Everything you need to know about Formula E

Envision Virgin Racing Formula E cars
Image from Envision Virgin Racing
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
6 June 2019

Don’t know your Super Pole from your FanBoost? Then you’re in the right place. Read on for everything you need to know about Formula E, the all-electric racing series.

1. Cars

The cars are the biggest difference between Formula E and any other motorsport. The most important thing you need to know is that all of the cars are electric. They are powered by a 250kW battery. Despite being battery powered, the vehicles can reach speeds of up to 174mph (280km/h).

As well as being cleaner, these electric vehicles are much quieter than their petrol-powered counterparts in other racing series. The noise of the cars racing at full speed reaches just 80 decibels, unlike Formula One cars, which can reach over 100 decibels

2. Teams

11 teams compete in the Formula E Championship. Some of these are manufacturer teams, such as Panasonic Jaguar Racing and Nissan e.dams. Others are known as customer teams because they have purchased a car model from another manufacturer to race – these include Envision Virgin Racing and HWA Racelab.

Each team has two drivers so 22 drivers line up on the grid at the beginning of each race. 

Envision Virgin Racing car at the Marrakesh E-Prix
Image from Envision Virgin Racing

3. Qualifying and Super Pole

Drivers compete in qualifying sessions to decide which order they line up on the grid at the beginning of each race, with the fastest driver in the front in pole position and the slowest at the back of the pack in 22nd. Qualifying lasts for one hour and drivers are divided into four groups of up to six cars, defined by their positions in the championship. 

Once out on the track, drivers have six minutes to set their fastest lap time, with the top six drivers going into the Super Pole shoot-out to secure pole position and an additional three points. During the Super Pole shoot-out, drivers go out one at a time to complete the fastest lap. The driver with the fastest lap from Super Pole lines up in pole position on the grid.

4. Races

Formula E doesn’t follow the racing rules you might expect when it comes to the main event. Unlike other car races, where drivers compete over a set number of laps, an E-Prix has a completely different format:

  • All drivers race for 45 minutes and then complete one additional lap

  • All drivers must complete the same number of laps as driver who is in the lead at the end of the 45 minutes

  • The winner is the driver to cross the finish line first in the lap after the 45 minutes of racing is completed

The challenge in Formula E isn’t only to make your car go fastest. In addition to speed, teams must develop tactics to manage power in the best way possible. Superior battery management ensures the cars won't run out of energy – an essential factor when it comes to giving drivers the best chance of winning a race!

Envision Virgin Racing in action during the Rookie Test
Image from Envision Virgin Racing

5. Points

Like most other motorsports, championships are decided based on points built up throughout the season. At each race, trophies are awarded to the top three drivers and points are given to the top 10, based on the standard FIA scoring system (25 points for first place, 18 for second, 15 for third, 12 for fourth, 10 for fifth, eight for sixth, six for seventh, four for eighth, two for ninth and one for 10th). Points are then totalled for individual drivers, and also for teams, to decide the individual winner as well as the winning team across the whole championship.

6. Boosts

To keep the race interesting to watch, and to engage fans, Formula E has introduced some ways that drivers can receive an extra power boost during the race.

The first is FanBoost, which sees Formula E fans voting for their favourite drivers during the week leading up to the race. The three drivers with the most votes receive additional power that they can choose to use at any point in the race – whether to overtake, catch up to a driver ahead, or to maintain a winning lead. Votes can be cast online at fiaformulae.com/fanboost, on Twitter or via the official Formula E app.The other power boost is one that all drivers can access: Attack Mode. To activate Attack Mode, drivers must drive through the Attack activation zone, which could cause them to have to slow down. However, they will be rewarded with a short boost of power, which will allow them to attack once again and hopefully gain back any places lost. All drivers must use Attack Mode during the race – but the number of times they have to use it and how long the power boost lasts for varies from track to track and teams are only informed an hour before the race so they can’t plan their tactics too far in advance.

An Envision Virgin Racing car on the track in Marrakesh
Image from Envision Virgin Racing

7. Cities

Each season, Formula E visits a number of different cities around the world. Races are held on tracks in city centres in most cases. These are purpose-built tracks that exist just for one weekend for the race (or E-Prix, the electric equivalent of a Grand Prix).

Cities that have hosted a Formula E race include: Paris, London, Berlin, New York, Santiago, Monaco, Hong Kong and many more.