It has begun in Formula E. Just like in Formula One, the big factory teams are moving in and the small independent teams are moving out. The team owned and operated by former Formula One driver Jarno Trulli has announced it is withdrawing from the sport after missing the first two races of the new season. Some of the parts it needed to compete in the first race in Beijing were impounded by customs agents. In Malaysia for the second race, the team’s cars failed technical inspection. Following that debacle, rumors started swirling that the team was heading for the exits. It has now confirmed to The Verge that it is withdrawing from the sport.
Formula E rules limit the competition to just 10 teams. Trulli’s departure opens the door for Jaguar Land Rover to join the series next year. An official announcement is planned for next week. That would coincide nicely with one of the worst kept secrets in the automotive business, which is that Jaguar is planning to introduce an electric car of its own, possibly in 2017. The Jaguar team will partner with Williams Advanced Engineering.
Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag, the man who first dreamed up the idea of an electric race car series and sold it to FIA president Jean Todt, tells Current E that the series will stick with only ten teams until such time as the race cars can complete an entire one hour race without stopping to switch cars. At present, the cars do not have sufficient battery power to race for that long. The drives must come into the pits and switch to aanother car with a fully charged battery after about 30 minutes.
Agag thinks it will be at least season five before more advanced batteries are available. Then and only then will the series expand to 12 teams. “The big manufacturers will come to Formula E, sooner rather than later,” Agag says.
“If you think about it, Renault is one team; Citroen DS with Virgin is another team; ABT is flirting with Audi or VW. One of them will go in; you have Mahindra, which is a manufacturer; you have NextEV, which is a manufacturer in development. So you have five. I have another two that I cannot tell yet. So you have seven – there are only three [teams] left, so OEMs better hurry up. I think Formula E will have 10 manufacturers in season four.”
Agag might want to pay some attention to the mess Formula One is in because it is dominated by factory teams. Be careful what you wish for, Alejandro. You just might get it.