NIO Formula E Team 004 Gen2 Car

Is Formula E becoming the new Formula One?

As the FIA Formula E Championship announced that Heineken has entered into a five-year sponsorship partnership as the sport’s official beer and cider partner, there is an increasing buzz around the electric series.

Heineken has been a sponsor of Formula One since 2016, and with Stoffel Vandoorne the latest of a raft of other former F1 drivers to join the series, is Formula E becoming the new Formula One?

As the world, and automotive industry in particular, moves towards sustainable energy and greener solutions, F1 sporting boss Ross Brawn recently told the F1 fan voice community website that a switch to electric power was possible.

“If in five years’ time or 10 years’ time or whenever there is a need, desire, wish to have a different type of power unit in Formula 1, we’ll do it,” said Brawn.

But, with Formula E as the only current all-electric series, CEO and founder Alejandro Agag recently told Autosport that such a move would not be possible.

“Ross said that Formula 1 could go electric in 10 years – and basically, they can’t. Formula E has an exclusive licence with the FIA for 25 seasons, and we’ve only done four. So, the earliest Formula 1 could go electric is 2039, if we don’t renew our agreement with the FIA then, but I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t renew for longer.

“We have exclusivity until at least 2039 – so no electric F1 until then at least. If they want to talk to me then, of course, that’s a different question – I’m always open to talk to people. But without talking to me there is no way they can do anything fully electric.”

For the forthcoming series, the Gen2 FE cars will be a lot quicker than before, to the tune of over 300km/h (186mph) as opposed to 225km/h (140mph).

Despite the increase in performance, however, the two series are fundamentally different in that FE cars are designed to race on street circuits around the world and with different racing tactics – energy conservation rather than tyre and pit strategy, for example.

In terms of global appeal, television audiences and ticket sales, F1 remains the big daddy. Although by taking the series around the globe, to destinations such as Mexico City, Hong Kong, Rome, Paris, Monaco, Berlin and New York, Formula E is certainly gaining in the popularity stakes.

What the future holds is uncertain and certainly divides opinion. Talking to Motorsport Technology earlier this year, Williams F1 Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe thinks a move to fully electric is likely. Alain Prost offered us a contrary argument, in that the two series are very different and should remain and be enjoyed as separate entities.

“People going to the city to watch Formula E are often very different from people watching Formula 1,” said the four-time world champion. “It’s a younger generation, wanting to find out what it is, and maybe see what cars would be like in the future. It’s a different market segment.”

Acronis is proud to be a sponsor of teams in both F1 and FE. And for now, fans of motorsport are blessed to be able to enjoy dynamic, wheel-to-wheel racing from two very different, and exciting, stand-alone series.

Top image: NIO Formula E Team 004 Gen2 Car.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.