Formula E is investigating how best it can introduce a new support series to its race weekends and is looking at options for the 2022/23 season.
The Race believes that early stage discussions have taken place to scope out if the current Gen2 cars or a new bespoke single-seater could be used in a junior-level series to support the Formula E world championship in 2023.
These talks are understood to be at a nascent stage but do include at least two manufacturers, one of which is believed to be already competing in Formula E.
The all-electric series has been left without an official support event after the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY, which ran for two of its planned three seasons, ceased operations at the end of last season.
While not commentating directly on the specifics of these plans, which The Race understands have been spearheaded by senior Formula E Operations staff, the FIA’s Formula E and Innovative Motor Sport Projects department’s director Frederic Bertrand has made clear that a new support series is desirable.
“Even if Formula E is turning into a world championship it’s still a project where we have to allocate a lot of forces and education to be sure that we keep that trend of progression and improvement for the next seasons,” Bertrand told The Race in July.
“So target number one is keeping developing Formula E. But I think it’s the case for FEH and for FIA, then to think on how to allocate additional track time to Formula E.
“But right now we think the format is good on Formula E, let’s see what happens with Gen3, but we have no need of pushing the limits there.”
“Should we prepare something which helps to prepare better the future generation of Formula E drivers?” :: Frederic Bertrand
A potential sticking point for the re-use of the Gen2 cars is likely to be securing the rights to the cars, which unlike the original Spark-Renault Gen1 models, have Intellectual Property owned by the manufacturers.
Any new series founded would need both the explicit clearance of manufacturers and deals achieved so the cars can be cleared for use.
Bertrand said that the specifics of a new support series are “more in the hands of Formula E because they are the promoter and they are the one selling potentially the track time available they have.”
One of the options being looked at it is having more possibility during races for manufacturers to showcase their automotive products with VIP and media activity.
This was done regularly in previous seasons prior to the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY arriving in 2018 and included BMW i8 and Audi e-tron demonstrations and filming.
“But the point which is interesting,” said Bertrand, “is should we prepare something which helps to prepare better the drivers or the future generation of Formula E drivers on an FIA point of view?”
Additionally, new engineering talent has little in the way of starting points bar the nascent FIA electric karting concept, the new for 2021 Electric Racing Academy series (ERA) or former Ferrari engineer Rob Smedley’s new Electroheads initiative.
EV specialists such as Sylvain Filippi (pictured above) at Envision Virgin and Nicolas Maduit at Dragon have progressed to senior positions in the championship’s teams but overall the team principals and technical directors come from conventional racing backgrounds.
“There are some specifics in this championship, and in the way of driving those cars, which needs to be practised and the simulators are not enough,” said Bertrand.
“We could potentially imagine to create something which would become kind of another [series] where we could implement smaller categories under it, able to race all or part of the championship to prepare better the drivers.”
One vital topic at present is how motorsport can expand its diversity in engagement across social stratas and ethnicities.
Could a series incorporating Gen2 machinery that embraces wider demographics become a reality by 2022 and would a manufacturer back that to add serious backbone to some of initial schemes and marketing campaigns that they have formed?
The quest for equal opportunities in motorsport has also been pushed heavily by the FIA, which has long-standing diversity programmes such as Girls on Track and the FIA Disability and Accessibility Commission.
Now it has the ‘PurposeDriven’ messaging which includes diversity, health and safety, community and environment within its structure. Could that message become the focal point of a whole new Formula E linked series?
“We maybe have additional opportunities linked to diversity and the access to motorsport there because we understand that Formula E is something where we could have some room of allowing newcomers to come in, in a better and easier way at cost, which are still acceptable, and not necessarily millions,” said Bertrand.
“So these are part of the questions we have to deal with within the next months, it will not be for next year for sure.
“But I think in the future to imagine that kind of a ladder under Formula E could be imagined to help teams to better prepare the drivers at certain level or to help teams to detect new talents and very grassroot level is something we could imagine.”