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F1 take note: Jaguar and Formula E take things to the next level with Gorillaz

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F1 take note: Jaguar and Formula E take things to the next level with Gorillaz
Oct 8, 2016, 1:24 AM

After a shaky start, where it has struggled to attract fans, the electric racing series Formula E has a spring in its step.

After a shaky start, where it has struggled to attract fans, the electric racing series Formula E has a spring in its step.

After the recent announcements that Audi, BMW and Mercedes plan to compete, Jaguar has entered FIA Formula E this season and its latest digital offering shows that the series is starting to be used as a platform for serious marketing programmes that will get it onto the radar.

The latest initiative, on the eve of the first round of the new series in Hong Kong, is a virtual programme where fictional popstar Noodle from the band Gorillaz (founded by Damon Albarn of Blur) has become a Global Ambassador of the team, which is backed by Japanese tech giant Panasonic.

This ingenious initiative links together a whole bunch of interesting ideas, targeting a young tech savvy audience, drawing attention to the series but also taking a CSR (corporate social responsibility) approach to attract those young people to the idea of engineering. In particular the challenge of creating electric vehicles with both range and performance.

McLaren Applied Technologies has won the contract to supply batteries to the series from 2018 that are capable of doing the whole one hour race on a single charge. Rodi Basso, a former F1 race engineer for David Coulthard at Red Bull, is spearheading that programme. It is this kind of technology that Apple was reportedly interested in when it considered a bid for McLaren and its patents.

Mercedes has the option to enter, which means that they are not obliged to buy a team at a later date, they can enter and also use their presence in FE as leverage in their negotiations with Formula 1 beyond 2020. A budget to compete once the manufacturers get involved will probably rise from $10m currently to around $20m a year, but FE has to balance the desire of manufacturers to evolve the technology with effective cost-control, which has been one of Formula 1's greatest failures.

Gorillaz

Formula E's largest shareholder is Liberty Global, sister company to Liberty Media which is in the process of becoming Formula 1's largest shareholder. Although the two companies are operated separately, both are controlled by US billionaire John Malone.

The possibility of the two FIA sanctioned series cross-promoting each other in future, once F1 has figured out exactly what it wants its technological story around the powertrain to be, should not be ruled out. Both series are about the electrification of the automobile and the development of battery technology and high density electric motors. F1 has something of an identity crisis about how it wants to tell that story presently.

The series should be regarded as complimentary, rather than conflicting and with the cost of entry to FE far lower than Formula 1, it is a series worth keeping an eye on.

One route that has been suggested is that FE races would run in parallel with F1 races, in downtown locations on Saturday nights when F1 is racing on a permanent circuit close by; London and Silverstone, for example.

Jaguar's statement said: "Today we announce our new global ambassador Noodle, founder member of British band Gorillaz. As Jaguar Racing spearheads the development of next generation electric vehicle technology, Noodle will help to inspire the next generation of young engineers be a part of the biggest change the car industry has ever seen. #JaguarElectrifies"

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Series Formula 1 , Formula E
Tags innovation
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