Branson, “Formula E to be the pinnacle of motorsports”

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Fortis

This weekend sees the running of the final round of the Formula E championship in Battersea Park, London. Eccentric billionaire and former owner of the Virgin Formula One team, now Manor Racing, Sir Richard Branson believes that Formula E championship will replace Formula one as the pinnacle of motorsport by the end of this current decade.

Branson’s Virgin Group owns its own team in the all-electric series driven by former GP2 driver Sam Bird and 2013 GP2 champion Fabio Leimer.

With F1 currently in a state of flux regarding its future, Mercedes’ domination and calls for an overall of the rules to improve on track competition and parity amongst the teams not making any obvious progress, it is not hard to see why Branson feels this way. Add to that the continuous quit threats from former front running team Red Bull and Formula One’s future does look bleak.

The Formula E championship have not encountered such troubles (yet) and since its inception have been able to proudly brand itself as the vision of the future of motorsports and the car industry in general.

Branson speaking in a media conference at Battersea Park, said: “I think four or five years from now you’ll find Formula E overtaking Formula One in terms of number of people [watching] and more and more, as time goes on, clean energy businesses are going to power ahead of other businesses.

There’s still going to be room for Formula One for a few more years but I would say there will come a time when Formula E will overtake it. With Formula E, you can still hear the roar of the cars from the tarmac as they come through a corner, but at least you can have a conversation and a drink when you’re watching which you can’t do with Formula One.

Also commenting on the future of road car technology, Branson believes in the next 20 years all cars will only be battery powered, which he feels is due to the current popularity of the all electric series.

To have this many people in the press tent says it all, and to have got these beautiful sites – the site here is one of the prettiest in the world – and it’s so well organised. It’s captured the imagination of the public and in the next two or three years I think it’s going to grow as quickly as clean energy generally is.

Almost every week we hear a very excited Nutella loving ‘student’ on the TJ13 F1 Courtroom Podcast signing the praises of Formula E and how brilliant it is. So one can understand Branson’s comments and Formula One (mainly FOM) can indeed learn a thing or two from Formula E interms of how the sport is marketed, increasing viewership numbers and getting the fans more involved and closer to the sport.

38 responses to “Branson, “Formula E to be the pinnacle of motorsports”

  1. Should Beardy become involved in Formula E, it’ll be doomed. If you think the Dwarf is greedy, he’s got nothing on Branson, who’s known for never putting any of his own money into a business, doesn’t pay tax, thinks nothing of breaking the law and has turned in ‘partners’ to gain an advantage.

    Branson: Behind the Mask – Tom Bower, is a good read, much better than Bower’s dreadful book about Bernie.

  2. To whoever knows the answer to this off-topic question. How good are the ticket sales doing in MotoGP? The commentators on a british tv channel were talking about 97.000 spectators on race day in Assen this past weekend. Doesnt that seem a bit to much? I thought MotoGP was on the verge of dying 5 years ago.

    “but at least you can have a conversation and a drink when you’re watching which you can’t do with Formula One.”

    Has he been to an F1 race in the past 1.5 years? I don’t think so…
    Formula E can only thrive IF Formula 1 keeps on going nowhere like it does now.

    • Cant say for certain that that figure is correct. I’ve tried to find out, but the only numbers I can find is for last season, but I’m assuming that these figures were for the entire weekend and not race day.

      The sport did seem to be on its last breath (MotoGP not the two lower classes) a few years ago, but DORNA unlike the FIA, made drastic changes to the regulations mainly the new open class rules. Teams who compete under that banner have more engines to use, more fuel, softer tires and uses a standard DORNA issued control electronics, compared to those who don’t. But there are stipulations, for instance, if a open class bike were to achieve a certain amount of podium finishes, they could have their fuel allowance reduced and for a race win, the use of the soft tires.

      Those changes have seen the return of Suzuki, Aprilla (only as an engine supplier, but they are working on a full factory bike) and Kawasaki are currently testing their bike.

      The DORNA set the rules and they’re not dictated to by the manufacturers, if only the FIA had the balls to do the same.

    • The Dutch TT is more than just the race. Many motor drivers show up because you have to be there as a motorcyclist and, excuse my Dutch, it’s ‘gezellig’. If there wouldn’t be a race the whole bunch would gather anyway because of the tradition and to show that there is still a strong motorcyclist community.
      Shamefully I must admit that while owning a motorcycle I didn’t go to the TT and also forgot the watching of the return of the spectators. People will watch next to the highway the groups of motors (you are weird if you go by car to the TT) going home from the race. I did see the crowd at the A28 by Nunspeet.
      The event is hard to miss in the Netherlands, you’ll see large groups of motors on the highway and there are many warnings of increased police controls because there is just a much racing outside the circuit than on the circuit.

  3. Mr. Greedy-Guts Branson, the unacceptable face of capitalism (unless you think that not wearing a tie qualifies him as one of the good guys.) Let’s not forget that in the early stages of his fortune building he only escaped a criminal prosecution for running a carousel fraud (involving his record retailing/”exporting” business) by virtue of the fact that his mum (wealthy woman, naturally) paid Customs and Excise a substantial penalty to let little Richie off.
    This is Thatcher’s “Minister of Rubbish” who, as ever, got his smirking boat-race all over the media by offering to rid Britain of garbage…
    This is the chump who almost activated the harness release on his parachute (instead of the canopy) because he was busy mugging the camera filming him practice for “his” balloon circumnavigation – in which he participated as a sort of human sandbag. Only the quick thinking of his trainer prevented the world from being deprived of his benefactions.
    This is the greedy self publicist who wanted to acquire the National Lottery (for the benefit of the public, according to Branson.) Who wanted to use NHS staff to collect DNA samples with which to populate his “Virgin DNA Bank” – for the benefit of humanity, which I’d guess would primarily be its sector called Branson Enterprises. And where F1’s concerned who can forget his magnificent foray into the sport, when he made himself thoroughly unpopular with most people by his repulsive behaviour: ask Jensen Button.
    But you’d have to credit him with the fact that he’s hugely enriched himself, as with many other widely loathed robber-barons (like, let’s say, Murdoch) whilst bamboozling the public with his oily charm into thinking he’s a nice guy.
    Credit to Marina Hyde of the Grauniad for being one of the few journalists to have rumbled his endless self-serving wheezes – of which this is contribution just the latest in an endless line.
    Now roll out the apologists.

    • …and in an entirely unrelated note, I think I just saw Karl Marx walk by. Either him, or Santa Claus…

      Anyway, let’s hope that made you feel better.

    • On that note, I’ve heard that Sky and Liberty Global have made a bid for a big stake of F1 at $4.5bn. If so, now we know why Ross was being used as bait..

  4. I hope so. Formula1 needs some competition. Having said that Branson has an obvious bias

  5. Yeah, it’s obviously bollocks, but he’s just causing some controversy and media content generating… which lets face it worked, here, the BBC F1 site, James Allen, and plenty of others have run the story where otherwise there may have been nothing on Formula e.

    No one has any idea where either series will be in 5 years, but I’ll bet F1 is still here and I’ll bet whilst I like Formula e (the London double header was surprsingly good and a nail biting finish) I can’t see it being ahead of F1 in 5 years without some spectacular event like F1 fracturing.

    • “…he’s just causing some controversy and media content generating…” Doing a Bernie, eh?

  6. Formula E the future? I had a chuckle at that one. It uses 2 cars per driver and its reliance on batteries for power storage is so last century. To be a top tier sport it needs to allow teams to design and build their own cars,maybe its on the cards later in the development of the series but as is?..imho its so far off the mark. The only real threat to F1 at the moment is F1, its on a course which will lead it to self implode leaving its fans to look elsewhere for their carbon fix,this leads to series such as WEC,bttc,dtm as the only real options.

    • Yeah, As I understand it they are opening up power trains ‘next year’ (which is actually starting this autumn technically) as part of a stage to open up the cars as a whole for development.

      • I believe that there is not only Renault, but Audi and one of the teams announced a partnership with Citroen only this last weekend, so there is at least 3 manufacturers involved and I’m sure more will follow as this is the tech they want to flog us. F1 should have just thrownt the PU regs wide open, 100kg of fuel and say 10mj of hybrid, now go do your stuff. They can have a 50cc moped engine for their ICE, just as long as they meet the 107% rule. Now wouldn’t that be fun???

        • I said the same to my father in law this weekend… throw it open, give them energy levels, or even tiered brackets say: ice only, and two hyrbid tiers one with a limited ice but generous mj allocation and another with a larger ice but less me, but let them choose how they want to go about it configuring or using it.

  7. I must have missed something. I didn’t realise Formula E cars are solar panel powered. Which they are not!
    So, in order to charge the batteries for the cars a power station somewhere is burning fossil fuels to generate the electricty. Hardly “clean” energy then. And that is before we get into all the toxic substances that go into making the power cells.
    Dream on Branson.

    • @mikecloud54
      “in order to charge the batteries for the cars a power station somewhere is burning fossil fuels”

      Not necessarily. There is nuclear. Then the energy may have been produced by renewables. But otherwise excellent points. Right now “clean” cars may be more dirty than conventional, efficient petrol-driven equivalents…

      • Nuclear is even worse, the residues are a danger for centuries. The “justification” given is that by then somebody will know what to do with them… yeah, sure.

        • @Juan Ramos
          “Nuclear is even worse, the residues are a danger for centuries.”
          Not entirely so. Nuclear is squeaky clean today, and kills far fewer people each year than fossil-based solutions. (It’s a psychological effect, a bit like fear of an airplane crash vs blissfulness when taking the car, when cars kill so many more people each year than planes…)

          The other less known detail about nuclear is that our current nuclear technology is the most dirty of all existing nuclear technologies. The light-water reactor (LWR) is an inherently flawed design. It was chosen in the 50s partly because it produced a lot of bomb-making plutonium as a by-product, hardly the stuff useful for civilian nuclear applications.

          The cleanest of ’em all, however, seems to be based on Thorium:

          “The spent fuel from a light-water reactor contains radioactive plutonium with a half-life of over 24,000 years. The fuel used in a liquid-fuel reactor is liquid fluoride laced with thorium. The toxicity of what little waste it produces is 10,000 times less than that from a conventional reactor. Overall, the half-life of a liquid-fuel reactor’s byproducts is measured in hundreds rather tens of thousands of years.”

          “The liquid-fluoride thorium reactor, developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee during the late 1960s, ran successfully for five years before being axed by the Nixon administration. The reason for its cancellation: it produced too little plutonium for making nuclear weapons. Today, that would be seen as a distinct advantage. Without the Cold War, the thorium reactor might well have been the power plant of choice for utilities everywhere.”

          “Today, the thorium reactor is a non-starter, at least in America and other countries that have invested heavily in light-water technology. But things are different in India, a country with no uranium but an abundance of thorium. India plans to produce 30% of its electricity from thorium reactors by 2050. Being plentiful and cheap, thorium is the only fuel that stands a chance of generating electricity as cheaply as burning coal. As such, it is the only fuel capable of weaning the world off the biggest single polluter of all.”

          Thorium-based nuclear reactors seem to be the nuclear technology of the future, and I hope regulators across the developed world come to their senses soon enough and allow their civilian nuclear designers to develop and deploy this so much more appropriate and needed technology…

          • Agreed, one little known fact is that the reactors set up in the 50/60’s had this in mind. A way to produce fission materials without arousing suspion from the locals.winscale and selafield went one step further and even imported nuclear waste from other countries to refine and again make more material,the byproduct of this,steam which then produced power(not a bad exchange lol). Nuclear is a far better option than the wind/solar plants of today but the real answer is fusion using a tokamak.

          • Unfortunately, fusion just seems too hard to make work. Thorium-based reactors seem much more viable in the near future. Interestingly, it seems to be the Chinese and Indians who are really working hard on it. The plan is that China will have a small prototype this year and will build increasingly larger versions until a full-sized reactor in 2024.

            Bonus is that these can then be sold to countries without immediately giving them them the ability to produce material for nuclear weapons. Then the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can go for a ban on uranium reactors, which would be an important step towards nuclear disarmament.

          • Light water reactors do produce plutonium, but the production of weapons grade Pu239 requires a short exposure of U238 to neutrons, otherwise the production of Pu238 dominates the reactions. Pu238 essentially poisons Pu239 for weapons, as the very radioactive Pu238 can initial criticality earlier than optimum for a weapon, leading to a fizzle or a very unstable weapon. Separating Pu239 from Pu238 is a similar process to separating U235 from U238, extremely expensive and difficult.

            Yeah, I once was going to be a physicist…………

    • Mike, aside from the points below there’s one last thing to consider.
      Updated coal burning power stations are as clean as it gets because of two things:
      *we don’t just burn “junk” any more; the coal that gets burned has low sulfur content. Also burning temperatures are far higher than once upon a time, which means less carbon monoxide. There is CO2 and it shows well on TV to point out the CO2, but for the environement CO2 isn’t quite as bad, not as bad as CO, sulfur or nitrous oxides.
      *a plant is localised; the few NOx and SOx that goes out the chimney can be captured and re-burned until it’s harmless. CO2 can be captured and stored.

      Compare this to a car which expells everything in the atmosphere. The catalyst is useless before it reaches 800°C and 90% of the diesel drivers use theyir cars for barely a few miles in which time the cat can’t heat up.

  8. Not convinced by FE – bringing racing to city centres is all well but Battersea looked much too narrow and bumpy too allow proper racing, and in many races many races an overtake did not seem possible barging your rival into the barriers.

  9. Nelson Piquet Jr wins the Formula E championship after a safety car (cough) and the two cars in front conviently got out of his way (cough). I don’t find Formula E that interesting, this result hasn’t helped matters.

    • Boring? Maybe the first half was boring, but then it got crazy. I haven’t seen Senna swerve and block so much since Spain in 2012. Someone must have told him Schumacher was behind him.

    • Really? I was at the track and the atmosphere was great – although you couldn’t really see much of anything from the ‘grandstands’ due to the number of trees but I was lucky enough to be at the corner where Bird did a stellar overtake in to second.

      So, I watched it at home to get the full picture – whilst I’ll give you the start was slow which tends to happen in the FE races after the first lap piles up – once they’ve got a feel for how much power they can use when they jump in the second car they go insane. For a track that was so bumpy and tight there was probably as much overtaking and sliding as an F1 race – in less than half the length of time. The nice thing about FE is also that they run so close together without ruining their tyres so they literally can and do battle all race.

  10. Branson your a funny guy. In 4-5 years FE will probably merge into F1 as the regs grow the amount of ERS on the cars. Ultimately the companies willing to do the r & d on the technology will want the exposure of f1 not some startup.

  11. of course Branson will say that. he owns a team in it. let’s check in 4-5 years to see if a formula e car can lap spa at the same lap time an f1 car does. oh and hopefully last a race distance too.

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