READY FOR ACTION: The first Formula E race takes place on Sunday, September 14. Above is Renault's entry. Image: Renault
BEIJING, China - As a brand-new global single-seater series prepares to launch off the grid boss Alejandro Agag insists Formula E is not trying to take on F1.
With battery-powered and nearly silent cars, designed with input from McLaren, Williams and Renault, the inaugural race will take place on the streets of Beijing on Saturday.
McLaren driver Jenson Button said: "Changing a car halfway through a race is quite strange, but it might work. It's all in city centres and it might attract people to the sport that aren't usually interested in motorsport.
"If they aren't true racing fans, it's quite fun to watch some cars go around that are electric."
Button's back-handed compliment sums up the general attitude about Formula E within the F1 paddock but some big and familiar names are involved with Formula E. Each of the 10 teams has drivers well known to F1, among them driver-owner Jarno Trulli, Takuma Sato, Nick Heidfeld, Jaime Alguersuari...
Another is Sebastien Buemi, who played down any comparison between the Formula E car - generating 201kW and a maximum speed of 225km/h - and its F1 cousin.
Buemi told the Austrian news agency APA: "Formula E is something completely different. The cars not only have much less power but also significantly less grip."
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Series boss Agag was asked by Germany's Welt newspaper about all the quiet criticism within the F1 paddock, including by its reigning champion Sebastian Vettel. He answered: "The bottom line is that top drivers will be competing to win. For me this is already enough to talk about, pure motorsport."
Not only that but Formula E has a healthy grid, the involvement of Audi, and a truly global calendar spanning Asia, the Americas and Europe. Is Agag's plan to eventually replace F1 as the pinnacle of motor sport?
"I think that would be the wrong approach," the Spaniard insisted. "We want to be a complement to F1 - it's not about doing things better or worse than F1, we're an independent racing series with our own profile.
"To put us in a race with F1 would not be fair."
Undoubtedly, though, while F1 is arguably locked in an identity crisis at the start of its new, quieter turbo era, Formula E's vision is clear and modern. Agag again: "We're environmentally friendly and fit with the sustainable approach suitable for the cities to which we will travel. We consume no fuel, people do not have to spend hours driving out of the city to come to the track."
And Agag said F1 was struggling to boost its TV ratings. to fill grandstands,but Formula E would not face those problems.
"Of that I am absolutely convinced," he said. "Our approach is different to that of F1. For example, we rely heavily on social media - the internet is at the heart of Formula E. With their vote, the fans can give their favourite driver 50 extra horse power in the race. As I said, it's a great show.
"You also have to understand that you do not have to buy a ticket to watch a Formula E race - we have big video screens on which the race will be shown. There are 500 000 people each day in the
Olympic Park in Beijing, so the more of them that choose to stay with us, the better," Agag said.