Generally, when one describes a race as ‘electric’ it implies an exciting battle is taking place on the track. There are plenty of such skirmishes in Formula E, but the word also carries a more literal meaning: every car on the circuit is electrically powered. And the hum of the cars through the streets sound awfully like the future.
Since its inaugural season in 2014-15, Formula E has established itself as a major player on the motor racing calendar. Races solely take place on street tracks, adding to both the excitement and the aesthetic appeal of the event; watching a car cut around the corners of Monaco is a thrilling and beautiful sight. Many of the drivers cut their teeth in Formula One – the first Formula E championship was won by Nelson Piquet Jr – and the depth of the field coupled with the well-matched cars normally ensures an open race.
Equally important to its success, however, is the accessibility of Formula E. Unlike their Formula One counterparts, the drivers are cheerful and visible presences around the enclosure. On our visit to Monaco, we were invited to test a race simulator with Brazilian driver Lucas di Grassi. He was a model of charm and patience, even when certain members of our party (*cough*) managed to drive their car off the track and into a virtual car park. (Which someone must have designed! A car park in a racing simulator!)
Race day saw a guided tour of the team garages, where Piquet Jnr explained the mechanics of the car and posed for photographers. The likes of Naomi Campbell and Noel Edmonds wandered across the track (separately, we should add), and then various members of the royal family greeted the drivers before race began. It may be a relative newbie, but Formula E has no short of glitz and glamour.
Another mark of Formula E’s growing prestige is the partnership with Mumm champagne. Mumm's association with the future of motorsport is in keeping with its status as an icon of victory. The significance is greater than you might assume: Mumm spent 15 years in Formula One before deciding to embrace electric racing in 2015. It’s the type of switch that suggests Formula E will only grow bigger in the coming years.
Pleasingly, there is no messing around when it comes to podium celebrations. Drivers spray each other with Jeroboams of Mumm Grand Cordon – a sizeable three litres per bottle. Unabashed hedonism and environmental care? Now that’s a sport we can get behind.
The remaining races
New York City – 15 July
New York City – 16 July
Montreal – 29 July
Montreal – 30 July