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Formula E - The 2023 Hankook London E-Prix

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all well.

Sticking with the theme from a few weeks back about Motorsport, on Saturday 29th of July I attended my first Formula E race held in the ExCeL London – The 2023 Hankook London E-Prix. The 20 turn circuit was first introduced in 2015 and as well as being inside is a street circuit out on the streets in London. We went to Round 15 of the Season 9 calendar which was the penultimate race of the Formula E World Championship, and the title was still all to play for. Coming into the race the two Aussies Nick Cassidy and Mitch Evans racing for Envision Racing and Jaguar TCS Racing respectively, along with Englishman Jake Dennis racing for Avalanche Andretti Formula E were all in contention with the points being very tight.

I had attended the ExCeL before many years ago but had driven so this was the first time using public transport. As the event was only in London it was quick and easy to get to just needing to get on the Jubilee Line and DLR (for my first time) both which were very accessible making it a smooth journey. Once we arrived at Custom House on the DLR we were a one minute walk from the venue. We arrived early so we could see everything, when we got off the train we had a view of the outside portion of the track and saw the cars speeding past during their practice session. The whole venue was accessible, and we were upgrade to a better viewing platform nearer to the fan village.

As well as the race there was a lot of entertainment in the fan village, these included a fiat 500 experience where you could be a passenger, Formula E simulators, multiple Formula E cars on display and some stalls with things about Formula E and sustainability. There was also a performance from special guest Ella Eyre which was great. The event wasn’t as busy as Silverstone but still had around 50,000 people, because the fan village was inside it was very loud and everything was either fully booked or had long queues, for me it became very overwhelming so I didn’t enjoy this part as much as others may.

I was supporting the Neom McLaren drivers Jake Hughes and Rene Rast along English drivers Dan Ticktum and Jake Dennis. The set up for Formula E was very different to other single seated motor racing, it was my first time so I was learning as the day went on from my friend Dylan who had been before. All the different stages including practice, qualifying and the race happen on the same day with breaks in between.

All seats were located inside the venue but there was a portion of the track outside, this is the only track with an inside portion. Our view was of the final straight directly opposite the pits, due to my neck movement I could only see the cars when directly in front of me for split seconds but there were many screens around, so we didn’t miss anything.

For qualifying this season the drivers are first split into two groups, group A consist of drivers in odd positions in the drivers championship, with group B being made up of drivers in even positions; in this stage their power is capped at 300kW. The fastest four drivers from each group at the end of the session progress into duels, the power increases to 350kW and each duel has one lap with the fastest of each progressing into the semifinal. This concept is repeated until there are two drivers remaining with the fastest lap in the final earning pole position and also receiving three championship points.

The cars weren’t as fast as the F1 cars reaching similar speeds of an F2 car at 320 kmh. As we were sitting so close it felt like they were going faster, and it was impossible to work out which car was which. The cars had lights on top, so it looked cool when they speeded past. We saw Mitch Evans top the qualifying with a 1:10:578 beating fellow countryman Nick Cassidy by 3 tenths of a second, but due to a penalty Evans dropped down to sixth on the starting grid seeing Cassidy promoted to pole position. Rene Rast qualified highest for McLaren in sixth, one place behind Englishman Dan Ticktum in the Nio 333 Racing, after the penalties they were promoted to fifth and fourth, respectively.

In-between qualifying and the race there was an autograph session with the drivers but due to not having the correct wristbands we weren’t able to get in. I used the time to watch the formula one sprint which was delayed a lot because of the rain, so much that the FE race began just after the start of the sprint. Oscar Piastri managed to put his McLaren into second place earning some valuable points for the team.

The Formula E race begun at 5pm with the starting grid being directly in front of us, the cars were quieter than the F1&2 cars but did make a strange whooshing sound. It was a 36 lap race which is meant to last just under an hour. Cassidy got a good start remaining out front, along with his teammate Sebastien Buemi who got up to second from sixth making it an Envision one-two for the opening laps. With title contender Jake Dennis just one position behind the leaders teammate did well to hold him back for Cassidy to start pulling away.

A difference is that Formula E doesn’t require pitstops unless the car is damaged, the race is a lot shorter than a standard F1 race, so the tires don’t ware. The DRS alternative in Formula E is called ‘Attack Mode’, this is when drivers unlock an extra 25kw of power for a short period of time. To get this they must push a button on the steering wheel and drive over three sensors which are off the usual racing line so will normally put them down the order. For me it reminded me a lot of Mario Kart! Cassidy used his 'Attack Mode' on the 13th lap and begun to fall back down the list.

After some great teamwork in the start Envisions downfall came after a coming together broke the front wing of Cassidy which got stuck under his car causing a retirement. This gave Dennis the perfect opportunity to capitalise on his rival not picking up points, he only needed to finish third or above to be crowned World Champion. Dennis was in fifth at the time of the incident.

There were multiple crashes, including cars going over the top of each other, which caused a total of six retirements out of the 22 starters. Unfortunately, Jake Hughes in the McLaren was one of those in the retirement figure with his race ending with his car in the wall. His teammate Rene Rast finished in 12 position.

In the final few laps there were two red flags, one so the barrier could be mended after an incident and the other more shockingly was due to a 14 car pileup as they all slid into each other with only the front three making it away, this got a giggle from the crowd! One of those who escaped was Dennis who had now made his way into the vital third position!

So the race wouldn’t end behind a safety car an extra lap was added, Mitch Evans in the Jaguar TCS Racing crossed the line in first followed by António Félix Da Costa and finally Jake Dennis completing the podium, but Da Costa was given a time penalty meaning Dennis was promoted to second and Sébastien Buemi taking the third place podium step. Dennis’ second place finish meant he picked up enough points to be crowned the 2023 Formula E World Champion at his home race! Although not as impressive as his fellow countryman Dan Ticktum finished in ninth position.

The celebrations along with the podium was done right in front of us, we were given wristbands earlier in the day to get onto the track to watch the trophy presentation from the track, but the staff weren’t sure how to get me on in my wheelchair so we weren’t able to, thankfully we still had a good view from our seat.

We got out of the venue smoothly and the DLR station surprisingly wasn’t too busy! It was a good day and I enjoyed experiencing a new live sport, hopefully many more in the future.

I have a lot coming up this week starting with Crystal Palace under 21’s against Bromley on August 1st, so look out for upcoming posts!

Thank you for reading.

Ellie Xx


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