What a stellar couple of weeks it’s been for Formula E announcements. Four driver revelations have brought the pack to 11, with just nine more to be revealed.
First, last week’s surprising withdrawal of Drayson. The team’s founder Lord Drayson confirmed that his operation, the first to sign up to Formula E back in January 2013, would be replaced by an Italian group headed up by former F1 racer Jarno Trulli.
Trulli then announced that the new team would take his name (TrulliGP), and that he would be both manager and driver. Talk about multitasking. Drayson remains involved as an operations partner, although no details have been forthcoming from the former science minister as to why he has stepped back from a project he’s been so closely involved with since its inception.
Perfect time for a track reveal, then. Come on down, Punta del Este, Uruguay. And yes, this track looks like it has teeth. It’s a thin, squirmy, snake-like circuit – a proper street track, in other words. There are some great looking turns and sequences, and the whole thing will run along the seafront. Lucas di Grassi promised that the calendar would boast “10 Monacos” – well, this could just be the best fixture of the calendar.
Top Gear magazine then showed their hand – one of their top scribes, Jason Barlow, bagged himself a blast in a Spark-Renault, and was very impressed. “It’s fantastic,” was his verdict.
Venturi GP thought they’d stolen the show with their driver announcements yesterday – and the pairing of Nick Heidfeld and Stephane Sarrazin was certainly well received, even if the German driver came as no surprise. But the line-up looks strong and boasts a good deal of experience – and with the team already looking forward to next year, when it can leverage its experience in building world land speed record breaking electric powertrains, who would bet against them?
Our sources spotted Spaniard Oriol Servia at Donington, which seems to confirm his involvement with Dragon, if not his actual role. It’s thought he might be managing the team, as well as driving some races.
But then, toppling who went before, Super Aguri. Or rather, the team formerly known as. Without much of a fanfare, the team revealed a new headline sponsorship, a new website, new social media channels, a gleaming new blue chrome livery – and one of its two drivers.
Katherine Legge will be driving for the newly-titled Amlin Aguri. This is Big News – and not just because she’s a lady (try reading that without hearing the voice of David Walliams). Legge becomes only the second Brit on the gird (Sam Bird at Virgin is the other), and has been driving the futuristic and ludicrously sexy DeltaWing. If you don’t know what that is, it’s futuristic and ludicrously sexy. Look it up.
Loopy racecars aside, the fact that Legge is a woman is, of course, a big deal. Formula E is setting itself up as a modern motorsport suited to modern society. It has embraced social media, building it into the sport itself, in an effort to appeal to a younger audience than that attracted by conventional motorsports. And the series organiser has made a concerted effort to attract teams and race venues from across the globe.
What was lacking was a sense of gender equality. We had feared that Formula E would be treading the same worn path as other formulae, where women are simply seen as pretty trackside trinkets. With the signing of Legge, Formula E has proven that its intentions are anything but conventional.
The fact that Legge is a woman shouldn’t really be news. And when it comes to the racing, it will be her performance on the tarmac that does the talking, just like her male counterparts. But her involvement could be the ticket to opening up a whole new demographic for motor racing, and in Legge, girls around the world might find a new role model, a new inspiration.
Formula E organisers have repeatedly said that the electric motorsport is not a rival for F1. It isn’t. The new sport is environmentally conscious, financially responsible, aware of the real world, has thus far made great use of social media, and has gone to great lengths to ensure that it reflects today’s society.
Formula E isn’t the motorsport of tomorrow; it’s the motorsport we deserve today.