For anyone who thinks that Formula E lacks noise, think again. Having just emerged blinking from the Excel exhibition centre after watching the London E-Prix, my ears are ringing.
That’s not because of the engine noise, of course: these are electric single-seaters, and while they aren't silent you can hold a conversation as they whizz nearby. Instead, it was the music: loud, receptive dance music that was played at high volume throughout the 45-minute race. I feel like I’ve just emerged from a nightclub more than attended a world championship motor race.
That said, I certainly got to witness a race. And for all the challenges and compromises inherent in staging a race on a ridiculously tight, twisty course that ran around and through an exhibition centre, Formula E certainly put on an entertaining, if occasionally surreal, show on its return to London after a break of five years.
Due to the lack of engine noise, Formula E has been able to stage races in some highly unusual locations, but the London e-Prix course might well be the most surreal yet, with 22 packed into 1.4 miles. The pits and main straights were located inside one of Excel’s show halls, with the drivers tackling a tight series of turns indoors, before bursting outside on a tight down ramp. The course then twisted round the outside of the halls, before a steep up ramp led to a final series of turns back inside.
The transition between the indoor and outdoor sections presented a major challenge, especially when rain in morning practice fell on the outdoor section of the track. To aid the drivers with visibility, the indoor section of the circuit featured overhead lighting similar to that used for an outdoor night race, and for contrast the indoor spectating areas and pits were barely illuminated. Nissan motorsport boss Tomaso Volpe compared working at the event to attending a motor show: no natural daylight and lots of blaring background noise.
Still, the unusual venue definitely made for a good show. While some motorsport purists still sniff at Formula E, there’s no doubt the championship’s mix of energy management, Attack Mode boost system and tight circuits makes for some entertaining racing - and that was true with the first London race.