After two years build-up, five days of testing, a mock race and many months of speculation, Formula E has arrived! The electric series begins its first season in China for the 2014 Beijing ePrix. Unusually, the series will have all of its race activity in a one day period, and on a Saturday. Practice will begin at 08:15 and 10:30 local time, qualifying at 12:00, with the race at 16:00. For the first race at least, ITV will only be broadcasting the race live, although I imagine this is the case worldwide. In the UK, qualifying is at 05:00, so it makes little sense to broadcast it live.
Instead, highlights of practice and qualifying will be part of the pre-race build-up presented by Jennie Gow. Gow, who seems to get just about everywhere in the motor sport world, will be presenting the show from London with a series of experts – for Beijing that will be gamer turned racer Jann Mardenborough and engineer Kyle Wilson-Clarke. If demand is good, and I really hope the peak is near to one million viewers on ITV4, then maybe we could see qualifying broadcast live for say Uruguay in December when the timezone is much more favourable. I hope advertising for the series picks up on ITV as we build towards the race with adverts during their big shows. The World Feed commentators, which UK viewers will hear, are Jack Nicholls and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti. Nicki Shields is the World Feed pit-lane reporter and presenter of the World Feed, but I don’t think ITV watchers will see her in action for the latter. Former McLaren F1 mechanic Mark Priestley will be joining Shields out in Beijing.
There are several programmes before the opening weekend, notably a documentary covering the birth of the series on National Geographic, a preview of which is linked above. Both that, and the season preview on ITV4 are repeated multiple times over the week. From a broadcasting stand-point, it will be fascinating to see how the series is presented. From camera angles to pit lane and onto the soundtrack. The point about camera angles has not been talked about that much, but given that Formula E is limited to 150mph, the camera positions need to be strategic enough to capture this speed. This is one reason why Formula E is street circuit based, so that the lack of speed is not as obvious. Who knows how the soundtrack will really come across to viewers should they go down that route for definite. There’s a sense of intrigue that comes with it, for better for worse, I am excited to see how it goes down.
One thing is for certain: on Saturday 13th September, the eyes of the motor racing world will be on Beijing. And here, for the UK folk, are all the scheduling details you need…
Thursday 4th September
17:30 to 18:00 – Blue Peter (CBBC)
– a feature involving Formula E will air
Saturday 6th September
18:00 to 19:00 – Season Preview (ITV4)
Tuesday 9th September
17:00 to 18:00 – Racing Recharged (National Geographic)
Saturday 13th September
08:00 to 10:30 – LIVE Race (ITV4)
18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights (ITV4)
22:00 to 23:00 – Highlights (BT Sport 2)
Given that this is the inaugural race, I would expect there to be a few media appearances through the next week and a half building up to Beijing. I’ll try and keep the above updated as and when features are announced.