I’m not sure what it is about all-electric racing series that makes The Powers That Be want to introduce some strange aspects of fan-involvement, but I am sorry to report that Extreme E has fallen into the trap with its most recent introduction, a concept called “GridPlay.”
Basically, GridPlay is a little bit like Formula E’s FanBoost in that it asks fans to cast a vote to provide special privileges before or during the race. In FE’s FanBoost, fans vote for their favorite driver. Three drivers ultimately win, which means they’re given a little extra power to use during the race.
GridPlay is similar. Viewers are able to vote for their favorite of the eight teams signed up for the first season. The team that wins the popular vote can select their starting position for the final.
I’m simplifying things here, but that’s the basic gist.
Extreme E events will be called X-Prix, and they’ll be organized into different sections: qualifying heats, two semi-finals, and a final event. From the press site:
Qualifying takes place on day one to determine the top four runners who will progress through into Semi-Final 1 and the bottom four competitors who will go on to take part in Semi-Final 2: the unique ‘Crazy Race’. The crazy race will be a tooth-and-nail, all-or-nothing fight, with only the quickest team progressing into the Final, while the top three will make it through from Semi-Final 1. The winner of the Final – the fastest combination of team, drivers, car and engineers over the epic two-day battle – will then be crowned the X-Prix Winner.
So, while eight teams will attend each event, only five will contest the final. If a team wins GridPlay distinctions and doesn’t advance to the final, then, the winning team can transfer their votes to a different team of their choice.
The eventual winner will decide where to start in the final event. So, there might be a strategic advantage to starting last, which the winning team could choose. The rest of the starting grid will be set based on points scored during the previous heats.
It’s definitely an interesting concept, and I have to admit that I like it a lot more than FanBoost. It’s based in strategy and not in an equipment advantage that, it turned out, was prone to trouble in Formula E. It’s not something that must be done during the event, but before, and it’s probably not going to make your car fall apart in the process.
But I just wish we could move past this method of fan involvement. It's a little tedious, and it always come along with accusations of cheating or rigging the game. There's usually one team or driver more popular than the rest that earns the glut of points each time. There has to be a better way, and I hope Extreme E figures it out.