's something that has to happen. It's not a replacement for other forms of racing. By developing this technology as early as possible, it might just allow us to play around a little bit. I'm talking well into the future here when resources start to run out and we're looking at other ways."
One-day format, swapping cars
In regards to the way the racing weekends are structured, Formula E does it a bit differently, holding every event in a single day and on unique street courses. "As a commentator, I love it. As a driver, it must be really tough," Franchitti told Motorsport.com. "They can't do the traditional things like going back to a hotel at night to sleep on it. You get to shake down the car on Friday afternoon but after that, it's all action. If you make a slight mistake like taking a corner off or worse, it's really tough on the mechanics to get the car ready for the next session. Swapping cars mid-race too, you have to have both ready to go."
I'm not a fan. I'm not a track operator, but you almost have to block that angle on the approach to the corner so what happened in China or Spa won't happen
Daro Franchitti on sausage kerbs
Purists may also be put off by the car-swap mid-race, but as Dario explains, it's how it has to be right now and the cars will only get more powerful as we move forward with the series. "It's part of the rules and a necessary step that has to be taken due to the limitations of the batteries and the technology, but the technology is improving all the time."
"When the open competition comes, you're really going to see that ramp up," stated Franchitti. "Moving forward, there's probably one of two things that are going to happen ... Either they'll do away with the car swap or I think more likely, the cars will get a lot quicker."
Sausage kerbs, do they need to go?
I gave my take on the notoriously dubbed 'sausage' kerbs a few months ago, far from pleased with this method of defining track limits. Dario feels the same and he had a front row seat to what they can do in Beijing.
"I'm not a fan. I haven't raced with them much myself, but I think what you have to do, and I'm not a track operator, but you almost have to block that angle on the approach to the corner so what happened in China or Spa won't happen. Either find a different way of defining track limits or do what they did in Malaysia. The way they positioned the barriers, the angle Heidfeld hit it in China was taken away. Nick (Heidfeld) was pretty lucky there."
As we moved into the topic of IndyCar racing, I threw in one final question in regards to Formula E and more specifically, the controversial last-lap collision in China. So what was Nico Prost thinking when he attempted to block Heidfeld's move?
"I don't know, you'd have to ask him. I spoke with both of them afterwards and of course, they are in teammates in the WEC, but I think there's a little going on there ... Nico was having some issues with the car and something was going on that attributed to what happened."
Part 2 of my interview with Dario Franchitti goes into the current state of IndyCar racing and his thoughts on hot topics surrounding the pinnacle of North American open-wheel racing.