Next year Formula One gets a new 'competitor' in the form of Formula E, the world's first fully-electric racing series. Some big name teams have signed up to take part but its success is likely to depend on its exposure. Others, such as A1 Grand Prix and Formula 2, failed in this area and Formula E doesn't want to repeat their mistakes. According to an article in today's Daily Telegraph written by Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt, Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag wants the series to be shown in the UK on "free-to-air even if we get less money." It is a bold aim, especially since he adds that discussions with BT Sport and BSkyB are also under way.
So far Formula E has signed two television deals which cover more than 90 countries. At the end of November it announced a multi-year agreement with Japanese network TV Asahi. It joined Fox Sports which will broadcast Formula E across Latin America and the Far East as well as Canada, Australia and some European countries excluding the UK.
"Broadcasters kind of all got a bit excited after the TV Asahi announcement," says Agag adding that in the UK "we are talking with BT Sport and with Sky." He says that if he can get Formula E on free-to-air TV then his first choices would be the BBC or ITV.
He adds that a UK TV deal is not likely to be done until drivers are announced in early 2014 as this will increase the attention on the series. "The strategy in the UK and in Europe is to wait until the drivers are out in February or March then we go for it because we can get more value."
So far nine of the ten teams have been announced including outfits run by Audi, Virgin, F1 champion Alain Prost, IndyCar squads Andretti Autosport and Dragon Racing, and another blast from F1's past Super Aguri.
Well-known drivers are expected to be amongst the field and Agag says they will largely be names from F1. Last month the Formula E car was tested for the first time when ex-Virgin Racing F1 driver Lucas di Grassi took it out on the La Ferte Gaucher circuit near Choisy-le-Roi in France. It is a collaboration between many famous names from F1 including Williams which will provide the batteries for the cars as Sylt has Williams-signs-Formula-E-partnership}revealed. In addition, Formula E's technical partner is Renault, McLaren will make the cars' 300bhp electric motors, Michelin will supply the tyres and watch company TAG Heuer will handle timing.
As Pitpass also predicted back in March, the series will even race on F1's most famous location – the streets of Monte Carlo. All of the races will be held in city centres and there will be a total of ten including other exotic locations such as Los Angeles, Miami, Rio de Janeiro and Beijing where the series will launch in September 2014.
The batteries can only power the cars for around 25 minutes so the drivers will need to change cars to finish the second half of the race. It may sound like a disadvantage, as it breaks up the racing action, but Agag says it is a selling-point when it comes to TV coverage.
"The TV people we are talking to absolutely love it. One hour races and they love the pit stop concept because the drivers are going to run. Everybody will have the same distance between their car and the other car. This running, the TV people love it. You can actually have overtaking here." Time will tell whether it is enough of an attraction to get the free-to-air broadcasters to bite.