Alejandro Agag, promoter of the new FIA all-electric race series Formula E, is proving to be something of a smooth operator.
Unfazed by the roundest of criticisms from motorsports commentators, fans and participants, he has built a manufacturing consortium of world-renowned brands, has enticed other organisations to develop their own vehicles, has signed up two of an eventual 10 race teams – including one run by the former British science minister and record breaker Lord Drayson – and has the public backing of the FIA as well as a 25 year licence to manage the sport. Now, in the latest of confident manoeuvrings, Agag has fully set out his stall by filling his quota of 10 host city circuits. And all long before September this year, when the FIA will sit down to scrutinise his plans.
Perhaps the shrewdest of Agag’s actions so far, however, is his insistence that the race calendar will take place in city centres, around famous landmarks rather than on custom-made tracks. While turning some of the world’s busiest metropolitan areas into racing tracks will be no small task – shutting down the streets in Los Angeles or London won’t be a small undertaking – it does catapult each event into the public consciousness. It’s a move about as subtle as the electric speed machines are dull (and as Drayson demonstrated recently, breaking the world land speed record for an electric car by clocking up more than 200mph, dull they are not).
Most impressive about this obsessive desire to plug Formula E into the throbbing heart of 10 major cities is instant access to a resident, all-but-captive audience at each venue:
Beijing, population 20 million
Bangkok, population 8.2 million
London, population 8.1 million
Rio, population 6.3 million
LA, population 3.5 million
Berlin, population 3.5 million
Buenos Aires, population 2.9 million
Rome, population 2.8 million
Miami, population 405,000
Putrajaya, population 68,000
Cities are a dream come true for travelling fans and those used to enduring the downsides of out of town race tracks. Public transport systems are already in place, avoiding muddy car parks and the misery of traffic jams; supermarkets will mean no more resorting to over-priced food and drinks or warm packed lunches; there’s plenty to do if it rains all day; and, depending on the final design of each track, it might be possible to watch the race without needing a ticket to the ground, a la Monaco.
It all means that Formula E is shaping up to be an awesome spectacle, though Agag may find that his operations are vastly more efficient than the transport systems spectators will be relying on.