History of Formula E

Welcome to the story of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship

What started as nothing more than a shared dream between Formula E Founder Alejandro Agag and FIA President Jean Todt, noted on the back of a napkin back in 2011, has developed into the fastest growing motorsport series on the planet. Ahead of the 2020/21 season, Formula E gains World Championship status to become the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

The idea for an all-electric street racing series started out as nothing more than a collection of notes on a napkin.

On the evening of March 3, 2011, FIA President Jean Todt and Spanish businessman, Formula E Chairman Alejandro Agag, met in a Paris restaurant and gathered their thoughts in just a few words on what would become the world's first all-electric international single-seater championship. 

Formula E’s founding mission was for its race through the streets of the most iconic cities in the world - with a grid full of the best racing drivers and teams around - to show just what sustainable mobility was capable of, driving electric vehicles to the fore in the race for a better, cleaner future.

Since making its debut in the grounds of the Olympic Park in Beijing in 2014, Formula E has grown into a global entertainment brand with motorsport at its heart. Now, with 12 teams and 24 drivers on the grid, the championship has become a destination for the world's best motorsport teams and racing talent.

Season 1 - 2014/15

In just three years, Formula E made it from concept to reality - through prototypes, innovative EV technology for the race track and on to Gen1, with the first race taking place six years ago on the series' global debut in the grounds of the Olympic Park in Beijing.

Concept to reality in less than a year. The Formulec prototype laid the groundwork for Gen1 in 2012.

Formula E ushered in a revolution when the all-electric open-wheel Gen1 car - a first of its kind in motorsport - was unveiled. 150kW of power on tap in race trim and a 0-60mph time of just under three seconds.

The Gen1 car harboured battery-electric technology that had never been tried on a race track, and set the precedent for Formula E’s blueprint, pushing the envelope of what is possible with cutting-edge EV tech. Two cars per driver balanced the need for battery capacity and speed, for the best possible racing on-track.

Since the very first E-Prix, BMW i has been involved as Formula E’s Official Vehicle Partner. With the BMW i8 acting as Safety Car, the i3 as the Race Director car and a 530e iPerformance as the Medical Car.

The inaugural calendar brought Formula E to fourteen countries and racing in the heart of major cities around the world including London, Miami, Beijing and Berlin.

Formula E kicked off the electric street racing revolution at the 2014 Beijing E-Prix on September 13 2014 and after 25 laps of racing, it all came down to the final corner of the final lap. Lucas Di Grassi stamped his name into the history books by becoming the first race winner in Formula E.

On the final corner of the final lap in Beijing, race leader Nicolas Prost (e.dams) and Nick Heidfeld (Venturi) collided spectacularly. Both drivers were able to walk away completely unscathed.

Formula E also innovated in its regulations. Round 1 saw the arrival of FANBOOST, a first in sport that allows fans to play an active role in the race by voting to award their favourite an extra boost of power during the race.

Founding Partners DHL, Julius Baer, Michelin, BMW, TAG Heuer joined Formula E to accelerate the vision to demonstrate the potential of sustainable mobility and help create a better, cleaner world.

Season 1 saw seven winners representing six different teams. Buemi topped the pile with three wins, with Sam Bird and Nelson Piquet Jr. the only other drivers to take more than one victory.

Nelson Piquet Jr. took to the top step twice for China Racing/NEXTEV TCR to claim the first Formula E Drivers’ title. He clinched the crown by just one point from Buemi, with Di Grassi third, after all three headed to the finale with a chance of coming out on top.

Season 2 - 2015/16

The 2015/16 calendar saw ten races in nine different cities and Formula E welcomed seven new manufacturers into the fold. Regulations were opened up to allow teams to design their own motors, inverters, gearboxes and rear suspension, with power also bumped to 170kW (230bhp).

After a spin in qualifying, Sebastien Buemi started the Buenos Aires E-Prix at the back of the grid. Thanks to a series of impressive overtakes, some late braking and absolute determination, the Renault e.dams driver sliced past his rivals to take an incredible second place in one of the all-time great Formula E performances.

FIA President, Jean Todt fulfiled his ambition to see international motor racing in Paris’ streets: “I’ve always dreamt of a race in Paris. We have accomplished that with Formula E.” It was a historic moment for the FIA and Formula E, with the city now a longstanding fixture on the calendar.

Buemi and Di Grassi headed to the final race of the season in London level on points. The Swiss qualified on pole whilst Di Grassi managed third, with Buemi's teammate, Nico Prost, in-between. In the turn one melee the championship battle took yet another turn as the standings’ top two collided.

Buemi sealed the Drivers’ Championship by just two points from Di Grassi thanks to setting the fastest lap, having been forced into taking his second car. Renault e.dams retained the Constructors’ crown.

Lucas di Grassi drives the Formula E car on an Arctic ice shelf in Greenland to raise awareness of the warmest year on record and the amount of sea ice breaking away from the Arctic reaching historic new levels.

Season 3 - 2016/17

Season 3 featured a significant calendar shake-up, with the championship’s inaugural trip to Hong Kong and a first trip to Africa, in Marrakesh, the return of the Monaco E-Prix, Berlin’s move back to the Tempelhof Airport Circuit after a year in Karl-Marx-Allee and finally, a double-header in New York City – the first time a motor race had been held in the Big Apple since 1896.

Jaguar made its return as a manufacturer in motorsport for the first time in 12 years as the legendary British marque took to the Formula E grid alongside the newly-christened TECHEETAH outfit whilst ABT partnered with Audi to create the Audi Sport ‘factory’ team. US racing giants Andretti entered a technical partnership with BMW, laying the groundwork for the German marque’s impending entry in Season 5.

A mid-life refresh for Gen1 introduced a redesigned and stronger front wing to better cope with the rigours of street racing and regen saw a 50 percent improvement in efficiency thanks to a major battery tech upgrade. Official Tyre Supplier Michelin introduced an improved version of its all-weather tyre with less rolling resistance and lower weight.

The first outing in Hong Kong proved a war of attrition with drivers getting to grips with the new circuit, Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.dams) picked his way through the pack and others’ issues to win.

Buemi overcame qualifying demotion, after a leak caused his fire extinguisher to report underweight, with win number two of the season and the first winner of an African E-Prix in the series’ history, at Marrakesh.

Freerunner, gymnast and Hollywood stuntman Damien Walters, with movie credits including Captain America and Skyfall, is no stranger to danger. He proposed his dream stunt to Formula E - the perfect synchronisation of highly-tuned man and machine: The Leap Of Faith.

Buemi became the first driver to win three in a row when he followed up with victory in Buenos Aires.

Lucas di Grassi battled from the back despite damage, as he made the most of the safety car’s appearances to claw his way through the pack and seal the win in Mexico – drawing to within five points of Drivers’ standings leader Buemi.

Buemi fended off di Grassi in a spicy encounter around the iconic streets of Monte Carlo, and after his fifth victory in Paris, his lead of 43 points looked mighty.

Drama at Tempelhof saw Buemi disqualified from Round 8, with di Grassi notching a podium behind Felix Rosenqvist – a maiden winner. The Swiss followed up with victory in Round 9, and damage limitation as di Grassi closed in.

As Formula E headed to North America and New York, the Brazilian capitalised as Buemi missed the double-header whilst Sam Bird became the first driver to win a motor race in New York City, and he tallied another for good measure in Round 10.

The title fight would again come down to the final rounds with arch-rivals Buemi and di Grassi facing-off in Montreal. Disqualification in the opening race of the double header saw Buemi’s title tilt crumble, with di Grassi there to mop up and win the Drivers’ Championship – his first, whilst Renault e.dams scored a third Teams title in-a-row.

Season 4 - 2017/18

Season 4 welcomed ABB as title partner of Formula E, as the global technology company and the championship came together to drive progress at the forefront of electrification and sustainable technology.

The Gen2 Formula E car was unveiled to the public, with the promise of more speed, more efficiency and a leap so significant that races would no longer include car swaps. The Gen1 car would go out at maximum capacity, as power was increased from 170kW to 180kW (240bhp)

A total of nine manufacturers were now on board, including Jaguar, Nissan, BMW, Audi, DS and Mahindra, vindicating Formula E as a competitive platform for global car manufacturers and mobility providers to test and develop road-relevant technologies.

The swansong season for the Spark-Renault SRT 01E, Gen1, Formula E car saw Jean-Eric Vergne take Drivers’ Championship victory, edging out incumbent champ Lucas di Grassi – though Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler did take Teams’ honours ahead of TECHEETAH.

Formula E car vs Cheetah: What happened when a Formula E car and one of nature's fastest animals went head-to-head? Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne took on the challenge, in a video that has surpassed well over 30 million views on YouTube.

Sam Bird flew out of the blocks for victory on the return to Hong Kong in the opener, whilst Felix Rosenqvist added a pair of wins to his tally for Mahindra Racing in Round 2 from the city-state, before making the top step in Round 3 from Marrakesh.

Reigning champion di Grassi struggled early on, with retirements in Marrakesh and Santiago, whilst Bird, Buemi and Vergne all stretched their legs. The Frenchman took victory in Uruguay and in Chile - where he and team-mate Lotterer came together, but did manage to secure Formula E’s first one-two finish.

Audi’s first victory came in Mexico City, at the hands of German driver Daniel Abt and he would add another in spectacular style on home soil in Berlin with the triple crown of Julius Baer Pole Position, race win and fastest lap – a first in Formula E.

Vergne secured win number three around his backyard in Paris, whilst Bird dragged his severely wounded car over the line on three wheels in spectacular fashion.

A late charge from Lucas di Grassi, with the Brazilian storming to wins in Zurich and New York City wasn’t enough to halt Vergne’s charge – the Frenchman having the final say with victory in Round 12 from the Big Apple, handing him the title, though di Grassi and Abt’s consistency saw Audi take Teams’ honours

Season 5 - 2018/19

Season 5 was the dawn of a bold new era for the all-electric street racing series.

The first significant change was the introduction of the new Gen2 car. With dramatic Batmobile-esque styling, it had more power with a new lightweight battery now pumping out 250kW (225bhp) for a top speed of 280km/h (174mph). An increase in battery capacity also put an end to pitstops, with technological advancements now meaning one car could fulfil the new format of 45 minutes plus one lap at racing speeds.

Bringing a new tactical element to the races, Formula E reinvented racing again with ATTACK MODE. A challenge for the teams and drivers; leave the racing line to fire up ATTACK MODE but be rewarded with a timed power boost and gain an edge for a few laps.

Led by Formula 1 legend Felipe Massa at Venturi Racing, a host of new faces joined the grid, Belgian fan-favourite Stoffel Vandoorne lined up alongside DTM legend Gary Paffett in the new HWA Racelab squad. There was also promising young talent in the form of Pascal Wehrlein at Mahindra Racing and Oliver Rowland joining former champion Sebastien Buemi at Nissan e.dams, as the Japanese manufacturer entered the fray alongside German marque BMW.

Unpredictability reigned supreme for another season of unforgettable racing.

Introducing a new era and a new car. The Gen2 racer had double the energy storage capacity of the outgoing Gen1 car, so no more mid-race car swaps. Faster, more action on-track and just one car per driver - one wrong move could now prove ever more costly.

Formula E took a trip down memory lane - the Channel Tunnel in this case - to celebrate some of Gen1’s defining moments as it bowed out and made way for Gen2.

The Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY joined Formula E as an official support series and is the world’s first all-electric production based international race series, with drivers piloting race-spec versions of Jaguar's first all-electric road car, the I-PACE. The series ended in 2020, but the British marque still took learnings from the eTROPHY to boost the range of the road-going I-PACE.

Heineken joined forces with Formula E, aligning their sustainability strategy for ‘Brewing a Better World’ to the all-electric racing series.

A new season and the new Gen2 car called for a new destination as Formula E made its debut in Sauda Arabia with the opening round in the historic city of Diriyah. SAUDIA became the series’ Official Airline Partner and launched the start of the long-term relationship with a special Formula E-liveried Boeing 777.

In a challenge set by fans, Felipe Massa and the new Gen2 car went up against a peregrine falcon in a straight drag race to outrun the fastest animal on the planet.

The final corner at Mexico City delivered one of the most incredible overtakes in the history of Formula E. Mahindra Racing's Pascal Wehrlein led for the majority and looked sure to claim his first win, but he ran out of energy just moments from the flag and glory was unbelievably snatched from his hands at the finish line by Lucas di Grassi

From zero to the fastest growing motorsport series in the world, Formula E celebrated its 50th race in Hong Kong, and the drivers delivered an absolute barnstormer. Sam Bird hounded Andre Lotterer for the lead in the closing moments of the race, but a controversial move resulted in a DNF for the German, a penalty for Bird and the promotion of Edoardo Mortara to the top step of the podium.

The streets around the iconic Les Invalides in Paris gave the Formula E drivers a new challenge in 2019. Battling the elements - including heavy rain and even hailstones. Robin Frijns held off the challengers, and mastered his Michelin all-weather tyres in the slippery conditions to win the first-ever wet race in Formula E's history.

‘The Streak’ captivated headlines, with the first eight races seeing eight different winners: Antonio Felix da Costa, Jerome D'Ambrosio, Sam Bird, Lucas di Grassi, Edoardo Mortara, Jean-Eric Vergne, Mitch Evans and Robin Frijns. Vergne finally broke the streak in Monaco.

Jean-Eric Vergne has risen to be one of the key protagonists in Formula E. The Frenchman's stats read like that of a growing legend with a wealth of wins, podiums and poles. It was his performance in the 2018/19 season that set him apart from the rest of the pack. A rollercoaster season, the DS TECHEETAH driver bounced back from a rough start with a series of wins to clinch his second title and become the first-ever back-to-back champion.

The hotly-anticipated documentary ‘And We Go Green’ premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The film delved behind the scenes and uncovered the drivers behind the visors, whilst highlighting Formula E’s race against climate change. Watch the film in full.

Season 6 - 2019/20

Following a stunning year of racing, fans waited with bated breath for Season 6. The calendar boasted exciting new locations around the globe and the first half of the season didn't disappoint with new drivers coming to the fore in the championship standings. With the world plunged into uncertainty and lockdown following the coronavirus pandemic, however, racing was on hiatus.

There was still hope, though, with the Formula E community banding together during this trying period with Esports, charitable activities in support of UNICEF and more, before the thrilling and unprecedented return at the six-race season finale in Berlin.

In 2019/20 the ABB FIA Formula E Championship became #PositivelyCharged, as the series, its partners, teams, drivers and fans work together to grow electric racing and light up the world with its transformative power.

With German giants Mercedes-Benz EQ and TAG Heuer Porsche joining the field and expanding the grid to 24 drivers, the sixth season of Formula E boasted one of the most competitive line-ups in motorsport history. It also marked the first time in motor racing that legendary German marques Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche would face-off in single-seaters.

Superstars BTS joined Formula E as global ambassadors, with a shared mission to raise awareness and help promote the benefits of electric vehicles and the crucial part they will play in combating climate change.

In a world-first for an FIA series, the second round in Santiago saw the launch of Driver's Eye giving fans a new perspective from inside the crash helmet, showing all the skill needed to tackle the challenging street circuits.

A new all-electric racing star came to the fore in Santiago as Maximilian Guenther (BMW i Andretti Motorsport) became the youngest race winner in Formula E following a daring pass around the outside of Antonio Felix da Costa (DS TECHEETAH) on the final lap.

Though motorsport was on hold following the coronavirus pandemic, it didn't mean the end of racing. The Formula E stars went virtual with the ABB Formula E Race at Home Challenge sim racing series, a charitable competition that saw money raised for UNICEF.

After five months away, Formula E returned to action with the most intense season finale in motorsport history. The 2019/20 season concluded in Berlin with an unprecedented six races in nine days across three different circuit layouts.

After a dominant and commandingly consistent run across the season including an untouchable performance in Berlin, Antonio Felix da Costa clinched an emotional first title. Alongside his teammate, Vergne, the pair pushed DS TECHEETAH to retain the Teams' Championship for a second time.

Formula E became the first sport to have a net zero carbon footprint since inception. Highlighting the importance of racing with a reason, Formula E has been investing in internationally certified projects in all race markets to offset emissions from six seasons of electric racing.

Season 7 - 2020/2021 and beyond

After six years and six seasons of racing on the streets of the world's most progressive cities, Formula E gained World Championship status, a move granted by the FIA - motorsport's governing body in December 2019. 

“It was always our ambition to one day become an FIA World Championship. Everything we have done and delivered to this point has been working towards this particular moment," said Formula E founder and chairman Alejandro Agag at the time. 

"This truly puts Formula E in the top tier of international single-seater racing. It has been a tremendous effort from many people involved and none of it would have been possible without the support of FIA President Jean Todt and the federation, as well as the dedication and commitment shown by our teams and partners.

"Now we can say we have done it. But it is only the beginning of a new chapter under the banner of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.”

“The creation and development of Formula E has been a great adventure. I am proud that today we confirm its FIA world championship status," added FIA President Jean Todt.

"Since we started this journey, Formula E has undoubtedly gone from strength to strength. Within a short timeframe, the series has proven itself relevant for the automotive industry. 

“The commitment and professionalism of those manufacturers and their respective teams is mirrored in the quality of the driver roster, which has improved with every season.”

The moment will see the series recognised as the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship from the start of the 2020/21 season, as the most competitive line-up of world-class teams and manufacturers continue their battle on the streets to advance the adoption of sustainable mobility in the race for a better, cleaner future.