The new series has rough edges, but gets a lot right.
Typically, my rule of thumb is three: I’ll give a new restaurant three meals, a new TV series three episodes, and, in this case, a new racing series three events before I decide if I’m interested in more.
Today, Formula E ran its third event, the Punta del Este ePrix in, of all places, Uruguay. And while there remains some rough edges to smooth, Formula E still has my attention.
The street course in Uruguay appeared to be built late last night, possibly for go-karts. These Formula E cars are comparatively large and wide and need some room to make late-braking passes – typical of any spec series where the cars are essentially identical except for the paint. They almost pivot around corners, apparently resistant to pure finesse, which does not make the racing bad, but it does make it different, as do the tall Michelin tires.
The Punta del Este track had some pretty massive temporary curbing, which, when hit by a car improperly, launched it, sometime into the wall. I’d love to see these cars on a nice, wide, proper road course like Road America – so far, races like the one today seem downright claustrophobic.
The driver lineup is a peculiar mix of genuine professionals and presumed ride-buyers, but those pros, like today’s winner, Sebastien Buemi, as well as Nick Heidfeld, Bruno Senna, Jarno Trulli, Nelson Piquet, Jr., and points leader Lucas di Grassi would be welcome on any grid. And the fact that there have been three winners in three races speaks well to the level of competition.
TV coverage must get better
What is, perhaps, holding the series back as much as anything is the grim television coverage. The announcers sound like they are broadcasting from a subway platform. The photography often seems to have little correlation to the action, and poor Bob Varsha, here stateside, is trying to herd cats as he gives his updates around the abrupt TV commercials breaks. The coverage for the third race was better than the first, but just incrementally. This must improve.
And I’m still a bit at sea regarding a long-term business plan. Since all the cars are essentially Renault products, there is no real opportunity for auto manufacturers to get involved, and they have been the chief financiers of most every major series.
That said, Formula E, in a short time, has gotten an amazing amount right. And I’ll be tuning in next month for episode four from Argentina.