Electric racing series Formula E is at the vanguard of promoting a greener sport and its new boss believes it will benefit the planet as a whole.
Chief executive Jamie Reigle, who has replaced Formula E’s founder Alejandro Agag, says the circuit espouses an environmental message and insists its carbon footprint is outweighed by the benefits.
“Climate crisis is very real,” Reigle told Nicki Shields of CNN’s Supercharged TV show. “The goal was to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles because automobiles and transport contribute approximately 25 percent of carbon emissions globally.
“So Alejandro’s (Agag) vision was, if we can get a car race seriously to showcase the potential of electric vehicles, we will accelerate the adoption and that will be very good for the planet in the medium term.
“Obviously, that comes with, when you have global ambition, some logistics that are involved when it comes to taking the circus around the world, so to speak. Our view is the carbon emissions that come from that will be dwarfed relative to the change in adoption of electric vehicles over time.”
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While F1’s announcement of a new 10-year plan to become carbon neutral by 2030 is a positive step, Reigle thinks the environmental challenges the two forms of racing face differ greatly, meaning they must come up with different solutions to them.
“Motorsport exists partially around technology transfer into road cars. But it’s also a form of entertainment. A release for fans,” he said.
“Formula 1 has massive fanbase around world and I think they’ll be well served by that. Our challenge then is to tell a different story around street racing and around the potential of electric vehicles. I think those two will coexist quite nicely for a long time.”
Comparisons are often drawn between the two racing championships due to the similarities in teams and the championship’s format.
But Reigle believes any comparison between the two is not helpful.
“I don’t think it’s super productive for us to reference ourselves against them,” he said. “I think we have a core proposition where we’re about electric racing, and it’s street racing and city centers.
“It’s a fundamentally different product. And I don’t think those are mutually exclusive. So it’s not about whether we’re going to catch up to them or surpass them. It’s about is our product something that fans want to engage with?
“I think when you see the Porsches, the Mercedes, the Audi’s, the big OEMs coming in, it shows the basic value in the technology development, but also in engaging with the younger consumer that will buy those electric cars in the future.”
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Maintaining the status quo
With Agag transitioning to the position of chairman – as well as starting the all-new Extreme E – Reigle is taking his first steps into motorsport.
Prior to joining the racing series, the Canadian was a senior executive at the Los Angeles Rams NFL team, after spending a decade as an senior executive at Manchester United.
And while he wants to put his own stamp on the championship, Reigle thinks there isn’t the need for “big changes.”
“The team and what has been delivered is really remarkable and if you think Formula E started five years ago and where we are today, it’s truly a special property that Alejandro and his team have developed,” he explained.
“For me, it’s about bringing in perhaps some expertise from outside and a little bit of a different perspective. But really, it’s as you were and keep going, and building on the success that’s been delivered today.”
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The 2019/20 Formula E season kicked off with a thrilling double header in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, with Sam Bird finishing fastest in the first race and Alexander Sims winning the second race.
The start of the new campaign also saw Germany’s “Big Four” manufacturers – Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and Audi – competing in the same single-seater championship for the first time.
And with Jean-Éric Vergne aiming for an historic third championship title in a row and young drivers progressing through the ranks, there are storylines aplenty in Formula E’s sixth season, something that appealed to Reigle.
“[Last season] we had nine winners in the 12 races,” he said. “I think of the biggest sports properties – there’s an unpredictability to the outcome and the fans really buy into that.
“On the other hand, we had a two-time winner in Jean-Éric Vergne. One of the narratives I’ll be following really closely is, can he go one more and win three times in a row?
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“At the other end of the spectrum, we have young guys like Nyck de Vries coming in, it’s the first time a Formula 2 champion has come to Formula E. That’s a sign of the status of the championship that we have and the attractiveness for the drivers to come in and race.
“With Porsche or Mercedes, what we saw is they brought in a level of professionalism and their approach, they have another series to Formula E and I think that’s really raised the game for all the other teams, and that’s really what sports all about.”