Formula E has finally arrived, and as some have pointed out it is genuinely a unique, twenty-first century form of motor racing.
Not only do the cars utilise electric powertrains, a true revolution for open-wheeled motor racing, but with FanBoost (no, it’s not a feature on the upcoming iPhone 6) spectators can vote for a driver to receive a short speed advantage over their competitors to aid competition.
But has the sport missed an opportunity to go one step further and revolutionise the very concept of a championship series?
Like most FIA competitions, Formula E will award both a drivers’ championship and teams’ championship at the end of the year.
Regulations state that a driver’s best results “less one” throughout the year will determine the winner. While there is some suggestion that “less one” means the worst performance will be disregarded, I assume it means the opposite and the best performance from each driver will be eliminated – just like the highest and lowest scores at the Olympics – to even out the playing field and reward consistency.
Aside from this allowance, the drivers’ championship as a concept remains problematic. Despite an impressively high profile for a brand new sport, some drivers won’t be completing a full season. Notably Takuma Sato is replacing Antonio Felix da Costa at Amlin Aguri for the opening race due to the later’s DTM commitments, and we can expect similar disruptions through the season.
Naturally this puts some drivers at a serious disadvantage in the hunt for the inaugural driver’s title. However with a limited pool from which to draw, how can we encourage talented drivers to stay involved, if only for a short period of time?
Awarding only a constructor’s championship offers a neat solution to this, and a number of problems facing traditional racing formulas.
Firstly, points accumulated by drivers would contribute only to the team’s total. This would alleviate the tension inherent in a dual championship series. I understand that the pressures of satisfying both team and driver is a large part of the entertainment value for Formula 1 fans.
However with only the team’s point haul to be concerned about, both cars would be pushing for the best possible result – with no interference by individual egos. Should a faster car affect a slower one, there would be no reason to interfere with their strategy if the goal is an optimal team performance.
Controversy surrounding team orders would also be a thing of the past. Sure, they can provide some of the most emotionally charged moments in racing – but as valuable as they are in attracting website visitors or selling magazines, they can be poisonous to teams without whom there would be no race seats.
It would also encourage fans to support teams rather than drivers. Although driver personalities can attract the affection of large supporter base, Formula E is a business and needs to be run like one.
Apart from streamlining merchandise opportunities (after all, you support the team, not the driver) fans could even be encouraged to purchase Team Memberships, providing a revenue stream previously untapped.
Dissolving the driver’s championship creates more opportunities than it denies. Let’s image that Kamui Kobayashi is released from his contract with the Catherham F1 Team and is available to race, perhaps he replaces someone in Formula E for a few races, bringing more fans to the sport without disrupting the integrity of the driver’s standings.
Mandatory driver line-ups could even been introduced, with no driver being allowed to race for more than seven of the ten races and promote even more fresh faces to the open-wheel audience.
Before you drop your bundle and reply with comments that a drivers’ championship is a sacred right and I suggest its demise at my own peril, just remember that it’s commonplace for a baseball pitcher to rotate games throughout the series, why not drivers? If a Football striker or opening batsman is injured or not performing they are emitted from the squad to the benefit of the team.
Yet, the world keeps revolving.
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