I went to the Formula E in London – I'm convinced this is better than Formula 1

If you love fast-paced, hi-tech motorsport, you'll love Formula E

The Jaguar of Sam Bird leads the pack through a wet corner at the Formula E race in London
(Image credit: Jaguar Racing)

When most people think of top-tier motorsport, they'll think of Formula 1. For decades, the series has provided excellent entertainment, as high performance vehicles navigate the twists and turns of the best tracks in the world.

It's far from the only option for enthusiasts, though. This weekend, the all-electric Formula E series took to London, for the final two stages of the calendar. I tagged along to see what it's all about and – spoiler alert – I think it's even more exciting to watch than F1.

How is Formula E different to Formula 1?

Well, lets start with obvious. In Formula E, all of the cars are powered by an electric drivetrain. It's loosely similar to what you'd find in the best EVs – in the same way that the engine in an F1 car is similar to the one in your hatchback.

With the Gen 3 car in use this year, that provides up to 350kW of power. Drivers will have 300kW at their disposal under normal racing conditions, with an extra 50kW earned by driving through an Attack Zone. These are placed off line, forcing teams to strategically take the extra power boost while attempting to avoid falling too far down the pecking order.

There are also no planned pit stops in Formula E. The cars are charged before the race, but cannot be topped up midway through. That means energy management is one of the top considerations for those on track. Drivers will need to find the balance between gunning for speed and keeping enough energy to last the distance.

Then there's the qualifying. The grid is split in half, with drivers racing to put down the fastest possible time. The top four drivers from each half are then put into a knockout format, with pairs going head-to-head. This progresses through quarter- and semi-finals, before the remaining duo battle for pole in the final.

It sounds way more long-winded than it actually is. In practice, it's great to watch, and can make for a more interesting starting grid.

What is Formula E like to watch?

One thing I noticed instantly about watching Formula E is just how tight the racing is. Don't expect to see a dominant driver go a half a minute in front of the pack and cruise for the next 70 laps – this is wheel-to-wheel action all the way through.

At the London E-Prix, drivers navigate between indoor sections in the Excel centre and outdoor parts surrounding it. That can make things even more interesting, as the track conditions differ wildly between the two. Sunday's action saw some fairly hefty rainfall, too, making things even more dramatic. Don't worry though – all of the grandstands are housed inside, so you won't need to pack an umbrella.

One thing I thought I'd miss was the noise. As someone who grew up at local motoring events, the roar of an engine is inexplicably linked to those kinds of events. And while the whizz of the electric drivetrain isn't the same, it's not worse – just different.

Why I'm a Formula E convert

Ultimately, everything you've just read is part of the reason why I'd now consider myself a fan. It's genuinely exciting racing, with drivers competing from the first lap to the last. You'll watch top drivers push their cars to the limit, working tirelessly to maximise their strategy in the process.

There are other reasons, too. In the UK, if you want to keep abreast of the goings-on in Formula 1, you'll need a Sky subscription. If you don't have that, you'll have to go completely off-grid every Sunday, hoping to avoid any kind of spoilers before the action is shown in highlight form on Channel 4.

With Formula E, everything is broadcast on Channel 4. You can watch every single race, without having to pay a penny. That's so much easier to engage with, and should help the sport to garner some extra fans.

If you fancy giving it a go, the next season starts in January. The first race will take place in Mexico City on the 13th of January 2024.

Sam Cross
Staff Writer

Online news writer at T3.com, Sam has five years of experience in online and print journalism, with work featured in publications like Metro and Last Word on Sports. After years writing about music and football, Sam now turns his hand to bringing you news about new phones, smart home products, smart watches, laptops and TVs. Sam is a longtime fan and user of Apple products, including iPhones, MacBooks and Apple Watches.He’s also T3’s resident football expert, bringing you everything you need to know about the big games, including how to watch them. In his spare time, Sam is a keen guitarist, watch lover and (very) amateur golfer.