• Alejandro Agag interview

Formula E emerging

Chris Medland December 3, 2012

ESPN talks to Alejandro Agag - CEO of Formula E Holdings - following the announcement of Rome as one of the host cities for the new championship which will launch in 2014

All Formula E races will take place in city centres © FIA

How pleased are you to be able to confirm a Formula E race in a European capital city?

It's great news for the championship. This is the first city we're announcing in Europe - we already had one announcement in South America; Rio de Janeiro - and actually we have already lined up another five or six cities to announce, but to make this first announcement in Europe is a big moment for us. Especially a city like Rome which is going to deliver an amazing show with all the monuments as a backdrop so we're really very excited.

It was somewhere that Formula One wanted to go previously; is that something you've looked at when aiming to get host cities?

No, not at all. We don't look at other championships, we really just want to focus on our own championship with our own futures and we look to be in the main capitals around the world - capitals with an amazing backdrop - and that's exactly why we chose Rome. We think with the backdrop of the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus for the race will make it really great. And that's what we're looking at with other cities; we really want to be in the big capitals of the world and this is definitely one of them. Then the next ones we are going to announce in January/February will fit the same profile.

Can you tell us where any more of those may be?

We are announcing two races in the US - in really big cities in the US - and it's really exciting because this championship is really catching a lot of traction in the United States and their passion for electric vehicles and clean mobility is very high there, we are realising. We are announcing a big capital, probably the biggest in Asia, so these will be the next announcements and then we have other cities coming up in Europe and in other places. But the next ones will be two in the US and one in Asia.

Looking at the concept as a whole how important is Formula E in the current climate?

We think it's very relevant. We think the automotive sector is going through a change - even we could say a revolution - going to cleaner and more sustainable ways of mobility. Definitely the cleanest one at the moment is electric and we think electric deserves to have its own championship and that's what we are. We are the only recognised FIA championship on a global level for electric cars. We think that's very important and I think our success will be very important for the electric car industry as a whole.

Rome will be the first European city to host a Formula E race © FIA

What do you think the championship's biggest challenge is going to be?

Well we have two main challenges. One of course is to have ten city tracks in downtown areas in ten global cities. This challenge is going really well because we have already over ten cities that want to have our championship and over ten cities that fit our profile of big global capitals. But we have the challenge of designing and building all of these race tracks in the cities. The second challenge is to produce fast and exciting cars, and that challenge is also quite well under way with our alliance with McLaren for the powertrains. We will make another public announcement of an alliance very soon on the terms of the batteries and the battery supplier is also going to be a very large, global company. So those are the two main challenges and I think we are working well on both of those.

The championship is open to any homologated car, but have you seen enough interest to indicate there will be a wide range of entries or do you expect this to launch as a one-make category?

We expect to launch probably as a one-make in 2014, basically because it's so difficult and so unique to produce a car with these characteristics, but we are really seeing interest from many different manufacturers. So I think the car will become a multi-manufacturer car from year two, definitely from year three and we expect in year four that practically every team - or every other team - will have a different make of car.

You know from your own personal experience how costs can get so high even in GP2 level; what sort of budgets are you targeting for a team in Formula E?

This is the advantage of starting a championship from scratch. We are targeting budgets which are much lower than other competitions. Probably there will be big investment in the development of batteries and even in the development of powertrains, but those constructors who develop that will have to offer those equipments to other teams at the maximum capped price. Through these mechanisms we'll learn to establish a very tight cost control; we're right now in the discussions of exactly how much but it shouldn't exceed a figure of $5 million as the absolute maximum for running a team for one year.

You mentioned McLaren earlier and their involvement with Spark Racing Technologies; that must be encouraging for the championship as a whole but would you like to see more companies with links to Formula One getting involved in this?

Well without mentioning just Formula One - we always refer to other competitions so that we don't want to really compare to anyone else - but yes. We want to have some traditional racing teams come from other competitions and we are already talking with some teams from IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula One and others. But also approximately half of the grid we would like to have new teams. New teams and even global brands who have never been in to racing but want to embrace this new championship, this new way of looking at motor racing. So we expect a hybrid grid between traditional racing teams and new brands that want to join this championship.

Chris Medland is assistant editor at ESPNF1

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Chris Medland is assistant editor at ESPNF1 Chris Medland, who in his youth even found the Pacific GPs entertaining, talked his way in to work at the British Grand Prix and was somehow retained for three years. He also worked on the BBC's F1 output prior to becoming assistant editor ahead of the 2011 season