Roger Alton

I’ve seen the future of motor racing, and it’s quiet

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Are petrolheads’ days numbered? I only ask because having just been introduced to the quiet, petrol-less world of Formula E, I’m rather taken by it. Apart from anything else, part of the fun of spectating is making your feelings heard, which isn’t easy against the 130 decibels generated by F1 engines.

The Formula E world championship arrives in London’s Docklands this weekend, weaving in and out of the ExCeL for races 13 and 14 of the season. That’s ‘E’ as in electric and plainly non-fossil fuel motoring is the future, though how soon isn’t clear. Formula E people think single-seat racing is a good way to promote it, and once you see a race you have to agree.

The cars are beautiful, and the whispering whizz of the tyres on the track is quite hypnotic

It’s every bit as thrilling as F1, often more so. The cars are beautiful, brilliantly driven, and the whispering whizz of the tyres on the track is quite hypnotic. Often nothing much happens in an F1 race with the drivers belting round in incident-free starting order until Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen swerves past the chequered flag a couple of hours later.

Formula E racing is like very fast go-karts going wheel to wheel on a tight track. The TV coverage is excellent and the whole production slick. The drivers are cool, with six Brits at ExCeL to get behind, and the crowds full of glamorous women with shades on their heads. As with any good race meeting there’s also a whole heap of razzamatazz. The races themselves last just over 45 minutes, the limit of battery power – quick enough to stop even your most tiresome family member getting bored.

And you might catch a repeat of the New York E-Prix double-header a few weeks ago.

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