Formula E New York: Everything to Know, From the Cars to Nearby Bars
(Bloomberg) -- If you want to know what your car might be like in 2030, and which brands—automotive or otherwise—may be the ones to make it, go watch a Formula E race.
The single-seater racing series, now in its fifth season, is like Formula 1—with open-cockpit cars powered by electricity, rather than gas. The next E-Prix will take place on July 13 and 14 in Red Hook in Brooklyn, N.Y. It’s the site of the final two races of the season and the only one this year set in U.S. shores.
And it’s a big deal. Audi, BWM, Mercedes-Benz, Mahindra, NIO, Nissan, Virgin, Jaguar, and Porsche are all multimillions-of-dollars-deep into developing their involvement; Nico Rosberg, Qualcomm, and Discovery are investors. They see the racing series as a critical testing ground for technologies on tap for the transportation devices of the future. And such brands as Hugo Boss, Bremont, and Tag Heuer, among others, are hosting parties, conferences, and drive events for press and VIPs throughout the week preceding the races; Harley Davidson is using it as an opportunity to unveil its first-ever electric motorcycle, Project Livewire, to selected media for first-ride reviews.
Indeed, Formula E is a celebration of the future of electric autos. It provides stark relief between those companies that can make a viable electric motor and those that can’t. Whereas F1 technologies are so proprietary and secretive that fans need they need a university degree to wade through the distinctions, Formula E teams use the same battery with the same amount of energy; the team that designs the most efficient motor is very likely to win. (That’s with no small effort from one of the welterweight-fit race car drivers, of course.)
The stakes are high, if still speculative. Today, battery-powered vehicles account for 1.2% of automotive sales worldwide, but by 2025 their number is expected jump to nearly 11 million vehicles sold, 10 times what it is today. The key for automakers in the meantime is to convince consumers that electric cars are reliable and durable enough to withstand daily, crushing, enthusiastic, and even monotonous use.
Tickets to the 2019 New York City E-Prix can be had cheap, at $12. Without the ear-drum-blowing, dangerous decibels of a F1 race, the races presents a family-friendly opportunity to see at thrilling proximity how an emerging sport is gathering speed. (No pun intended.)
Plus, while you’re there, you can explore one of New York’s most exciting, fast-developing neighborhoods. (Plus the largest Ikea, complete with Swedish meatballs, you’ve probably ever seen.) Here are our best recommendations for where to eat, drink, and watch during the Formula E races, and even sleep the night before.
Where to Eat
Hometown Bar B QueSouthern-style brisket, pork, lamb, and turkey, pit-smoked to pair with traditional sides and craft beers. 454 Van Brunt St.
Fort DefianceNeighborhood farm-to-table cooking includes summer squash risotto, Berkshire pork chop, and pan-roasted branzino. Fort Defiance has a full cocktail and oyster bar as well. 365 Van Brunt St.
Steve’s Authentic Key Lime PiePies and tarts made by hand from fresh-squeezed lime juice for more than 30 years. The citrus-averse will find a few chocolate concoctions there, too. 185 Van Dyke St.
Pizza MotoBrick-oven New York-style pizza, from classics such as Margherita and Pepperoni to Jerzy Pork Store and Vermonter. 338 Hamilton Ave.
Grindhaus Local eclectic fare such as Southern-rub roasted chicken, chilled pea soup, and twice-fried chicken wings, plus a full bar. 275 Van Brunt St.
Red Hook Lobster PoundSourcing live Maine lobster for six different types of lobster rolls, plus fish ’n’ chips, hot crab dip, and a succulent shareable lobster for two, among other crowd favorites. 284 Van Brunt St.
Where to Sleep
1 Hotel BrooklynSet on Pier 1 of Brooklyn Bridge Park, with stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, a full restaurant, and multiple bars. The rooms incorporate reclaimed woods, industrial steel, and custom organic-cotton elements by Keetsa. 60 Furman St., Brooklyn Heights
The William ValeAt Williamsburg’s newest hotel, with a stunning roof deck and pool, sunset drinks are a must. All of the slick, minimal rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and deck balconies. The ground floor Southern Italian-style restaurant is operated by chef Andrew Carmellini of the Dutch, Locanda Verde, and Bar Primi. 111 N. 12th St., Williamsburg
The Ludlow HotelAn option in Manhattan’s Lower East Side that’s close enough to be accessible to Red Hook while you keep a foot in the center of it all. Slightly more undercover than its Bowery Hotel sister property, with studios, terraces, lofts, and a penthouse on offer. Its restaurant, Dirty French, is a perpetual scene. 180 Ludlow St., Manhattan
Where to Drink
Sunny’s Red HookDefinitive Brooklyn dive; you’ll know it by the old truck parked out front. 253 Conover St.
Brooklyn Ice HouseCasual, outdoor seating with simple burgers to match the PBR and onion rings. 318 Van Brunt St.
Van Brunt Still HouseA small-batch distillery with a roughed-up, cool tasting room and selections such as spicy rye whiskey, smoky corn whiskey, and smooth wheated bourbon. 6 Bay St.
Cocktails With a View
The William ValeHead to the rooftop for Instagram-worthy cocktails at sunset. 111 N. 12th St., Williamsburg
1 Hotel BrooklynThe best hotel views of Manhattan while closest to the race course. 60 Furman St., Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn CrabAround the corner from Sunny’s. If you stretch, you can see the Statue of Liberty from the roof deck—and play lawn games, while you’re at it. 24 Reed St.
Ceconis x Dumbo HouseSoho House’s Brooklyn location offers Old-Fashioned cocktails and water views on the East River. 55 Water St.
Formula E Rules to Know
Formula E is like Formula One but with cars powered by electric batteries, rather than conventional engines. This season, 22 drivers from 11 teams are racing to win the top spot by the end of the series, which has taken them to such locales as Santiago, Hong Kong, Paris, Monaco, Rome, and Marrakesh, Morocco.
The official ABB FIA Formula E Championship includes two separate titles, one for the winning driver and one for the winning team. The driver championship goes to whoever earns the most points over the eight-month season. The team championship goes to the team with the highest combined scores of its two drivers over the season. This season, Frenchman Jean-Éric Vergne is currently in first place among the drivers, and China’s DS Techeetah leads the team rankings.
Drivers earn points by finishing well in each race, with 25 points awarded to the race winner, 18 points to the runner-up, 15 points for a third-place finish, and so forth. Tenth place earns one point, after which no points are awarded. The driver who is at pole position earns an additional three points, while the driver who sets the fastest lap and finishes in the top 10 gets an additional one.
The drivers have two ways to get more power for their cars during a race—and these launch it squarely into live-action video game territory, unlike the analog Formula One. The first one is called Attack Mode. To do this, drivers leave the racing line and drive through a slower lane in the “activation zone.” If they do this, they get an extra 25 kW of power unlocked on the powertrain, which they can use to help them speed through the next few laps. Or they can win the “Fan Boost” power surge, which is determined by fan voting. This awards the driver a 25 kW power boost during a five-second window in the second half of a race. Fans can vote for favorite drivers online or live on Twitter by using the hashtag of the name of their chosen driver along with #FANBOOST.
It is forbidden to use more than four new rear and four new front tires during each racing weekend, from shakedown through the end of the race. If for some reason, a team burns through its allotted supply of tires, it’s out of the race. All teams must use special, bespoke, 18-inch, all-weather Michelin tires.
No charging of any car is allowed during qualifying rounds and the E-Prix, but teams can charge their cars between sessions and during practice. Cars are charged on generators powered by glycerine, a zero-emission bio-diesel byproduct; it takes one hour to fully charge. Only one car is used per driver per race.
The Race Schedule
Fridays are typically for shakedowns, when drivers and teams get to know the track and evaluate the technology and mechanics of their cars.
Each race weekend involves practice sessions—one 45 minutes long and one 30 minutes long—on the first track day, as well as one on the second track day. The time keepers are engaged during the practice sessions, but the results don’t count toward final standings.
Qualifying rounds happen before each day’s main events on Saturday and Sunday. They determine the order in which each driver will start the race. They’re run in groups of up to six cars, so there’s a little more room to maneuver on the track. Each group posts its fastest lap, and the fastest six times go on to compete in a “super pole” shootout wherein drivers compete one-by-one for pole position. The driver with the fastest qualifying time gets the first-place start, and the driver with the slowest time starts at the back. Qualifying sessions last one hour.
The race itself is called the “E-Prix.” It lasts 45 minutes, plus one lap. Once the leader has crossed the finish line after 45 minutes of racing, everyone does one more lap before the race is officially over.
This season will see new cars racing around 12 cities. (Previous model cars are now on sale to collectors.) The 2019 car has a battery with capacity nearly double that of its predecessor; it will debut in New York with 250 kW of power (equal to 335 bhp) and can accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 2.8 seconds. Top speed is 280 kilometers per hour (174 mph).
The minimum weight of the car and driver together is 900 kilograms (1,984 pounds). (The battery alone weighs 385 kg, or 849 pounds.) Each car is 5,160 millimeters long and 1,770 mm wide, or about 17 feet long and nearly six feet wide.
The halo ring around the top of the cockpit on the new cars is there for protection in the event of a crash. It also has an LED strip that flashes blue, when the driver is in Attack Mode, and magenta, when a driver is using Fanboost.
The 1.5-mile track runs along the historic Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, deep in Brooklyn’s Red Hook section. Because of its 14 corners, it is considered the toughest in the series for all 22 cars and drivers. There will be grandstands, paddocks, entertainment areas, and VIP lounges for ticket holders and attendees.
Inevitably, cars will collide. Usually, the impact isn’t severe; as the old saying goes, if you’re not rubbing, you’re not racing. But when bad collisions happen, the halo ring that sits above the cockpit will protects drivers from the force of 14 cars stacked on top of their vehicle. Here is a compilation of the most dramatic crashes of the season so far.
Drivers to Watch
Jean-Éric VergneThe Frenchman won last year’s championship, clinching the title after the New York E-Prix in 2018. Vergne competed in Formula One for Scuderia Toro Rosso from 2012 to 2014 and was a Ferrari test and development driver from 2015 to 2016. In the standings this year driving for Techeetah, he is currently in first place.
Lucas Di Grassi The Brazilian racer drives for Audi’s Formula E team. He won the Formula E championship title in the 2016/2017 season; this year he’s currently in second place.
Mitch Evans The Kiwi won his first-ever Formula E race in Rome this year, driving for Panasonic Jaguar Racing. He’s currently in third place.
André LottererThe German racer is the second driver for Techeetah, currently in fourth place and helping boost the team to an all-around top post so far in the series. He is famous for his three wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving for Audi, and for winning the World Endurance championship in 2012.
Teams to Watch
DS TecheetahThe Chinese motor racing team is currently leading the team standings under team principal Mark Preston. Its two drivers hold the first and fourth positions going into July’s races.
Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler Germany’s Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler was one of the founding members of the Formula E racing series. The team principal is Allan McNish, who has led the team to its current second-place standing.
Envision Virgin Racing The British racing team is majority-owned by Envision Energy, with Sylvain Filippi as principal. A founding member of the Formula E series, it currently sits in third place in the overall standings.
BMW i Andretti MotorsportAt No. 6, BMW i Andretti racing is the top-ranked team with a U.S. affiliation. It sits in the Andretti Autosport conglomerate owned and operated by former driving champion Michael Andretti.
How to Get There
By Shuttle — Free shuttles to the track leave from Carroll Gardens and from the Atlantic Terminal near Barclays Center every half hour.
By Subway — The Carroll Street Station stop on the F Line is a 15-minute walk to the track.
By Car — Street parking will be a challenge, so plan to park in an outdoor lot, pay with cash, and walk to the event. Better yet, go by taxi or car service.
By Citi Bike — You can pick them up all over Brooklyn and in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. If you get one in Manhattan, ride over the Brooklyn Bridge for beautiful views. Allow an hour or so for the ride, but remember to dock the bike/re-check it out every 30 minutes, or risk a fee.
Don’t Forget to Bring
Tickets — Prices start at $12 and reach $390 for two-day lounge passes.
Sunscreen — There will be indoor lounges and covered areas and seating, but the grandstand seats lie under direct sunlight. Plan ahead to protect your skin.
Ear Plugs — Formula E has nowhere near the sound level of Formula 1, which can reach 140 decibels during a race. But at a top level of 80 decibels, Formula E still merits some ear protection.
To contact the author of this story: Hannah Elliott in New York at email@example.com
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