For the first time during the 2016-2017 season, Formula E went racing in the United States. Also for the first time ever, the all-electric series lit up the East Coast, specifically the Big Apple, for the 2017 Qualcomm New York City ePrix.
Yes, you read that correctly — in our ongoing commitment to Formula E and the future of automobiles, Qualcomm Technologies embraced the title sponsorship role. We see Formula E as the perfect venue to test emerging automotive technologies such as wireless connectivity, wireless EV charging and autonomous vehicles.
The Qualcomm Safety Car: A new look for New York
For the 2017 Qualcomm New York City ePrix, the primary Qualcomm Safety Car sported a commemorative NYC ePrix livery.
The auto racing environment is harsh, relentless and unforgiving. Hence it is the perfect proving ground for the auto technologies we’ll all one day find in our own vehicles. For that reason, Qualcomm Halo Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging (WEVC) technology is being used in the Qualcomm Safety Cars and medical/extraction cars — a pair of BMW i8s and i3s, respectively, specifically modified to be all electric and meet FIA safety and technical requirements. Like emergency vehicles that serve a very specific area and population, these cars cannot fail to answer when called on — lives literally depend on them.
To charge the cars, FIA Officials simply park over the Qualcomm Halo pads—no cables to untangle or plug in. Wireless charging ensures that the cars are fully charged and the officials inside can leave at a moment’s notice, without having to take the time to unplug the vehicles.
The weekend race report
The Saturday and Sunday races (Rounds 9 and 10 of this season) were the first FIA-sanctioned motorsports events in modern history to take place in any of the five boroughs of New York City. The course ran along the Atlantic Basin, near the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and Pier 11, giving fans an amazing view of the NYC skyline. The event not only attracted a sizable crowd, it also attracted celebrities such as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, Chris Hemsworth, Leonardo DiCaprio (part owner of Venturi Formula E Team), and Sir Richard Branson (owner of DS Virgin Racing Formula E Team).
Going into race weekend, Sebastien Buemi of Renault e.dams had the edge on Lucas di Grassi of ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport. Unfortunately for Buemi and team, Buemi had a prior commitment to his Toyota Le Mans Prototype team for the 6 Hours of Nürburgring race. He was temporarily replaced this week by Pierre Gasly. In another twist (no pun intended), di Grassi is coming back from an ankle injury he suffered during a charity football (soccer) match on June 6, but insisted he was ready for racing in the streets of NYC.
No one took greater advantage of the series leaders’ setbacks than British ace Sam Bird, who won both races. Congrats to Bird, whose last podium appearance was four months ago in Mexico City. Meanwhile, di Grassi made a dent in Buemi’s series lead by taking 4th and 5th in Rounds 9 and 10, respectively. Going into the final two races in Montreal, di Grassi is just 10 points in arrears of Buemi. Like last season, the Driver’s Championship will come down to the final races.
Formula E continues to gain momentum and interest
Formula E’s fanbase of young, eco-conscious urbanites continues to grow as well as interest by leading automobile manufacturers. Jaguar joined the championship series this season. Audi completed its takeover of the ABT Schaeffler team earlier this month and plans to field a factory supported team next season. BMW is working closely with Andretti Formula E and has confirmed it will join the series with a works team in Season Five (2018-2019). And Mercedes has until October to make a final decision on entering the Formula E championship. Finally, there are rumors of a Japanese automaker jumping into the fray. Things are getting ever-more interesting and exciting in Formula E! (Hey Formula E, perhaps a visit to the West Coast next year?)