Formula E is shaping up to be quite the spectacle. The settings will be exotic, the inner-city races gladiatorial and brimming with closely fought battles. Glitz and glamour is guaranteed with the likes of DiCaprio, Branson and Prost as backers and Monaco on the calendar.
Perhaps most exciting is the prospect of unbridled engineering innovation, which will arrive in the second season when constructors begin to build their own cars. The grid is packed full of pioneers: two world land speed record holders; two front running IndyCar teams; one global brand with its own spaceships, bank, airline and island; three car manufacturers and an investor in Fisker; a four times F1 world champion. No Meccano mechanics here.
But the series is designed to be a marketing vehicle first and foremost, and like an over enthusiastic used car salesperson, it is in danger of developing a liberal relationship with facts. It is not, as claimed, “the world’s first fully-electric race series” and it is not “zero emissions” (think about the energy and materials expended in the manufacture of the vehicles, the carbon fibre and the batteries; in the logistics; and in the electricity used to charge the cars).
It doesn’t have “one careful lady driver” either (OK, so that hasn’t yet been claimed – but where are the women in this sport?).
These may appear small points but with international media coverage picking up apace, it would pay to be responsible with information from the beginning.
The thing is, Formula E doesn’t need to overstate its case. Much of what it is doing really is new, or at least packaged in a way that feels fresh. The sport has an almost unrivalled opportunity to encourage young people into engineering as well as making consumers think more positively about electric motoring. The fledgling technology is undeveloped enough to be ripe for huge leaps forward, ridding us of the “marginal gains” philosophy of many older, established sports (not just motor racing), heralding the return of attention-arresting ingenuity reminiscent of the halcyon days of racing cars with six wheels or ground-effect fans.
Leave aside the smoke and mirrors, Formula E. Put “innovation” on the label in large letters, and then just do what it says on the tin.