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Formula E Hybrabad E-Prix 2023 - Different Perspectives, One Race

Formula E came to India for the first time and three of us went for the race, but came out with very different experiences

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Formula E has been pushing the boundaries for electric cars via the crucible of motorsport. A series which once made drivers jump from one to the other has today evolved to a sophisticated racing series with the cars reaching over 320kmph. We got a chance to witness these in action during the Hybrabad E-Prix. And because there were three of us going -- all with different entries, we had interesting experiences to share. 

Alan, the Spectator

The most accessible way to see any race up close and personal is to pick up a grandstand ticket. In most instances the cars should be within touching distance and you should really get a sense of how fast they are as they zip by, an experience no TV camera angle can match. The race cars, racing action and the speeds that they can achieve are really impressive now compared to the first generation of cars. And it was an exciting race to watch. And because there is a large display in front of you, the full race can be followed.

But there are other elements at play; and just like the racing cars, you are also physically there in the moment. In Hyderabad the race kicked off at 3:05pm, while the qualifying knockouts started at around 10 AM. This meant we were seated in the sun for a good six hours of racing. Yes, there were refreshment stalls, a Fan Centre with simulators and other fun experiences, but when watching the cars race, it was hot and uncomfortable! 

And since it’s a street circuit, there are the usual trees and light poles that line the streets; and for safety, two additional wire fences are present between you and the cars flying around the track. So the visual experience of watching the cars race isn’t as clean an experience as you would get at a race circuit, and nowhere as comfortable as your sofa back home. 

As a spectator I wouldn’t bother to go through this again. At least in the way it was organized this time around. The stands really need canopies, the view of the cars really needs to be clearer and a ‘GrandStand” pass should give you more access to other experiences. Maybe a pit walk experience on the Saturday or before the action really hots up. An experience that will attract new fans to a fledgling sport. Because as it stands right now only a die hard racing fan would brave this experience more than once, and new attendees could easily be put off from the whole racing experience altogether.

Nabeel, the Journalist

As a journalist, it was vital for me to get the media accreditation done. This gives you access to the media center which comprises a boardroom like seating, high-speed internet, plug points and a plethora of TV screens which have all the information like live timings and telecast. Basically, all the information needed to cover the race properly. It also gives access to the pit lane and track-side walkways when the sessions are not happening. But a media photographer's access meant we could remain trackside even when the race was on. 

And that is exactly what I decided to do. As soon as I reached the media centre, I set up my desk and left for the track. The places I decided to spend most of my time were the start straight and T1 T2 chicane, meaning I could see the cars’ agility, and also experience the sheer electric acceleration onto the long straight. And what a sight it was! Having these cars go by you at about 150kmph means you get to experience the sound and also the gush of wind blowing past. It is as close as you can get to these cars on the track and it’s definitely worth the walk to find the right spot.

There is a downside, though. You don't get to follow the full race when you are trackside. And we were watching the telecast on hotstar on our phones, but that had a lot of delay.  Nevertheless, we had the option to come back to the media centre between sessions to catch up on the action and enjoy some refreshments. To me, this still remains the best and the most authentic way to experience the race. But it’s an experience not open to all.

Ujjawall, the VIP 

An event as significant as this one needs to cater to the VIPs in the finest way possible, and so it did. The VIP lounge, called the Boss Emotion Club, was probably the ultimate place to be, especially on race day. Courtesy of Nissan, I got access to the lounge and hence could experience the sheer opulence it offered firsthand.

First and foremost I reveled in the fantastic vantage point that the lounge offered. Located just above the pit garages, I had the sight of the whole pitlane along with a clear unobstructed view of turns 16, 17, and 18. And then there was the hospitality, which included a plethora of cuisines and a bar as well, both of which made sure I was fed and hydrated at all times. 

The pass to the club also included a tour of the garage and pit lane, which was a completely unique experience in itself. Watching all the mechanics work on the stripped-out vehicles before the sessions made me realize the profound depth of the technicality and engineering knowledge that goes into making these race cars work.

Sure, some sort of shade outside on the balcony while we sipped our champagne was something us ‘important folks’ wished we had, but at the end of the day, it was still the best possible way to experience the inaugural E-Prix.

The Indian Connection

Mahindra, Nissan, Porsche and Jaguar (Tata) are our closest connection to Formula E and here’s how each of them fared in the first India E-Prix. 

Mahindra had a terrible qualifying, but strong runs from both drivers saw them have a great mid-race surge up to fourth and 10th at one point of time. Oliver Rowland actually was challenging for the podium in the closing stages but both drivers faded before the checkered flag, finishing in sixth and 14th places. 

Nissan’s Norman Nato had a great race moving up seven places to finish in seventh after starting in 14th on the grid. His teammate was the opposite, dropping from a second-row grid start to finish in 12th. 

Porsche had a much brighter day with their drivers finishing in third and fourth after pushing through the field from lowly starting positions. 

Jaguar probably had the worst day of all and from an initial high of acing the qualifying with pole position and sixth on the grid, the racing gods weren’t smiling when both cars were knocked out in the same accident early on in the running. 

The Winner of the race was J E Vergne from DS Penske racing, finishing in second place was Nick Cassidy from Envision Racing and third place went to A F Da Costa from Porsche. 

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