Formula E and ‘Fanboost’
Formula E and ‘Fanboost’ Formula E, a motorsport in which every car is identical and electric, has been slowly emerging throughout the past couple of years, due to an oversized interest from millennial race fans. Just six years after its inaugural season during 2014-15, Formula E was declared a FIA World Championship series, joining the racing prestige of the likes of Formula 1. Despite this success, however, the sport is not without its controversies — one of which revolves around a concept called ‘Fanboost’.
In a Formula E race, teams only get a set amount of energy in their batteries in the entire race. Although teams used to be allowed to swap cars for a fresh battery during a pit stop, the 2018-19 season saw this method banned and teams having to only rely on a single battery charge to get their cars through the race, because the battery technology has improved so much. Although this might seem next to impossible, Formula E battery technology has progressed to a state where only one battery is required for a car to get to the finish line.
This means that having the optimal pace is extremely important: driving fast comes with the danger of completely draining the battery before the finish line, and driving too slow means you won’t win the race. Currently, Formula E cars come with a 54 kWh battery which produces around 200-250 kW.
‘Fanboost’ works by allowing drivers to earn the ability to unlock a one-time boost during the race amounting up to 180 kW to 200 kW. This is achieved by using social media and having actual Formula E fans vote for drivers, with the top five drivers with the most votes receiving a ‘Fanboost’ to use during their next race.
This concept has seen its fair share of backlash, much of which is on the lines of how it is detrimental to the ‘true racing spirit’ and that it makes it difficult for Formula E to be taken seriously. Although these are all valid criticisms of ‘Fanboost’, it is also important that we consider the benefits of the system.
No matter how you frame it, Formula E as a sport is still in its infancy phase, and it is vital to attract an ever-growing fanbase for the sport’s longevity.
By implementing this ‘Fanboost’ option for fans to get directly involved in the sport, this creates an interesting proposition for individuals that might be looking for that extra bit of involvement in a motorsport that many other racing leagues are missing.
Additionally, this system encourages the drivers themselves to become more likable and popular among the fans of Formula E, strengthening the bond between the actual ‘players’ of the sport and the fanbase.
This means that to be a Formula E driver, not only do you need to be able to pilot one of the fastest electric cars in the world, but you also have to be able to present yourself as someone to vote for to achieve maximum performance on the racetrack. By encouraging drivers to become celebrities, Formula E gains traction on consumers through not only racing but also having likable drivers.
Regardless of these benefits, however, the criticisms of ‘Fanboost’ cannot be ignored. Although this interactive mechanic within the sport might draw in a certain type of fan, it also can alienate others who believe that ‘Fanboost’ takes away from the competition of the sport — that the results of the race should be determined by the skill of the driver alone. This is compounded by the fact that all Formula E cars are identical, and consequently, the driver is the only difference there is from team to team.
Additionally, it is well known that popularity often stems from success, and previous champions often win the large majority of ‘Fanboosts’. This promotes a precedent where winners stay winners while making it harder for underdogs to achieve an upset.
Although ‘Fanboost’ is a great method to quickly attract followers to Formula E, it is unavoidable that the continuation of such a system will raise concerns about the legitimacy of the racing in the sport. Perhaps the FIA have realized this as well and decided that the cons of ‘Fanboost’ have finally outweighed the pros, as it is rumored that they might be removing the mechanic altogether in future seasons. However, it is important to note that Formula E seems like it will stay a long time, ushering in an age of exciting new electric motorsports as well as driving innovation for electric cars for the public.
Formula E and ‘Fanboost’
Written by Tony Cao
Edited by Jimei Shen, Jay Devon & Thomas Braun