Whether you think electric cars are too quiet to be exciting or not, Sunday’s inaugural Formula E race ended in spectacular fashion.
The Olympic Park in Beijing, China saw the all-electric racing series get off to a positive start (pun intended). Nicolas Prost – son of four-time F1 champion Alain Prost – lead the race, with ex-F1 racer Nick Heidfield nipping at his heels.
A few overtakes here and there in the middle of the pack kept things interesting, but it was the final lap that will be the talking point until the next race on November 22nd in Malaysia.
Approaching the last corner, Heidfield went for the overtake. Prost, who claims he was unable to see Heidfield, looked to the right before steering to the left, resulting in a collision that saw Heidfield’s car bounce off a sausage kerb and roll multiple times before coming to a rest upside down.
No one was injured, but emotions were high as the two drivers exchanged words while walking back to the pits. Prost has since been given a 10-place grid penalty for his actions.
In an interview with ITV shortly after the race, Prost said he wasn’t responsible for the crash. He later changed his tune. “I feel very bad about the incident… I understand that I am responsible, I just did not see him. I feel very bad,” he admitted on Twitter.
Heidfield accepted the apology in a reply: “Thx Nico. Know u and that u don’t drive anybody of on purpose. Shit happens. Next week we fight together in Austin.”
The incident meant Brazillian Di Grassi of the Audi Sport ABT team was race victor, followed by Franck Montagny of Andretti Autosport. British driver Sam Bird of Virgin Racing was bumped onto the podium after Daniel Abt failed to come in for a penalty after exceeding 28kw of battery consumption.
Bruno Senna, nephew of Ayrton Senna, got off to a bad start. He failed to record a lap during qualifying because of a problem with the Renault SRT‘s battery and then crashed out in the opening lap of the race.
A few oddities plagued what was otherwise a solid start for the series, including DJ music played while the safety car is out and the strange rule that means racers have to spend 50 seconds in the pit after swapping over into their second car.
The talked about social media speed boost feature, which involves fans tweeting at their favourite driver to give them a speed boost during the final lap, seemed to play little part in the outcome.
ITV’s coverage of the race was lacklustre. The after race commentatory could have been better, for instance, and it was strange there was no focus on Bird collecting his trophy.
It was clear just how much slower Formula E cars are compared with their fossil fuel-consuming counterparts in Formula One and the seriously wide roads of Beijing did little to help.
Nonetheless the race was strangely compelling and the spectacular ending a reminder that, even in an age of overly enthusiastic health and safety, there’s still danger to be had.
Formula E needed to leave us wanting more – and nothing does that like a couple of barrel rolls.
Check out the Formula E calendar here.