Formula E CEO Says Manufacturers Leaving Led to "Introspection"

Now, FE CEO Reigle is looking to improve the conditions for other automakers to enter the sport.

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Jamie Reigle congradulates 2021 Diriyah ePrix II winner Edoardo Mortara.
Jamie Reigle congradulates 2021 Diriyah ePrix II winner Edoardo Mortara.
Photo: Sam Bloxham

Since its first race in 2014, all-electric open-wheel series Formula E has weathered the ups and downs of a burgeoning sport. During that inaugural season, few legitimate automakers were ready to commit to the sport; the entrance of big-name marques like Audi, Mercedes, and BMW just a few seasons later signaled a trend in the right direction. Then, those three automakers left — and the longevity and viability of the sport was called into question. For the sport’s CEO, Jamie Reigle, that departure was time for “introspection.”

“[BMW and Audi’s departure] led us to ask, ‘What is it about this sport that’s working, and what can we improve?’” Reigle told Jalopnik in an interview earlier in November.

FE’s growth as a sport has coincided with a massive uptick in interest around electrification more generally, and Reigle — who took over as CEO from founder Alejandro Agag back before the 2020 season — noted that the insistence on electrification actually came as a cause of anxiety.

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“When I talk to someone outside of the sport and tell them what I do, they’re like ‘Oh yeah, everyone’s driving Teslas — you guys must be crushing it!’ It’s like, ‘Well, no. Not necessarily,’” he admitted. “We have to create the building blocks of a successful sport.”

In other words, the mere presence of an electric racing series does not guarantee an automaker pursuing electrification will inherently find value in competing. There was, in many ways, an expectation that the mere promise of EV technology would be enough — and Reigle took the helm of the sport just as many of those automakers began to look beyond what FE could provide.

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As a result, Reigle and the FE crew settled on improving three “building blocks” of the sport heading into the upcoming Gen3 era: building the sporting integrity, clarifying financial rules, and developing a more coherent technological roadmap.

“Does that bring Audi and BMW back?” Reigle asked. “No. But it does improve the conditions for someone new to come in.”

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Changes started taking place as early as the 2022 season, in which elimination-style qualifying “duels” helped create unpredictability and intrigue while still maintaining the legitimacy of the on-track competition. It proved to be a stunning success for the teams, Reigle said, and he’s taken their feedback to further hone the process for 2023.

Now, season 9 brings with it a brand-new car, designed to appeal to a new generation of automaker — and the tides seem to be turning. Automakers like McLaren and Maserati have filled the void left behind by other marques, bringing a deep, historical motorsport pedigree to the FE field. It’s almost certain that not every one of the sport’s new ideas will stick, but as Reigle told Jalopnik, that’s part of what makes FE’s future prospects so strong.

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“We’re young. We don’t have hundreds of years of history, so we can make those bold changes,” he said. “We have to take time to lay new foundations. We have to force everyone to raise their game. And to me, that’s going to be the exciting thing to watch this year.”