Formula E in NYC: Pretty damn good
I'd only been to Brooklyn once before Formula E rolled into town earlier this month. It was for a swanky party at the Brooklyn Art Museum, and to be honest, I walked less than a block from the subway to the museum and back. So really, I'd never been to Brooklyn until recently.
But what a visit it was.
For the uninitiated, Formula E is a racing series in which the cars are fully electric. They look quite like a Formula 1 or Indycar vehicle, but in place of a gas-burning engine, you'll find a shit-ton of batteries and a power-train that converts all of that power into rotational energy. They're actually very cool, but let me rant first.
When Formula E was first announced, I (very emphatically) didn't want it to be a thing. At that time, the pinnacle global racing series -- Formula 1 -- had just mandated V6-turbo/hybrid engines for all cars, which are absurdly complicated, very costly, and sound like what you'd think a 200-mph Roomba would sound like. They replaced the thunderous and wonderfully vocal V8 and V10 engines of years prior, and I didn't really like it. As much as I support the green movement, it was all a bit silly. Starting in 2014, teams began flying these hybrid, farty-sounding F1 cars around the world in planes that still burn tens of thousands of gallons of traditional fuel.
And now, we were going to have nearly-silent racing cars, which would only last half a race distance (requiring a car swap in the pits) and had to be run on shortened tracks because of the tremendous battery drain. Oh, and certain drivers would temporarily get more power because of some idiotic social media #fanboost thing, so it also became partially arbitrary due to a popularity contest. Bully.
Over the past few years, though -- they've gotten it extremely right.
The events themselves are like mini-festivals. Each race offers a ton of opportunity to meet the drivers and teams, and everything is (for the most part) very organized. The food, alcohol and merchandise is reasonably priced, and there's even a generic blend-into-the-background live band. If you think you have the speed to take on an actual Formula E driver (hint: you don't), you can race against them side-by-side in a simulator. Formula 1 can learn some crucial lessons from Formula E: involve your fans and give them above-average amenities. That's how you win racing fans.
More to the point, though: the racing is great and the cars are pretty freaking cool.
Sure, they may sound like RC-cars on methamphetamine, but it's what you don't normally hear that really sticks out. Tires can be heard in various states of duress as drivers take corners a bit too hard or break traction. Even cooler, the aerodynamics of the cars is clearly audible. As each car goes by, there's a distinct whoosh of turbulent air as it passes from the front wing, around the car, and through the rear.
Noises aside, the technology they employ goes far beyond, well, any science I learned and quickly forgot in school. Here's a neat rundown if you're interested.
Alright then, Formula E. At first I didn't even want to hear about it (because I didn't think I'd be able to hear it -- see what I did there?), but now I'm fully invested. You've got some properly talented drivers in the mix, neat cars, and a great presence. Just get rid of that awful #fanboost crap. With Mercedes and Porsche on the way as fully-fledged manufacturer teams (even Ferrari is rumored to be in the mix), it can only get better from here on out.
As for Brooklyn -- well, I took a shuttle from the subway and back. So I guess I still have some sightseeing to do. Any recommendations?