As Formula E’s final races hit Red Hook, Brooklyn, here’s what you need to know

Mahindra Racing driver Jerome D'Abrosio concentrates on manuevering through the field during the Formula E race at the New York City Prix 2019 in Red Hook Brooklyn Saturday, July 13, 2019. Photo Credit: Newsday/David Trotman-Wilkins

The E-Prix again ends its season in Red Hook. And you can be there.

Mahindra Racing driver Jerome D'Abrosio concentrates on manuevering through the field during the Formula E race at the New York City Prix 2019 in Red Hook Brooklyn Saturday, July 13, 2019.
Mahindra Racing driver Jerome D’Abrosio concentrates on manuevering through the field during the Formula E race at the New York City Prix 2019 in Red Hook Brooklyn Saturday, July 13, 2019. Photo Credit: AP/null

When your co-worker asks you the basic, “Say, what is this Formula E?” question, the short answer is: It’s a test bed for electric vehicle technology.

In its fifth season, the all-electric racing series continues to attract new automakers – Porsche is entering the e-series for 2019-2020, and Mercedes unveiled its car in the spring. No racing series is inexpensive, of course, but the tech developed for the Formula E cars – especially that battery technology – trickles down to commercial fleets. That’s largely why you’ll find Audi, Mahindra, Nissan and others vying for the E-Prix championship this weekend in Red Hook.

Yes, Red Hook, as in Brooklyn, and that’s the other important note for your inquisitive co-worker. The final two races of the Formula E championship happen Saturday and Sunday on the streets of the bay-adjacent neighborhood – with a lower Manhattan backdrop – for the third year. And note that next year, the final races are in London, not NYC.

Here’s what else you need to know for the fan-centric series.

When is it?

Race 12 is Saturday and Race 13 is Sunday. Both days, gates open at 7 a.m., with practices at 7:30 and 10, qualifying at 11:45. Drivers start their motors at 4 p.m.

How much are tickets?

Allianz E-Village tickets are $12 per day ($20 for the weekend pass), and that includes a viewing spot (shaded, thank you) sandwiched between turns 8 and 9. Branded as an “immersive fan festival,” you can also get a look at cars and meet drivers, plus your needed fuel from about a dozen Smorgasburg food vendors.

Podium Lounge tickets are $390, and include the above plus elevated viewing spots (with sightlines of runs 9, 10 and 11), a bar and free food.

Grandstand tickets have sold out. 

Race and car fans flocked to see the new electric cars like this Mercedes Formula E racer, during the New York City Prix 2019 Formula E race in Red Hook Brooklyn Saturday, July 13, 2019.
Race and car fans flocked to see the new electric cars like this Mercedes Formula E racer, during the New York City Prix 2019 Formula E race in Red Hook Brooklyn Saturday, July 13, 2019. Photo Credit: Newsday/David Trotman-Wilkins

How fast do the cars go?

The truly exciting part of the 2018/2019 season is the advancement of the battery technology, so that cars can now last a full race and peak horsepower of 250kW. (In past seasons, drivers had to change cars midway.) These Gen2 Formula E cars have 335 horsepower motors, which can reach a max speed of nearly 174 mph. 

And one element special (and new) to Formula E is the use of “Attack Mode,” which drivers need to employ every race. This plays into strategy, as drivers choose when to initiate, which essentially slows them down for a bit while they navigate into “activation zones,” but they will get 225kW of power (versus the typical 200kW).

And the tracks are set up on city streets?

That’s correct. Unlike, say, most Formula 1 or IndyCar events, all Formula E races take over city streets. The season touches five continents, with races from Marrakesh to Mexico City, Hong Kong to Berlin.

The 1.474-mile track makes its way around the 14-turn circuit, which looks much like an aiport luggage cart. 

The Formula E street track in Red Hook.
The Formula E street track in Red Hook. Photo Credit: Formula E

What do you mean by “fan-centric”?

Atypical of other racing series, Formula E offers easy access to the drivers. Anyone with a ticket can wander the Allianz E-Village, which, in addition to getting up close and personal with the new car, playing with simulators and checking out electric and hybrid vehicles from the likes of Porsche and Audi, provides opportunities to chat up drivers. Get an autograph or post-podium selfie.

The series also has its exclusive “Fanboost,” which is pretty much just as it sounds: Vote for your favorite, and the drivers with the most votes get a literal boost of power (25kW) during the race.

Fans, by the way, have responded: Race attendance was up 50% in the 2018/2017 season to the one prior, per Formula E, with an average of 25,000 attendees per race.

Who should I cheer for?

That is between you and you, but know that these are the final two races of the E-Prix 2018/2019 season.

Eleven teams are represented by 22 total drivers, with many teams affiliated with traditional automotive manufacturers (e.g., Audi, BMW, Jaguar). 

Jean-Éric Vergne celebrates his Championship win on July 15, 2018, in Red Hook. 
Jean-Éric Vergne celebrates his Championship win on July 15, 2018, in Red Hook.  Photo Credit: Alastair Staley / © FIA Formula E

Jean-Éric Vergne, with DS Techeetah, leads the drivers’ championship standings with 130 points, and, if he wins, he’ll be the first to nab the Formula E Championship twice. (He won the 2017/2018 season.) But he’s no shoo-in: Lucas De Grassi (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler), with 98 points, or Mitch Evans (Panasonic Jaguar Racing), with 87, could still take the title. Which of course makes for a more exciting finale.

If you throw support by flag, the U.S. has two teams (but zero drivers) represented – BMW 1 Andretti Motorsport (in sixth place) and Geox Dragon (10th). JEV’s Techeetah, based in China, also leads the team standings, followed by Germany’s Audi Sport and Britain’s Envision Virgin Racing.

A side note: A support series centered around the new, Jaguar I-Pace EV SUV has been going on all season, and you can catch that on the Brooklyn circuit too, both days before the Formula E races.

How long is the race?

Forty-five minutes plus a lap. After the time is up, all drivers finish the lap the lead car is on, plus another full lap. And yes, drivers can (it’s happened) stop short of the finish line if they and their team don’t strategize their battery power correctly.

Can I watch from my couch?

Catch the practices on Formula E’s Facebook or YouTube at 7:25 p.m. and 9:55 p.m. both days

And for cord clutchers: Watch qualifying at noon on Fox Sports 2 July 13 and 14; pre-race at 3:30 and race at 4 July 13 on Fox, July 14 on Fox Sports 1.

Gimme more

Go further down the Formula E rabbit hole at FIAFormulaE.com.

Polly Higgins