Is it just me or has Formula 1 lost some of its fire? The gulf between the cars at the front of the grid and the back is wider than the Grand Canyon, and it seems that the only way we get to enjoy pulse-raising action is when the weather gods are in a foul mood or one of the frontrunners suffers a gear box malfunction that drops them to the back of the pack where they have to fight through the small fry.
But petrolheads are loyal. They have stuck by F1 as Bernie has implemented a hoard of bizarre changes, while the engines have been stripped back to save the polar bears and the noise quelled to a rumble rather than a roar. Fundamentally, fans want to see wheel-to-wheel action. Which is why, Nicki Shields says, Formula E has been snowballing since its inaugural season in 2014. And it’s high-time we all jumped on the bandwagon, hints the ITVS presenter.
Photograph: Adam Warner
“I’m going to throw it out there and say that Formula E is better than F1 – or at least equally as exciting. The beauty of our championship is that we incorporate more street circuits, which lead to brilliant racing. Right now I’m in the centre of Paris, looking out towards the Eiffel Tower, ahead of this Saturday’s race [the track weaves its way around the historic Les Invalides complex]. Our calendar features some of the most glamorous cites in the world – think Silverstone, but in the heart of London.”
Nicki has been involved in Formula E since its conception, a passion for motoring an unreachable itch that stretches back to her childhood when she used to watch racing at Brands Hatch with her father. “When I first heard about the championship I knew I had to be involved – it mixed both my interests: cars and science.” (She studied a science-based degree at Bristol University.)
And interest is growing. Fast. The brains behind the green sport have come up with a great way to engage new followers: Fan Boost. Essentially, fans can influence the race. They cast a vote on social media for their favourite driver and the three most popular choices get an extra surge of power at any point in the race. Popularity equals pace – simple. (Daniel Ricciardo would surely win the Formula E championship with ease.)
“The other great aspect to the racing is that the cars are all quite similar in performance, which means a lot of the work boils down to the drivers. It produces great on-track action.” This in itself is music to many a petrolhead’s ears – let’s face it, we all want to see the F1 grid line up on a go-karting track to determine who the fastest driver is when on a level playing field.
With regulations stating that car emissions must be as low as a library hush by 2021, no doubt the world’s car manufacturers will be keeping a close eye on Formula E going forward, as the boundaries of science and engineering are pushed and tested. “F1 may be the pinnacle of what a car can currently do when fine-tuned,” says Nicki, “but Formula E is the pinnacle of the future, of sustainable racing.”
Watch the Paris EPrix this Saturday – practice, qualifying and the race are all on the same day.
Alternatively, win a meet and greet with Nicki Shields and 2 VIP tickets to Hedsor House INSIDE Automotive Event on Tuesday, 26th April.