If you were to listen to Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One has no need to embrace social media and audience. Despite a decline in viewership for many reasons such as the cost of viewing, cost of tickets and a real lack of social media embracing, Formula One appears to sit on its complacency.
In the case of Formula E, it will be a racing series with social media and audience at the very core of its existence as it looks to promote sustainability and electric cars while also joining a large pool of single-seater racing series.
While a large media output it is to be expected for a radically different series that is yet to begin, it also shows the intentions and the aims of the series. More impressively, the media output has trickled down from the hierarchy to teams and drivers involved.
The latest of drivers announced, Andretti Autosports’ Franck Montagny, announced at the Donington shakedown that he would be considering joining social media due to the Fan Boost initiative, adding: “It’s extra power so I’m going to take it! I’m going to make everything happen and get online as soon as possible.”
While sportspeople on Twitter and various sites is common, usually for self promotion, Formula E’s Fan Boost has made the media a competitive, required aspect for drivers and teams.
With race viewers and Twitter users a common couple, those who do both will have a chance to influence racing directly as fans can take part in a vote-to-pass system. The drivers who are voted for will receive an extra push-to-pass, giving the car an extra 50bhp to overtake a competitor.
Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag has said that the series will break some grounds, and it is clear this system will. It may be gimmicky at first and it may even fail, but there is no denying it will make a new fan base feel involved in the series.
Something rather more clear cut has been the use of social media by the teams and personnel. For example, Mahindra Racing allowed the fans to vote and choose the name of the car that will be driven by Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok. The car has been named the Mahindra Nitro, and once again shows the involvement of fans through social media.
It is not just Twitter that the teams have used. China Racing have used YouTube to give fans one of the few insights into the Renault-Spark on a race track, fuelling debate and opinion on the car’s aesthetics, sounds, and prediction of performance.
However, no one has done insight as well as Super Aguri. Team Manager Ian Phillipson recorded every detail of their Renault-Spark upon disassembling it. Every detail and part of the car was uploaded to Twitter. More impressively, Phillipson responded to requests and responded with images of what fans asked for. It not only allowed people to learn more about the Renault-Spark, but showed the technology that the series is aiming to pioneer.
Some may say that media’s importance is exaggerated, but Formula E wishes to follow Formula One’s pattern of revolutionising and pioneering technology for the car industry. However, it also wants to promote sustainability. The ethos of the series can be seen by the choices of venues. Long Beach is in California, an area famed for it’s embracing of electric cars. China is a serious polluter, and struggles to put enough alternative cars on the roads. London is a hub for combating climate change.
While there is yet to be a car driven in anger, Formula E is looking ahead to the future. There is a video game supposedly planned and initiatives such as tickets awarded to fans who upload the most popular content.
While showing the car off may well make electric cars appear more cool, as part of the series’ aims, nothing will grab people’s attentions more than good media presence. With the teams already fully committing to social media, it bodes well for when fan boost and the fledgling series begin.