OPINION: Formula E is a better motorsport than F1 in 2024

18th January 2024
Simon Ostler

Let’s be honest. In a fandom that still proclaims the 1960s as the golden era of motorsport, music and popular culture, a brand-new form of racing that involves near-identical, near-silent electric cars racing in city centres was never likely to receive a hero’s welcome.


Indeed, nearly a decade on from the inaugural Formula E race in Beijing, mention of the electric racing series usually gets met with disdain and disinterest in equal concert. An optimist would say it’s difficult to put a finger on exactly what that is. To the realists among us, however, it’s possibly a little too depressingly obvious.

Pick your reason: the sound, the smell, the aesthetic, even the principals for which they stand, in the minds of some, these cars will never find favour. It’s certainly a tough crowd; one so addicted to nostalgia that it can’t appreciate the virtues or redeeming features of anything new.

I say new, indeed Formula E is very much part of our present. Electric cars, be that in road or racing form, are not new anymore. As we argued in our Cars of the Year feature for 2023, electric cars are now in many ways improving on their petrol and diesel-powered kin. Indeed there is a case to be made for Formula E, in that it brings great things to the table that some of today’s combustion contemporaries don’t necessarily. 


Let’s start with the most pressing argument. Electric cars don’t sound as good. As good as what? The V12 of a Matra MS670? Couldn’t agree more. The V10 F1 cars of the early 2000s? Of course. The V8 Camaro that kept the whole of northern France awake for the duration of the 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours? I won’t argue. But let’s be honest, neither do the current crop of Formula 1 cars.

If I may be so bold for a moment, the sound argument is getting a bit tired. Because actually, the sound of a Formula E car is pretty cool, especially if you get to experience it in person. How many of us grew up thinking space ships and rockets were the coolest things in the world? Here we have a car that literally sounds like a rocket ship.

Sure, it’s different, it doesn’t perhaps offer the kind of emotive thrill that you get from a Ferrari V12 at full chat, but sorry to break it to you, it’s highly unlikely anything ever will again.

Looking beyond the superficial, though, I believe Formula E is quietly delivering in its own unique way.


I took the opportunity to attend the London E-Prix for the season finale of the 2023 Formula E season. If you haven’t been, it’s a unique event with a circuit that incorporates indoor and outdoor sections. It marked my first experience of watching Formula E. It has my attention and I believe it deserves yours.

I went in a doubter, as I'd been on the fence since Formula E first emerged in 2014. I remember tuning in to the first ever E-Prix, and I wasn’t sold. Even looking past my own misguided prejudices and complete inability to accept anything new, the cars looked slow, the sound was underwhelming and although the tight wheel-to-wheel action was intense, the overall experience couldn't hold a candle to what I was used to in F1.

After a while my efforts to tune in became sporadic at best, and eventually Formula E fell off my radar entirely. When I arrived at the venue for the London E-Prix, I hadn't watched a Formula E race in its entirety for years, so I went in with minimal knowledge and limited expectations.

Perhaps that meant my threshold of entertainment was lowered, but I don’t think so. It’s been six months since my first-hand experience and my interest hasn’t waned. Ater watching the Mexico City E-Prix last weekend, my reaction remains the same. The introduction of the Gen3 cars has transformed Formula E’s appeal. They look dynamic, fast and aggressive. On the most fundamental level, the on-track entertainment has snowballed compared to the relative snails of earlier years.

Even early gimmicks such as Fanboost, designed simultaneously to distract from the underwhelming track action and engage a new audience of young and inquisitive fans, which never quite felt like they matched with Formula E's ‘world championship’ status, are gone.

What we’re left with is a form of motorsport that you can wholly compare to the likes of F1 and I’m beginning to look increasingly favourably upon the electric upstart.

Take the elements you hate most about F1, the politics, the imbalance of riches throughout the grid, the improvident costs, the grossly expanded calendar, the single-minded approach of teams to protect their own interests even to the detriment of the sport itself. I find it increasingly easy to dislike the wider context that surrounds the on-track entertainment. Years of mis-management have afforded the teams too much power, and it has become a sport governed by its own competitors.

Despite this, I still watch and love F1, but I would consider myself a pretty poor fan of motorsport to shut myself off from any alternatives.

Formula E offers something truly refreshing and it deserves a chance. It’s not perfect, of course it’s not, but it’s better than being written off “because it doesn’t sound very good”. Do so as a lover of racing and it’s only you that loses out.

The fact It’s cheaper than F1 makes it fairer and makes it more closely contested. As a competitive spectacle, it arguably bests F1. Let’s just take the 2023 seasons as evidence. Over the course of 23 F1 races, two teams managed to win races. Conversely, throughout 16 Formula E races, six teams stood on the top step.  Regardless of what you think of the noise, of the look of the cars, even of the racing itself, that can only be a good thing.


Let’s come on to the racing, though, because this is important. From the outside, Formula E looks like a single make championship and to some extent that is true, but all 11 teams are still responsible for the performance of their cars. They have control of car setup, ride heights, damping, but also the software that controls the powertrain, so each team can work to achieve the best balance between speed and efficiency.

This means that, even though they may look the same, the best team will still very much come out on top on a given race weekend. But because they all start from the same place, aside from the option of which powertrain to run (there are currently seven to choose from), it makes for a far greater balance in performance… no, not in a WEC way…

Sure, not every race is a thriller. The Mexico E-Prix won’t be going down as a classic but then again, what season from any series or era can you name where every race had you on the edge of your seat? What I can say with certainly is that I prefer being able to ask the question: “Who’s going to win this race?” and not feel like I’m just fooling myself.

For the best part of three decades, F1 has been caught in a relentless cycle of domination. If it’s not Ferrari, it’s Red Bull, or Mercedes, or Red Bull again. We hope and we pray pre-season a few other teams might have come up to par but beyond a few glimmers of hope in testing or at the odd race, it’s rarely the case. The ‘gang of four’ battle – Mansell, Senna, Prost and Piquet – feels like an awful long time ago.


A sport run almost exclusively by money, and who has the most, is not conducive to compelling competition. The fact the F1 world championship is often wrapped up with several races to go says it all. I quite often find myself wishing F1 was more competitive. I just want my Sunday afternoons to be exciting again, because for the longest time they simply haven’t been.

And so, I turn to Formula E, which is yet to suffer from anything like that level of dominance. Indeed, the Formula E title has been secured at the final race of the season in six of its nine seasons so far. The most dominant win was that of Antonio Felix da Costa, who sealed his championship at round nine of an 11-race season.

Yes, yes, I know. Formula E is on a Saturday. But the point still stands, at this moment in time, I find myself intrigued rather than obligated, by the prospect of an E-Prix by comparison to a Grand Prix. And that after all is what sport should be all about right? It’s supposed to be unpredictable, compelling and emotive.


Formula E has put the sport back into motorsport and that’s before I begin to talk about how refreshing it is to have drivers who are passionate about the cars they’re driving, eager to add to the show they’re providing, and keen to engage with the audience they’re entertaining.

Forget any prejudices you had over the underwhelming cars of the early seasons. The Gen3 racers are genuinely fun to watch. They’re different, but what is actually wrong with that? At the end of the day, Formula E might well be my favourite form of motorsport in 2024.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

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